Yesterday, I blogged about the wrong kind of sacrifice or religious ritual. Sometimes we do the right thing in order to please God so that He will bless us. In a sense, we use our rituals or righteousness or sacrifices to control God. We try to negotiate with Him.
Psalm 51, by contrast, talks about the right kind of sacrifice:
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. vs. 17
If you or I think that our good works can somehow persuade God to bless us, then we highly overestimate our ability to be good. Moreover, the very act of being good to gain from God is idolatry. It’s making God the giver of blessings who we try and control instead of the blessing Himself.
The right attitude is that of the Psalmist, who begs:
Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is ever before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight… vs. 1-4
The Psalmist has no illusions about his failings. He recognizes that all sins against others are ultimately sins against God.
He continually asks God to “purge” and “clean” him. “Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.” (vs. 7)
He goes on: (vs. 9-12, 14)
- Hide your face from my sins
- Blot out my iniquity
- Create in me a clean heart
- Renew a right spirit within me
- Cast me not away from your presence
- Take not your Holy Spirit within me.
- Restore me to the joy of your salvation
- Deliver me from bloodguiltiness
(I can hear another favorite praise song in my mind now, this version sung by the fantastic Keith Green).
Following the Psalmist’s non-stop plea for forgiveness and cleansing, he says that the right sacrifice is “a broken and contrite heart.”
That’s what God wants, a heart that knows it is broken, that throws itself upon God for mercy, that rests in His ability to forgive and clean, while maintaining His justice.
Because of the Cross, God accepts our broken-hearted sacrifice, blots out our iniquities and restores the joy of our salvation.
Dear Lord: Please show me when I try and negotiate with you. And break my heart that I look more to the gift than to the giver, that I seek your blessings instead of You. Help me, too, to see the depth of my sin so that I recognize the greatness of your grace and mercy. Help me to be so aware of my sin that I plea like the Psalmist then rejoice because you took care of my sins at the Cross. Amen.