Comfort for the Contrite
And it shall be said, “Build up, build up, prepare the way, remove every obstruction from my people’s way.” For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy:
I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite. For I will not contend forever, nor will I always be angry; for the spirit would grow faint before me, and the breath of life that I made. Because of the iniquity of his unjust gain I was angry, I struck him; I hid my face and was angry, but he went on backsliding in the way of his own heart. I have seen his ways, but I will heal him; I will lead him and restore comfort to him and his mourners, creating the fruit of the lips. Peace, peace, to the far and to the near,” says the Lord , “and I will heal him. But the wicked are like the tossing sea; for it cannot be quiet, and its waters toss up mire and dirt. There is no peace,” says my God, “for the wicked.(Isaiah 57:14-21 ESV)
The Lord is talking about two groups of people in this verse above. The contrite and lowly, who He will save, and the wicked, who He will not save (they will have “no peace”). We can safely assume that God is talking about salvation in this life (from trials and temptations) and in the next life (heaven or hell). The Lord is highlighting repentance as the only difference between those He will save and those He will not save (the lowly and contrite keep backsliding before God helps them – they are powerless to stop their own sin without God). Those who repent, even though they have no power of their own to stop backsliding, will be saved. He will create the “fruit of their lips,” which is the fruit of what they say.
It is the fruit of what they speak about God, themselves, and others. If they declare repentance and peace with their words and actions, He will give them repentance and peace. In this, He will give them the fruit of their lips. If they speak repentance with a contrite heart, that is what He will give. But to the wicked, whose lips "toss up mire and dirt" at others, He will also give them the fruit of their lips. Tossing up mire and dirt is so common today you’d think everyone does it. Not so for the Lord’s people, whom He has informed will receive the fruit of their lips. In this way, the wicked create their own punishment, and they will eat the bad fruit that they bear. They will reap the bad seed they have sown (Galatians 6:7).
Jesus tells us many, MANY times in the Bible to bear good fruit (John 15:5, Matthew 13:26, Matthew 7:18, Matthew 12:33, Matthew 3:10, Mark 4:3-9, and Luke 3:9 in the Gospels alone) and the fruit He is talking about is the Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) - "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control." There is also humility and repentance. If you want to read more about bearing fruit, you can look at our most popular article here: "The Only Thing that Counts" - The Bible's Mandate of Love, and why it Matters.
So how do we avoid the ways of the wicked, who will have no peace? We GIVE peace. This is our fruit. We GIVE forgiveness, love, and mercy, and we will receive it from the Lord, if not from those who despise us. I’ve written extensively about avoiding judgment and condemnation of others, and if you want to read about that, you can find the link here: Condemnation: The Idol of America Part 1.
In America’s culture today, and in what is becoming the world’s culture, there is no refreshing of the Holy Spirit. There is only the dry, parched land of the rebellious ("God settles the solitary in a home; he leads out the prisoners to prosperity, but the rebellious dwell in a parched land." - Psalm 68:6 ESV). You can read more about the Holy Spirit giving us all the life we need here: Holy Spirit: The Living Water Jesus Promised.
There is no Holy Spirit refreshing in the world because the Holy Spirit is not in the world: it is only in God’s people. But even then, when we curse and accuse others, we dry up the land in our souls...we block off the flow of Living Water that should be running into our hearts. The same Living Water that gives us grace for our repentance should allow us to give others grace for the same sins that we have committed in our hearts.
The Lord says that anyone who has ever been angry at another person has committed murder in their hearts (Matthew 5:21-22). So if every Christian has committed murder, how much more should we give grace to others with lesser or similar crimes? Church culture has to be different from the world’s culture, or else the Spirit of God will not refresh the church. When we sin as the world sins by condemning and mocking our enemies, though we are required to love our enemies (Matthew 5:44), the Spirit of God is blocked from working in our lives because we have no fear of God. When we sin against others by mocking or “tossing dirt” at them, we put aside His command to love. The Word says that whoever puts aside the least of the commandments will be called least in the Kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 5:19).
I take the Bible literally, so when it says this, I know it is serious. The Good Word also says “the power of life and death is in the tongue (Proverbs 18:21).” So I am very careful what I say about others. This verse does not mean we can kill others by what we say to them. But it means that we can, God forbid, bring condemnation and death on ourselves by what we say to them. Thankfully, it also means we can breathe fresh life onto ourselves, because God will reward us with what we give others (we will reap what we sow, and He will create the fruit of our lips).
We speak life for ourselves and others when we bless those who curse us. We speak death for ourselves and others when we curse others. Biblically, cursing is different from correction. But too many times we see cursing and condemnation disguised as correction.
If your “correction” is done with a heart of anger and self-righteousness, that is a warning sign. Christian correction should be done without anger, and with a calm heart. We know this because the Bible also says, “The anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God (James 1:20).” When we hold anger against sinners, whether they be self-righteous religious people, homosexuals, drunkards, or the opposite political party, we are in danger of becoming like the Pharisee in Luke 18.
In Jesus’ parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector (Luke 18:9-14), the Pharisee goes to pray in the temple and tells God essentially, “Thank you that I am not like that tax collector over there.” The tax collector, on the other hand, says, “Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner!” The Pharisee walked away unforgiven, but the tax collector became right with the Lord. I used to be a Pharisee, but God made me into the tax collector. One was not better than the other, except the tax collector acknowledged he was a sinner and repented! Repentance is the difference between someone who is unforgiven and someone who is right with God!
When God says that those who are poor in Spirit are near to Him, He talks about those who repent and make themselves lowly before the throne. God will lift up those who repent, but the proud who say they need no repentance (though they do) will not be lifted up. God is close to the humble, but He knows the proud from afar (Psalm 138:6). How do we know God is talking about repentance in the scripture I placed at the beginning of this post? Because in the same sentence that he uses the word “lowly” to describe a group of people (v. 15), He uses the word “contrite” to describe that same group of people. Merriam Webster defines "contrite" as "feeling or showing sorrow and remorse for a sin or shortcoming." If we repent truly, we are being "contrite" in our hearts. We are engaging in "contrite" behavior. This is true repentance.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. (Psalm 51:17 ESV) Our "sacrifice" is our repentance (broken spirit, broken and contrite heart). We sacrifice our pride and take on a broken heart to repent to God for our sins.
The wicked, who throw mire and dirt at others, are not contrite, not humble. If they were humble, they would not throw dirt and mire at others to bring them down. They would realize and recognize their own sins, and would give grace to these humble people who are throwing no dirt or mire at them.
But here’s the trick: in this post, I have not thrown dirt on anyone who has thrown dirt. I have identified with them as a fellow guilty party and called for repentance. Even if someone IS throwing dirt and mire at us, we are called to love our enemies (Matthew 5:44), and to bless those who curse us. This is just as much the Lord’s command as any other. So if we find ourselves preoccupied with the thought that the self-righteous, condemning, and proud are more sinful than us, as I sometimes do, we need to check ourselves and repent. I pray that many repent when they hear this.
I am qualified to give this message because I was one of those who tossed mire and dirt regularly at anyone who looked at me wrong. Lest I become proud, it wasn't that long ago. But even after repentance, I became extra-sensitive to people who reminded me of the old me. I really disliked them, on the verge of hating them. I accused them in my mind of being terrible people. Then the Holy Spirit pointed this out to me, and it blew my mind: I can’t condemn people who condemn others! Only God can do that! I have to pray for their repentance and blessing! I am not perfect in doing this, but I know the Holy Spirit will perfect this in me in His time.
The Holy Spirit first pointed all this out to me through a message that I saw a man preach on Youtube. He had been serving the Lord boldly as a missionary some years ago, and he was confronted by the Lord over his sin. The Lord told him that if he were taken from this world today, he would not enter paradise. This was a fearful message, and I felt a big conviction from the Holy Spirit over my anger and dirt-tossing. I repented grievously, one could say "in sackcloth and ashes" (no real ashes, I just felt very very very convicted of my sin and no longer held the opinion that I didn't need to repent, which was a greatly humbling and grievous experience). It was a moment in my life that defined who I am today. My response to the Lord's conviction was a healthy response, and the one that He desires whenever He convicts our hearts of sin.
If you are reading this, perhaps you are already repenting for sin. In that case, you don't need further conviction and this probably doesn't apply to you. I don't want you to think that this is "piling on" from your healthy response to conviction. But perhaps you've felt conviction that you're ignoring. In that case, this is likely the Lord's prompting to give in, humble yourself, and repent to Him. Maybe the Lord is using this to convict your heart for the first time. In that case, repent! Do not continue on in the ways of the "wicked" who will find no peace during or after this life. Repent, reconnect every part of your life to the Vine of Jesus Christ, and He will enable you to produce good fruit with your lips! God Bless you, God Love you, and God Save you!