A Broken and Contrite Heart

“The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.” (Psalm 51:17)

God prescribed a system of animal sacrifices for sin in the Old Testament. These sacrifices pointed forward to Jesus, who offered Himself as the once-for-all sacrifice for sin (Hebrews 10:11-12). King David understood the importance of the prescribed animal sacrifices but knew that what God truly wanted is a person’s heart.

In Psalm 51, David, who was described as “a man after [the LORD’s] own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14), demonstrated God’s heart in his attitude toward his own sin. The occasion of writing was David’s transgression with Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11). He asked God to forgive his sins, both specifically in the matter of Bathsheba (“this evil,” v. 4) and in general (“blot out all mine iniquities,” v. 9). He recognized that sin was in his heart long before he committed adultery and praised his Creator by repenting of his rebellion against God’s commands.

David had committed two death penalty crimes: adultery (Leviticus 20:10) and murder (Genesis 9:6). No animal sacrifice could atone for David’s sin (Psalm 51:16; cf. Hebrews 10:4), yet God forgave him (2 Samuel 12:13). David’s words show a deep awareness of and contrition for his sin. Only when a person acknowledges his or her sin with “a broken and a contrite heart” (Psalm 51:17) can that person truly appreciate God’s forgiveness.

Praise God that Jesus Christ, the Creator of the universe, became a man and died to pay the penalty for sin, offering salvation to all who turn from sin to Jesus and trust in Him alone for salvation (John 1:14; 3:16; Romans 3:25; 2 Corinthians 5:21). Thanks to Jesus’ atoning work, “if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). WP

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