David was the greatest of the Kings of Israel. He defeated the Philistine giant named Goliath (1 Samuel 17). God called David a man after His own heart (Acts 13:22). Jesus Christ was his descendant; He was called ‘the Son of David’ (Matthew 1:1). He wrote many of the Psalms. And much, much more!
David was man blessed by God. He was a king chosen by God. Yet despite all of this, he sinned greatly against God. David committed adultery with Bathsheba and had her husband Uriah killed (2 Samuel 11). David wrote Psalm 51 as a prayer of repentance for these sins. In this psalm, after David begs for mercy, confesses his sin, acknowledges his sin nature, asks God to cleanse him, asks for restoration, commits to teaching others God’s truths, asks for deliverance from his guilt, promises to praise the Lord for His righteousness, he makes an interesting statement:
- Psalm 51:16 For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it; You do not delight in burnt offering.
Wait a minute. Even before God gave His Law through Moses, He instructed Moses to lead the Nation of Israel out of Egypt to make sacrifices to Him.
- Exodus 3:18 Then they will heed your voice; and you shall come, you and the elders of Israel, to the king of Egypt; and you shall say to him, ‘The Lord God of the Hebrews has met with us; and now, please, let us go three days’ journey into the wilderness, that we may sacrifice to the Lord our God.’
And in His Law God prescribed many burnt offerings; one example is the Day of Atonement.
- Leviticus 23:26-27 And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: 27 “Also the tenth day of this seventh month shall be the Day of Atonement. It shall be a holy convocation for you; you shall afflict your souls, and offer an offering made by fire to the Lord.
So what did David mean by Psalm 51 verse 16? Let’s read the next verse.
- Psalm 51:17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, A broken and a contrite heart— These, O God, You will not despise.
God desires us to be broken, humbled and repentant over our sin. Look back at God’s Words regarding the Day of Atonement offering in Leviticus 23:27 above: ‘you shall afflict your souls’. As part of making a burnt offering to God, the people were to humble/deny/lower themselves before God. God sees our hearts (1 Samuel 16:7). There is rejoicing in Heaven when a sinner truly repents.
- Luke 15:10 Likewise, I say to you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
Our attitudes and intentions are so very important to God.
- Micah 6:8 He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you But to do justly, To love mercy, And to walk humbly with your God?
- Ephesians 4:1-2 I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, 2 with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love,
Going through the motions and/or trying to look ‘religious’ is an offense to our loving and faithful Father.
- Matthew 6:1 “Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven.
- Matthew 6:5 “And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.
- Matthew 6:16 Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.
Tradition, which is often a very good thing, when it stands in the way of God honoring actions and attitudes, is anything but good.
- Mark 7:6-7 He answered and said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: ‘This people honors Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me. 7 And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.
- Mark 7:9 He said to them, “All too well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition.
- Mark 7:13 making the word of God of no effect through your tradition which you have handed down. And many such things you do.”
You can make a sincere decision, commitment or pledge to be humble before God; and that is a good thing. But just like genuine laughter or an unexpected tear, true brokenness over sin is an involuntary response.
- Ezra 9:6 And I said: “O my God, I am too ashamed and humiliated to lift up my face to You, my God; for our iniquities have risen higher than our heads, and our guilt has grown up to the heavens.
- Luke 18:13 And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’
This kind of brokenness over sin is what David was expressing in Psalm 51. David was mourning over his sin. Yet in the midst of his brokenness, David was expressing unwavering confidence in God’s mercy, kindness and compassion. Before anything else in Psalm 51, David acknowledges the goodness of God.
- Psalm 51:1 Have mercy upon me, O God, According to Your lovingkindness; According to the multitude of Your tender mercies, Blot out my transgressions.
The first thing Jesus talks about during the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew chapters 5-7) is what are called the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-10). These eight statements of blessings describe God’s loving response to a God honoring attitude and lifestyle. In verse four, we see how God responds to authentic brokenness (mourning) over our sin.
- Matthew 5:4 Blessed are those who mourn, For they shall be comforted.
So, as followers of Jesus, how does all this apply to our lives?
Simply stated, are you truly broken over your sin? Not broken in a, ‘I’m no good for anybody or anything’ kind of way. But in a way that you quietly mourn over your sin, sincerely humble yourself before God and confidently await His loving restoration.
- 1 Peter 5:6 Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time,
God doesn’t want empty sacrifices.
He wants your heart!
Loving, kind and merciful Father, I confess that I often pray out of habit or commitment more than brokenness and need. I pray that Your Word and Spirit will guide me and many others to a renewed appreciation for the seriousness of our sins, the necessity of sincere humility, the freedom found in confession, the beauty of heartfelt repentance and the peace and comfort found in Your forgiveness and restoration. I praise You and love You. I pray to You in the name of Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior. Amen.