“O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth shall show forth Your praise. For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it; You do not delight in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart—these, O God, You will not despise.” Psalm 51:15-17
“I’m so sorry I forgot to send that email.” I’ll send it immediately with more information than you could possibly need.
“I’m so sorry I said that thing I shouldn’t have.” Now let me say all the nice things I can think of and genuinely do think about you or the situation at hand.
“I’m sorry I cut you off in traffic, mister!” I’ll wave, make an apologetic face and try to get out of the way as quickly as possible.
If you’re anything like me, the first thing I want to do when I “get caught” is to “fix” whatever has happened. I want to smooth things over and make things right. I want an action. Preferably a checklist.
Unfortunately, it’s easy for me to interact with the Lord in the same hurried, unfeeling way.
“I’m sorry I haven’t been in the Word, Lord.” I’ll get up extra early tomorrow morning to read some Psalms.
“Please forgive me for my judgmental attitude.” How can I prove to God that I really want to love that person?
I like straightforward tasks with a clear beginning, middle, and end. I crave structure. Actually, let’s just call a spade a spade here: I’m a legalist.
But look at Psalm 51! A checklist is not at all what pleases God. It’s not what He’s after with David, and it’s not what He’s after with us.
“For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it; You do not delight in burnt offering.”
No sacrifice? Are you sure? No instructions for a burnt offering to cover my sin somewhere in Leviticus? Sometimes I wish it were that “easy.” Confess a particular sin, look up the directions for the corresponding burnt offering, check it off the list, and keep on moving, and never engage my heart. But my heart is what God is after every single time. He’s conforming us to the very image of Christ (Romans 8)! That can’t happen by checking sacrifices off a list.
Instead, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart…”
Broken and contrite.
According to Webster’s, “contrite” means “regretful, sorrowful, broken in spirit because of a sense of sin; broken down with grief and penitence; deeply sorrowful for sin because it is displeasing to God; humbly and thoroughly penitent.” One commentary explains contrition as a heart in which the “natural pride and self-sufficiency have been completely humbled by the consciousness of guilt. . . . It refers to the grief experienced as a consequence of the revelation of sin made by the preaching of the law.”
That’s a gut-wrenching recognition of what sin really is and a deep, wholehearted, godly sorrow over it in my life. How often is my sin wrecking me like this? Am I sorrowful over “getting caught” or am I truly sorrowful because I understand that my sin is displeasing to God?
A broken and contrite heart means that I am not asking for a list of burnt offerings to appease my conscience because I’m on my face before God wrecked by my rebellious heart.
This is the heart that God will not despise.
This is the heart that God will gladly pour mercy and grace on.
This is the heart God longs for me to have. The heart He can shape to be more like Christ.
Broken and contrite.
Broken and contrite is hard. It goes against every self-sufficient, independent, disobedient, rebellious fiber of my being. And in order to feel the weight of the Spirit’s conviction, I have to be walking with Jesus daily. I will not “achieve” (for lack of a better term) contrition as a casual, show-up-on-Sundays follower of Jesus. It just won’t happen. My heart will not engage.
On the other hand, if I’m walking with Jesus daily, in the Word and spending time in prayer so that we’re having a two-way conversation, I will recognize sin quickly. I will feel the weight of the things that are displeasing to God and care less about getting “caught” than I do about true confession and repentance.
So let’s take an honest look at our walks with the Lord, friends. Has it been awhile since you’ve felt true contrition? Are you recognizing sin in your life? Feeling convicted? If not, let’s dig in with Him—He wants to make us more like Jesus. Ask Him to develop a broken and contrite heart in you.
And if you are recognizing sin, feeling the weight of conviction and bringing a broken and contrite heart to Him, let’s lean in! Run to Him! “…these, O God, You will not despise.” Mercy awaits.