If there is one thing in which we as humans seem to excel, it is the ability to sabotage our relationships with God. The unimpeded intimacy mankind had in the Garden was brutally severed by sin. Through disobedience, Saul destroyed the relationship he had with God, and lost the anointing. David seemed to do this with regularity, and with efficiency. Israel got it down to a science how to resist the grace of the Lord. In fact, we have all tasted of the distance between us and God, all caused by a lack of our own faithfulness.
Back to David, the shepherd, who in Psalm 23, had enjoyed the anointing and nurturing of the Shepherd; I would guess few have savored that level of extended, fostered care from Yahweh. And yet, later, by the time of the 51st Psalm, it is a very different picture, as David has just pronounced the words “I have sinned against the Lord.” Indeed, he had.
Called to account by the prophet Nathan, David had no option but to recognize his own sin. But, it had taken him some time to get to that place.
From high atop his palace, he had eyed a beautiful woman. Desired her. Took her. Got her pregnant, and set in motion the elaborate plan of deception, betrayal, and murder. Uriah, Bathsheba’s husband, returns from battle, refuses to go his home preferring to be near his king. David seeks to send him home to his wife in order to cover the tracks of sin, but that was not to be; Uriah still remained at the palace. For his loyalty Uriah would receive a letter from the hand of the king, a death sentence, sending him to his death in the line of battle.
This man David had coveted another man’s wife, committed adultery, he had betrayed, placed Bathsheba, and indeed his own desires as a god before him. In all, he had in one fell swoop violated or broken a majority of the 10 Commandments, dishonoring God and man. So, how is it that David is considered a man after God’s own heart? How could these words be those which would describe one of the vilest offenders of grace in all of Scripture?
May I suggest the clearest answer is the way he sought restoration with God?
Psalm 51 indeed finds David in a very different place, as he confronts his sinful nature. He pleads forgiveness for his sin, and not only that, but for a total transformation of his heart.
“Create in me a clean heart, O God,
And renew a steadfast spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10)
The word create is used only to speak of divine creation; only God is able to transform the darkened heart of man. But David also pleads for the continued desire to do that which is right in the eyes of God.
All this is good, and necessary, yet I believe what really sets David apart is the gleaning of truth he reveals in verse 16-17 of this Psalm.
“For You do not delight in sacrifice, otherwise I would give it;
You are not pleased with burnt offering.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.”
David had vast amounts of wealth to bring to the altar. He had livestock to spare. At his disposal could have been hundreds, or thousands of animals which could have been sacrificially used to “absolve” him of his sin…but that wasn’t the way God wanted it. God was not looking for trite displays of remorse. You see, David could have provided countless sacrifices which cost him nothing. No investment. No sorrow. No contrition. And David understands that; he knows that God wants more than a superficial demonstration of contrition; what God wants is an individual whose heart is rent at the thought of failing to walk faithfully in the grace of the Lord.
For all that David gets wrong, he gets this right. What God desires brought to the altar is a spirit which is broken at the thought of violating God. A heart which is repentant.
So, how do you approach God when sin has set a chasm between the two of you? (You didn’t think I was going to let you off the hook, did you?). A rote prayer? A glib confession? A bill casually tossed in the offering plate? A donation to a charity? Gracing a church with your presence every so often? Flat-out denial of any wrongdoing? Yeah, I know, huh? Ouch!
God wants your heart. Let me suggest the next time you seek to restore communion with the holy Sovereign, you bring your heart, your contrite heart as the perfect submission to our holy God.
That currency of contrition is redeemable 24/7.