January 19th, 2023 - Broken & Contrite Heart

Broken and Contrite Heart

Maybe it’s early in the morning. Maybe you’re quickly skimming this amidst the demands of an exhausting afternoon. Wherever and whenever you are, the presence of God is, too.

Slow down. Focus on your breath for a few moments, letting your body and mind relax with each exhale. Open to His presence. Give in to His rest.

King David was at the height of his power, enriched by God’s blessing, when he seduced Bathsheba and made her pregnant. He then attempted to trick her husband Uriah, a loyal captain in David’s army, in to believing the child was his. When Uriah’s sense of duty and honor frustrated this attempt, David has Uriah killed rather than take responsibility for his actions. 2 Samuel chapter 11 tells us that David ordered Uriah (obviously unbeknownst to him) to carry his own death sentence back to the battlefield commander. And it’s not just Uriah that was killed. David’s order to isolate and abandon Uriah in the thickest part of battle caused the death of several other men in his army. Diabolical, right?

Far as he could tell, David was in the clear. But what he did displeased the Lord (11:27). Fast forward several months, and the prophet Nathan confronts David (2 Samuel 12). It is here that the dam of David’s guilt burst open from his soul in Psalm 51.

Psalm 51
1 Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love;
            according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions.
2 Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.
3 For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.
4 Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight;
            so you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge.
5 Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
6 Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb; you taught me wisdom in that secret place.
7 Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
8 Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice.
9 Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity.
10 Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
11 Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways, so that sinners will turn back to you.
14 Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God, you who are God my Savior,
         and my tongue will sing of your righteousness.
15 Open my lips, Lord, and my mouth will declare your praise.

 16 You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
17 My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you will not despise.
 18 May it please you to prosper Zion, to build up the walls of Jerusalem.
19 Then you will delight in the sacrifices of the righteous, in burnt offerings offered whole;
            then bulls will be offered on your altar.

 Notice the language used: wash me, cleanse me, hide your face away from me. David felt more than just shame. He felt dirty. He recognized that he deserved judgement. When the man after God’s own heart came face to face with his own depravity, he called out to the presence of God through penitent confession.

  Many of us under appreciate the crucial role of repentance in our spiritual growth, or sanctification. Confession humbles us as we realize how feeble our attempts to live right are. That humility encourages dependence on God and an ever-increasing appreciation of his grace. The motif of the new believer walking down the aisle and immediately turning their life around 180 degrees is inspiring. It is also a delusion. Faithful obedience to God is a behavior learned, often painfully, through confession and repentance. We fall on our face. We return to sinful behaviors despite our faith in Christ’s resurrection. We doubt God’s goodness while surrounded by his blessings. David understood that this isn’t an occasional tendency; it is our nature (51:5).

  The New Testament concept of repentance is derived from the Greek word metonia. A bit richer than its English counterpart, metonia is denoted by a change or transformation of one’s outlook, a total reorientation. As indicated in Romans 12:2, Christian life is continual metonia. It is a posture of penitence, a broken and contrite spirit (51:17). Faith in Jesus makes us right with God; penitence makes us right with ourselves.

  We may shun confession because of an incorrect view of God’s heart. Confession is not about beating ourselves up. Yes, we allow the pain to show us the reality of what we would be without God’s grace. But we must not stay there. Face to face with our own depravity, we call out to Jesus. Regardless of the sin or earthly situation, he does not come down on us in judgement (John 6:37). He’s not even disappointed. He comes alongside us to lovingly lift the burden of sin and replace it with his grace. He gives us rest (Matthew 11:28).

 That’s the promise of Psalm 51: confession to God, renewal by God, praise of God.

David wrote “I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me” (51:3). I stop downplaying my sin. I don’t distract myself from the pain it causes. I sit in the knowledge of my transgressions. If needed, I take a minute to really be specific. Then, from a broken and contrite spirit, I confess it to God in prayer.

Ask yourself, what do I need to confess to God? What am I spending too much time thinking about or looking at? What habit or behavior, upon reflection, has the potential to be problematic? Have those who care about me voiced a concern? Remember it was the words of Nathan that brought David to repentance. Perhaps, the gentle probing is not necessary; a specific sin is already front and center. Why won’t I turn away from it?

 Pray: Lord Jesus, come alongside me. Forgive me. Create in me a clean heart and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Confession without repentance, without mentioning, has no impact on spiritual growth. Repentance involves change. Identify some practical ways to combat sinful behavior and/or mindsets. Consider what guardrails should be put in place to avoid temptation. Use a fellow believer for accountability.

Most importantly, enter the presence of God every day as often as you can. Live like you trust the words of Jesus. He’ll give you rest.