God only hears a righteous cry. Righteousness in Christ and a broken heart and contrite spirit bring us near to Him for deliverance provided in the cross.
The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears, And delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart, And saves such as have a contrite spirit. (Psalm 34:17-18)
This verse always brings to mind the broken reed, and its wonderful assurance of God’s mercy and compassion. It does, however, bring out another truth that is powerful but also challenging for every believer. We cannot doubt God’s faithful response, but we should remember that the righteous cry is an integral part of this wonderful promise.
The righteous cry is the one God hears.
This is very clear in today’s verse. The other side of the coin – and equally important – is that the Lord does not hear the unrighteous cry. This is not something we want to hear, is it? Yet it’s sadly very true and challenges us to reconsider those times where we cried out to God and it seemed He did not hear. It may well be that our cry was not a righteous cry. There may be many reasons for this. It could be that the desire behind our cry was wrong, or that we felt He had to respond according to our agenda. Hidden sin is another reason, along with lack of faith.
Often, though, the real reason is that we are not walking righteously. While on one level, we can correctly say that this covers all the other reasons. But is a little deeper than that because it involves the issue of what righteousness actually is. We cannot limit it to a broad definition of ‘living wrong’ because this excludes a fundamental spiritual principle, that of in Christ. It’s critically important that we consider our righteousness honestly and in humility. When the righteous cry out, God hears. If we are righteous – according to God’s definition, not ours – He will always hear us and respond to deliver us.
The righteous cry out from their position in Christ.
As it is written: There is none righteous, no, not one; There is none who understands; There is none who seeks after God (Romans 3:10-11). This is the best place to start to understand righteousness. We cannot, in and of ourselves, ever even hope to be righteous. It is only in Christ, who is our righteousness, that we can utter a righteous cry to God. We must draw the distinction between ‘good’ and ‘righteous.’ The difference is that the first is of self and the second is of Christ. This is the message of this particular verse from Romans.
Firstly, we must understand that we can never be righteous. Secondly, we must understand that we must seek after God, because He is the only source of righteousness. These are two critical truths that relate to our humility and contrition, as well as to our relationship with God. Christ in me is the only righteousness I can attain, and that only comes when I understand the full measure of the cross and seek the mercy and grace of God. Our righteous cry is only possible when we live in Christ and wear Him as our righteousness. It’s not about living a ‘good’ or moral life. It’s about living in Christ – living in the only perfect righteousness.
A broken heart and contrite spirit define a righteous cry.
Real faith always looks through the cross. We do trust in the promises of God because He said it. But more important is that we trust because He has already done it – at the cross. When we look at everything through the cross, we are reminded of two things. The first is that, in Christ, everything is already accomplished by His perfect, complete sacrifice. A broken heart is one that has seen the reality of the cross and the sheer magnitude of what Jesus achieved for those who didn’t deserve it. It’s a heart that sees His terrible sacrifice and knows it is the reason for it. When we consider what the Son of God had to endure to empower our righteous cry, our hearts cannot help but be broken.
The second is that we deserve none of it. We, the guilty ones, get to go free because God Himself paid the price. A contrite spirit is not one that dwells in condemnation. Rather, it is a spirit that is quick to confess and repent. It is a spirit that knows its own unrighteousness and responds in humble contrition. A contrite spirit looks constantly through the cross with thanksgiving for the grace that enables a righteous cry. The Lord is close to a broken heart and contrite spirit because Jesus dwells there. He is in the Son, and the Son is in us. When He is close, He hears, and we cannot get closer than Christ in us.
The righteous cry out to God.
This truth stands alongside a broken heart and contrite spirit. When we are righteous – in Christ – we cry out to God alone. We know that He is the only one to whom we can cry. You will never hear the righteous cry out to the world or to others, because they know it is futile. When we look through the cross, we are continually reminded that we only find our deliverance in God. In Christ, we learn to trust implicitly. We remember that everything else is worthless, a parody of what only God can achieve. Our righteous cry is one which wholly and utterly depends on God and no other.
From this, we can see that righteousness holds God at its centre. The focus of the righteous cry is always God. This is perhaps another reason why our cry may be unrighteous. If we look to God along with other possible solutions, we’re removing Him from His rightful place as our God. We’re crying out ‘in self’ rather than in Christ. Why should He deliver us if we’re trusting other things or people as much as we trust Him? Looking to others means not looking through the cross, which is the only way to God. Self can never be righteous, and however loud self cries, it will not be heard.
Our guaranteed provision for our righteous cry.
Our God is truly gracious. He promises us that He will hear our righteous cry, and that He will deliver us. It’s a done deal, because He has already made perfect provision through the cross. Our part is to walk in righteousness – to be righteous. Even then, His grace provides for this. Our compassionate and merciful God does not expect us to do what is impossible. He knows we cannot be righteous and gives us His own righteousness in Christ. All we have to do is consistently look through the cross. When we cry out with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, trusting only in Christ and His righteousness, He will do all that He has promised.
Thank You, Father, for Your grace and mercy and Your unlimited provision. Keep the cross ever before us and remind us that our righteousness is only in Christ. Help us to look only to You with a broken heart and contrite spirit, knowing ourselves as we truly are and placing You in the very centre of our lives. Forgive us if we have looked to self or to others instead of to You alone. Keep us in Christ, the only way our righteous cry can be heard, and thank You for Your limitless promise of Your faithfulness to deliver us.