Psalm 51:17, "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise."

Suppose an insightful, devout Old Testament Israelite was asked, "How can a person impress God?" He would not make these replies: "Give a million dollars to the tabernacle or temple"; "Offer a thousand sacrificial bulls"; "Observe every tabernacle or temple ritual precisely, correctly"; "Make every Jerusalem pilgrimage on holy days"; or "Attend synagogue services each week without fail."

First in his reply: "Give God your broken heart." In more familiar words: "in your brokenness, repent." In practical terms, nothing is accomplished in the God-human relationship when a human gives God an enormous monetary gift if he does not first give God a broken heart. Giving a thousand sacrificial bulls or keeping all rituals correctly or making every Jerusalem pilgrimage or faithful synagogue attendance meant nothing individually or collectively if the Israelite did not first give God a broken, contrite heart.

Read Psalm 51. David, AFTER committing adultery with Bathsheba, AFTER plotting Uriah's murder, was confronted by Nathan the prophet (read 2 Samuel 11, 12). God obviously knew everything. Yet, Nathan said, "The Lord also has taken away your sin; you shall not die."

The Lord took away this adulterer and murderer's sin? What happened to "an eye for an eye; a tooth for a tooth"? Note David's comment prior to Nathan's declaration: "I have sinned against the Lord." David was broken before God. Were there consequences? Certainly! Yet, when David realized what he had done, he bowed in penitent brokenness.

Do you realize the arrogance, disrespect, and presumptuousness if David said to God, "Lord, here's a million dollars (or a thousand sacrifices or faithful rituals or leadership for holy day gatherings or a pledge for synagogue attendance)." All David had to give God was a broken heart that contritely bowed before the God he offended.

We urgently need to learn this lesson! Money, sacrifice, rituals, attendance are meaningful only if they come from broken, contrite hearts. The first offense of all evil deeds, words, and emotions are offenses against our loving, forgiving God. Unthinkable!

Paul in 2 Corinthians 7:9,10: "I now rejoice, not that you were made sorrowful, but that you were made sorrowful to the point of repentance; for you were made sorrowful according to the will of God, so that you might not suffer loss in anything through us. For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death."

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Bulletin Article, 20 July 2003

 Link to next article

 Link to other Writings of David Chadwell