Saturday, May 1

A broken and contrite heart

Scripture: 1 Samuel 1-2, Psalm 51, Mark 1

Psalm 51:16–17 You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. 17 My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.


So much to choose from today!

This psalm was written by David after his affair with Bathsheba and coverup by murdering her husband.  It is a psalm of confession and repentance, and is worth reading/praying out loud on a regular basis. 

In these two verses, David makes a distinction between the outward act of sacrifice and the inner reality of humble repentance.  It was possible for one to offer an animal sacrifice for one’s sin (the idea was that the animal was a substitute and died in your place) without being truly sorry or contrite.  That’s not the sacrifice God desires.  What He is really looking for is “a broken and contrite heart.”  That comes when we honestly recognize what we’ve done and how it has hurt God and others.  


Many years ago, I violated the clear teaching of Scripture and the advice of trusted friends, and I borrowed money from the bank to loan to friends for a business venture.  I was promised a ridiculously high return.  Sadly, it took only two months for my friends to lose the money and leave me holding the bag and paying off the debt.  I took a couple morning paper routes to generate income to pay off the loan.  

One morning on my route I was complaining to God about what they had done to me.  The Lord asked me, “And what was your part in this whole fiasco?”  I realized that I had disobeyed Scripture and ignored the wise counsel of friends.  “Why?  What motivated you?” the Lord asked.  Greed.  Plain and simple.  I was greedy and wanted to make a quick buck.  When I realized my sin and how it had hurt me and them (the whole thing would have never happened if I had just said “no” at the start), it broke my heart.  So much damage!  I repented, told the Lord how sorry I was, and promised never to complain about them again—it was my fault, first and foremost.  

When I had a broken and contrite heart, when I confessed my sin, God forgave me and went to work and graciously helped me retire that debt in short order.  And I was freed from any anger or bitterness towards my friends.

We all fail.  We all sin.  As long as we hide, cover up, blame or excuse, we remain stuck.  When we honestly assess our fault and own our sin and see how it has hurt God and others, we will have a broken and contrite heart.  And that is what God looks for…and blesses.  That is the sacrifice God delights in.

Prayer: Lord, I ask you to search my heart and show me my faults.  Break my heart with what breaks Yours—not so that I’m mired in gloom, but so I can repent and be free!