You don’t want penance; if you did, how gladly I would do it! You aren’t interested in offerings burned before you on the altar. It is a broken spirit you want—remorse and penitence. A broken and a contrite heart, O God, you will not ignore. And Lord, don’t punish Israel for my sins—help your people and protect Jerusalem. And when my heart is right, then you will rejoice in the good that I do and in the bullocks I bring to sacrifice upon your altar. (Psalm 51:16-19)
Old Testament worship involved the bringing of 'sacrifices' to the Temple of God - bullocks, doves, sheaves of wheat. They were part of a 'liturgical system' of worship declared under the Law of Moses. The Law given to him by God as he communed with God on Mt. Sanai. That Law was merely a 'tutor' of sorts - something meant to point us to Christ - to the one 'perfect sacrifice' for all of mankind's sins. Within these verses we find a humbled and penitent servant - having confessed the 'stain' within his heart that his transgressions had left behind. The immediate 'go to' in those days may have been to turn to some form of physical sacrifice on the altar of God - to make 'atonement' for the sin. Yet, we find King David coming before God without a bullock or a ram - he merely brings his heart. Perhaps David recognized something - that God desires a humble and penitent heart MORE than he desires the 'offerings' of any other sort.
This is something we all could learn as we approach the throne of grace - no 'sacrifice' is greater than to recognize our sin, bring it to the foot of the cross, and then to ask God to heal the sinner's heart. A broken spirit - a contrite and humble heart - this is the 'sacrifice' God desires of us. Our hearts having been deeply 'affected' by our guilt, we come, submitting the guilt and shame of our sin to the work of the cross in our lives. I don't know about you, but to admit my shame and guilt is not always easy. I sometimes believe it is just easier to sweep it under the rug, but every time I have even considered that means of dealing with my sin, the rug is moved! I have come to believe there is no 'shame' in admitting my failures - there is only grace and goodness awaiting the acknowledgement of my sin.
As we look again at what David tells us here, we might notice he says we 'FIRST' come with a humble and contrite heart, then we can bring our sacrifices. He didn't turn away from the teachings he had been given all his life - he merely recognized a much deeper meaning in those sacrifices. Maybe he knew the bullock or ram would be fine, but until he made things right through confession of his sin and the seeking of God's forgiveness, all the rest wouldn't really matter. God might prompt us to lay down all the 'good deeds' and 'physical sacrifices' for a bit when what he is really after is for us to recognize our need for his mercy and grace. Sin isn't dealt with by 'doing good deeds' and 'keeping the Law'. It is recognized, acknowledged, brought to the foot of the cross, and then covered by a blood sacrifice greater than any other - the blood of Jesus.
It is when our hearts are right that we are restored to communion with God. Communion - the sharing of our intimate thoughts, our feelings, and opening of our minds, hearts, and souls to his touch. It is in communion with him that we are able to effectively and purposefully 'do good works', for it is in the confession of communion that we are made whole. Just sayin!
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