Psalm 51 is titled “A Prayer of Repentance” in my NKJV Bible. It is David asking God for forgiveness after he has sinned in a major away, and it shows him as being brokenhearted at the realization of what he has done.
Last year I was at a camp and I had a very rough day as a counselor. A friend of mine sent me to a dorm room with my Bible and told me to go get some rest by resting in God. It was then that I turned to the Psalms and decided to read a few. I don’t remember how I got to Psalm 51, but I did.
The following verses stood out to me and left me stunned:
”Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” (vs. 10, ESV)
”Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.” (vs. 12, ESV)
”For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” (vs. 16-17, ESV)
No, I had not committed a big and obvious sin like David and his adultery with Bathsheba, but what I had done is give “burnt offerings”, and I had shown a prideful attitude because I had tried to do certain things on my own.
In that moment I had a broken spirit. I could not do what I was trying to do on my own; I had no hope. I had sinned against the Lord by trying to do so and I knew it.
I needed a heart cleaning. Sorry, let me try that again… I need a heart cleaning. Often! I need God to take me and cleanse me, because I have no hope otherwise. I am sinful and I often desire to do sinful things and I need a heart that has had a thorough cleaning.
I also need to have the joy of His salvation restored to me. I get so used to the gift that I have, that of eternal life, that I forget that if there was never anything else to rejoice about for the rest of my life (which of course there is much), that I still would not have done enough rejoicing for the salvation that I have received.
Finally, I needed (and need) to realize that God wants me to offer Him a broken spirit and a contrite heart (contrite just means a place of repentance and realizing what one has done wrong).
This year I have had many moments where I have had to go back to a broken spirit and a contrite heart. I have felt so small and so shameful. I have felt like I could not believe what I was doing and how I was putting it on display for so many to see. Yet, within a few days, I have been back to that place of pride and being comfortable in certain sins. Every time God has had to bring me back down to earth and it has been painful. He will not be delighted in an outward showing of “doing the right thing”; He wants a broken spirit.
My heart still needs cleaning, so much of it. As I write this I feel the weight of my transgressions; I feel that broken spirit. And I know that I will be back to a place of a broken spirit many times in the future. But I know that my God is with me, that He will never leave me or forsake me, and that He who began a good work in me will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.