The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.Psalm 51:17
What a brutally honest prayer, David was saying that just the religious sacrifice is not good enough, repentance is a deep work of God’s Spirit in our hearts. We are not capable of even beginning the process of repentance and change until the Spirit of God begins His work upon our hearts. David was experiencing what he called a broken heart, a hearten broken by his sudden awareness of his sinful condition. He had sinned against God and found himself hopelessly alienated from the Lord. David had become painfully aware of his need for God’s mercy and God’s favor of repentance. He said the true sacrifices that are pleasing to God were not lambs and goats but were the sacrifices of a broken heart and a contrite spirit. Luther spoke of the blessedness of approaching God with a broken heart in his comments about this psalm.
“David talks about “a broken and contrite heart.” In other words, this is a sincerely humble heart that is almost dying out of despair. David is saying that God doesn’t hate a broken and contrite heart, but rather accepts it with joy. The message we proclaim brings life and God’s approval to us because it strengthens us and fights against sin and death. In fact, the gospel demonstrates its power when we are sinful and weak. It’s a message of joy that can be experienced only when sorrow and distress are present.
In this psalm, we read that God finds no sacrifice more pleasing than a broken heart. The tax collector exemplified this attitude when he said, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner” (Luke 18:13). The tax collector offered the Lord the most desirable sacrifice, a broken heart that trusts in God’s mercy. This is a comforting way to think about God. God’s true nature is to love people who are troubled, have mercy on those who are broken-hearted, forgive those who have fallen, and refresh those who are exhausted. This psalm calls us to trust in God’s mercy and goodness alone. It encourages us to believe that God is on our side even when we feel abandoned and distressed.”
Do you have a broken heart today? Maybe you heart was broken because you have disappointed yourself and the Lord in your actions. Or maybe your heart has been broken by a series of disappointments in your life. David had tasted both kinds of broken hearts. His heart was broken because of his sin against the Lord with his adulterous relationship with Bathsheba. David’s heart was also broken by the betrayal and rebellion of his son Absalon. In both of these incidents David was brought to the end of himself. He had no solutions to his problems, only God’s help and intervention would see him through. The Lord met David in both incidents. David found forgiveness, protection, sustenance, and and renewal from the Spirit of the Lord. If you have a broken heart today, take courage, the Lord seems to be strangely attracted to the cries and prayers of the broken heart.