You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. (vv 16 – 17)
This truth has very nearly become obsolete in the modern church. We have replaced contrition and brokenness with ministry busyness, our ‘offerings’ and church attendance. Sin has become rule-breaking rather than a personal affront; it has become external instead of internal. Repentance has become little more than ‘I’m sorry…’.
Psalm 51 is traditionally seen as being composed by David after his adultery with Bathsheba (2 Sam 11) and then being confronted by the prophet Nathan (2 Sam 12). We know how the single transgression of Bathsheba leads to further abhorrent behavior on the part of the King and we know all too well the horrible price that he pays for this string of evils. We don’t know how an exemplar like David can succumb to sin in this fashion but we do know that, if it can happen to someone so close to God it can happen to us as well.
Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions.
Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.
For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. (vv 1-3)
Is God moved to offer pardon through this string of praise? Exclaiming God’s unfailing love, His great compassion, and His mercy, is this proclamation of what must be entirely self evident to Him what will invite Him to offer grace? He must view these prefaces to our admission of guilt much as we do our teenager’s statements that they love and respect our household standards: we ask them why they performed such and such and act if they hold such great respect for our rules? No, we should believe that God is moved when our hearts finally arrive at the core truth of our relationship with Him voiced in verse 4.
Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge. (v 4)
We must restore the proper understanding of sin in our lives and in His Church. Sin is properly viewed as being personally enacted against God. We have been lured to see sin as an external act, sort of a third party action of simply breaking a rule in which no one gets harmed like running a few miles over the speed limit. No harm, no foul. This is not how God views sin however. He views each act against His holiness personally, as though we look Him in the eye and while defiling His throne. It becomes even more serious when imagine how God must see our sin in the shadow of the Cross.
Statistically, few people read these posts on the Psalms. More people are interested in the Calvinism-Arminianism argument or my posts on the Hebrews warning passages but my prayer is that more will take the time to at least return to their Bibles and prayerfully consider this Psalm. Doctrine is important and it is valuable time spent considering the facts and searching the scriptures for the truths that underlie the doctrines but this cannot be at the expense of our relationship with God and our personal holiness. Far more important in our lives should be a plea similar to David’s:
Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. (vv 10-12)