The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart, these O God, You will not despise." (Ps. 51:17) These words are part of a confessional prayer of king David, after he had committed a grievous sin and was rebuked by the prophet Nathan in God's name. David was a monarch who had the power to kill. When he was rebuked by Nathan, he did not react in anger, but humbly confessed, "I have sinned against the Lord". After he sincerely repented, he wrote the 51st psalm. God is always pleased to see sinners repent, so after David repented, God forgave his sin. "The Lord is. . . not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance." (2 Pet. 3:9)
1) Since God wants sinners to repent, will the wicked have a chance to repent after they rise at the second resurrection?
Answer: No. John 5:29 says, ". . . those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation." There will be no chance for them to repent, and they will have no desire to repent. All who refused to repent before their death will not want to repent after they rise again. God pleads with sinners now to repent, saying, "Do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?" "For He says, In an acceptable time I have heard you, and in the day of salvation I have helped you. Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation." (Rom. 2:4; 2 Cor. 6:2)
2) Some say, "The thief who was crucified with Jesus repented the last hour, I too will wait for the last hour to repent."
Answer: It is wrong to think that way, because such a person does not appreciate that it is a happy experience to come to Christ. To know God and our Savior Jesus Christ means eternal life. He who wants to wait for the last hour before repenting reveals that he still loves sinful pleasures.
3) How did the thief know Jesus would yet come as he said, "Remember me when You come into Your kingdom?"
Answer: The fact that he made this plea shows that he had some knowledge of Christ. The placard above Jesus' cross which said, "Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews" might have made him do some serious thinking, Jesus' noble, kingly bearing during the trial could have impressed the thief that He was no ordinary human. Then he must have heard some of Jesus public discourses, and knew something about the kingdom of God. It was a pity he did not decide to follow Jesus, but was led astray by evil companions and finally sentenced to die. Now as he was crucified with Christ, early impressions revived. It is probable too that he had heard the solemn words pronounced by Christ in the judgment hall, "Hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power and coming on the clouds of heaven." (Matt. 26:64) Now under the influence of the Holy Spirit, he begins to see light, and like the Roman centurion standing near by, he realized that this must indeed be the Son of God. So he grasped the chance to make his plea.
4) I appreciate his spirit of trust and hope; it is in sharp contrast to the mockery and insult of the surrounding rabble.
Answer: Yes. This is the subject of our study: "A humble and a contrite heart." It is what God looks for. "Thus says the Lord, Heaven is My throne, and earth is My footstool, where is the house that you will build Me? And where is the place of My rest? For all those things My hand has made, and all those things exist , says the Lord. But on this one will I look: on him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, and who trembles at My word." (Isa. 66:1,2)
That is, the constellations in the heavens and all things on earth, God can make as many as He wants, for He can speak them into existence. But a man who is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembles at God's word, is rare and precious. For God has purchased him with the precious blood of Jesus. Man is proud and self-satisfied before he repents. Only when he gazes on the cross of Christ, he realizes that his sins have been placed on Christ, causing the Father to be separated from Him, and making Him cry under infinite pain, "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?" Christ then died of a broken heart.
Only under the work of the Holy Spirit can a proud and self-satisfied person have a poor and contrite spirit and appreciate the value of "every word that proceeds from the mouth of God" and work out his salvation in fear and trembling.
5) Please expain how a man who has not read the Bible before can appreciate and believe it as truly the word of God.
Answer: This requires personal experience. Psalm 34:8 says, "Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who trusts in Him." Psalm 119:103 says, "How sweet are Your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!" Jer. 15:16 says, "Your words were found, and I ate them; and Your word was to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart, for I am called by Your name, O Lord God of hosts." These are experiences gained through personal practice.
All who come before God should recognize their own identity. Ps 39:12 says, "I am a stranger with You, a sojourner, as all my fathers were." Ps. 90:9,10 says, "For all our days are passed away in Your wrath; we finish our years like a sigh. . . . for it is soon cut off, and we fly away." Strangers need direction and guidance. The word of God provides the direction and is our guide. We are bound to meet many trials and dangers. Ps. 119:105 says, "Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path."
6) In order to know God and Jesus Christ whom He has sent, we must study the Bible and practice its teachings.
Answer: Correct. This point is what most new believers fail to grasp sufficiently. After they have repented and are baptized, they suffer from an illusion that they have reached a goal, not knowing that it is a dangerous sense of false security. If they are not vigilant in prayer and Bible study, they may backslide to a more pitiable condition than before. So we all must pray and study diligently.
7) You emphasize prayer and Bible study; in what way is that related to the "poor and contrite spirit"?
Answer: "A poor and contrite spirit" is our condition of acceptance with God. In His opening public discourse, Jesus emphasized the virtue of being "poor in spirit," saying, "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn; for they shall be comforted." (Matt. 5:3,4) Men of the world generally think lightly of these first two conditions of blessedness. Their emphasis is on qualities that contribute to self: wealth, position, fame and power. These are temporal advantages that glorify self and are opposites of being "poor in spirit" and mourning in repentance.
8) Ps. 49:20 says, "Man who is in honor, yet does not understand, is like the beasts that perish." Please explain this.
Answer: Christ stresses matters of eternal worth and character building. Do you want to build Christian character? He tells you that you must begin by recognizing that you are a sinner. Coming before God, a sinner must be "poor and of a contrite spirit." When you are truly "poor and of a contrite spirit," then you are a man who understands. The disciple Peter once had such an experience. When faced with a striking evidence of Jesus' divinity, he fell down at His feet and cried, "Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord." (Luke 5:8) All Peter's pride and self-esteem vanished. In the presence of God; he realized that he was a sinner.
9) I see: to build Christian character, we must begin with a poor and contrite spirit. We must always be humble.
Answer: Correct. All who reach heaven will still be poor and of a contrite spirit, for they will never forget that the Lamb of God shed His blood in sacrifice for us poor sinners. Only as we are contrite will we be able to praise Jesus our Savior unreservedly with all our hearts. The merits of our crucified Lord will forever be the theme of our anthems and the science of our learning. Rev. 5:9 tells of a new song sung in honor of the Lamb, saying, "You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation." If we can't fully empathize with these words, and join whole-heartedly in the chorus of the redeemed, will we not feel out of place and become strangers in heaven? So if we plan to join the heavenly choir, we should begin now to be poor and of a contrite spirit, to appreciate the value of the blood of the Lamb, as well as to tremble at God's every word, and practice it faithfully.
10) What did Jesus mean by "Blessed are they that mourn"? Does this refer to grieving over one's own sins?
Answer: Yes. When I first read this text, I thought Christ was speaking of those who mourn at a funeral, because here He does not say what the mourning is for. Now that I see the importance of repentance, the mourning that results from a poor and contrite spirit is of great value in God's sight. "By every sin Jesus is wounded afresh; and as we look upon Him whom we have pierced, we mourn for the sins that have brought anguish upon Him. Such mourning will lead to the renunciation of sin." E.G. White, Desire of Ages p. 300. To be poor and of a contrite spirit is the minimum requirement for entry to heaven; it is also a Christian's maximum spiritual attainment.
11) Some have asked, Can Jesus Christ the King of kings.be our example in being poor and of a contrite spirit?
Answer: Jesus the King of kings came to this earth to become a poor laborer for the very purpose of being an example of true humility. Heb. 4:15 says that He "was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin," in order to be our example. He came as a sinner to be baptized in the river Jordan at the hands of John, "And John tried to prevent Him, saying, 'I need to be baptized by You, and are You coming to me? But Jesus answered and said to him, 'Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness," Then John performed the baptism. Jesus never sinned, and needed not to be baptized, but to be our example, He must "fulfill all righteousness," submitting to baptism as a sinner's substitute. In Matt. 11:29 He wants us to learn of Him, saying, "Take My yoke upon you and learn of Me, for I am meek and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls." Jesus has many traits worthy of imitation; He expressly tells us to learn His humility.
12) Does Jesus also represent us sinners in being "poor and of a contrite spirit"?
Answer: Note the full text in Isa. 66:2: God says, "On this one will I look: on him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, and who trembles at My word." The last clause is very important. A truly humble man regards God's word as of paramount importance, and will strictly obey it. In this Jesus is our example. He says, "For I have not spoken on My own authority, but the Father who sent Me gave Me a command, what I should say, and what I should speak, and I know that His command is everlasting life." (John 12:49, 50)
All preachers attention: We must learn of Jesus: we dare not speak our own opinions, but declare God's command, because "His command is everlasting life." Jesus says, "If you keep My commandments, you will abide in my love, even as I have kept My Father's commandments, and abide in His love." (John 15:10) Note that Jesus speaks not of our salvation, but of abiding in His love. Our obeying God must be motivated by our love for Christ, not because of self-love, thinking only of being saved.
13) In an earlier study we read a text that teaches us to have the mind of Christ. It would fit here very well.
Answer: Yes! Let us read it again. It is in Phil. 2:5-11: "Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."
James 4:6 says, "God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble." Dan.4:37 says, "Those who walk in pride He is able to put down." These words were uttered by Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon after he had become a lunatic for 7 years. He lost his sanity when he gloated over his attainments with the words, "Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for a royal dwelling by my mighty power, and for the honor of my majesty?" While these words were still on his lips, there came a voice from heaven, saying, "King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is spoken: the kingdom has departed from you, and they shall drive you from men, and your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field. They will make you eat grass like oxen, and seven times shall pass over you, until you know that the most High rules in the kingdom of men, and gives it to whomever He chooses." (Dan. 4:30-32) God wants men to know that the normal functions of the brain are wholly under God's control. When God ceases to maintain it and lets it go crazy, no man can say, "I don't want to go crazy." Once man's brain quits functioning normally, he becomes a beast.
14) The pride spoken of in the Bible is not only man's despising his fellow men, but also refers to his ignoring God.
Answer: Correct. Christ's example of humility is seen in His absolute obedience to God: "obedient unto death, even the death of the cross." Sin originated in Satan when he set his heart "as the heart of God." (Ezek. 28:6) In order to eradicate sin, Christ "did not consider it robbery to be equal with God," but emptied Himself and became the Son of Man. Now in order to overcome sin, we must begin by eradicating pride. "And they overcame him (Satan) by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony, and they loved not their lives unto the death." (Rev. 12:11) They follow Christ individually, each bearing his cross, willingly obedient in every case, "loving not their lives unto the death." This is truly to be "poor and of a contrite spirit."
15) When Christ faced His final trial, He humbly prayed, "Not My will, but Yours, be done." Is that right?
Answer: Yes. Every Christian must pass through the same trial, to test his obedience to God. God gave us His Sabbath to test us every week, to see if we would follow our own will or the will of God. This will be the topic of our next study.