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40 Days of Prayer, Day 5

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Day 5, Thursday, August 25

(Author's note: Don't panic.  We will begin to progress through other verses by the end of this week.  We will progress through other psalms by the end of the following week.  There is a development of thought that I am trying to establish here at the beginning before we move to other themes.  Hang in there.)

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.” Psalm 51:16-17

A Broken and Contrite Heart and the Sacrifices of God
There are some sacrifices that God despises. If God, out of an abundance of His grace, gave us these tangible religious expressions to show our worship for Him, then we dare not abuse them. It is a gift with meaning. The gift of temple worship and the sacrificial system provided Israel tangible expressions of their love and gratitude to God. To use those gifts as an end to themselves is an incredible insult. Even worse, to use the tangible gifts of worship as a means to disguise the evil in our hearts is full blown rebellion against God. The tangible gifts of singing, praying, serving, baptism, and the Lord’s Supper, provide the church with means of expressing gratitude, worship and loyalty. It is tyrannical to uses those gifts from God in order to hide the evil of our hearts from Him and from others. That is why David, in the midst of his repentance, didn’t start with the outward, tangible expressions of worship. David began with the core issue of his relationship with God, his heart.

For You do not delight in sacrifice, otherwise I would give it; You are not pleased with burnt offering. Psalm 51:16

As Spurgeon wrote in his commentary on this verse, “When the heart mourns for sin, You, Oh God, are better pleased than when the bull bleeds beneath the axe. "A broken heart" is an expression implying deep sorrow; it carries in it the idea of all but killing anguish in that region which is so vital as to be the very source of life. So excellent is a spirit humbled and mourning for sin, that it is not only a sacrifice, but it has a plurality of excellences, and is preeminently God's sacrifices. A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise. A heart crushed is a fragrant aroma of a heart. We hold with contempt those who are contemptible in their own eyes, but the Lord sees not as we see. He despises what we esteem, and values that which we despise. Never yet has God spurned a lowly, weeping penitent, and never will he while God is love, and while Jesus is called the man who receives sinners. Bull and rams he does not desire, but contrite hearts he seeks after; yes, but one of them is better to him than all the varied offerings of the old Jewish sanctuary.”

Prayer Focus

God, Give me a contrite and broken heart. I offer my heart to You, seeking to please You. I see in Your word that you never despise such an offering. In my brokenness draw me close to You. Amen.

From Bunyan’s The Acceptable Sacrifice

Second. It is of greater esteem with God than is either heaven or earth; and that is more than to be set before external duties. 'Thus says the Lord, heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool, where is the house that you build for me? And where is the place of my rest? For all those things have my hands made, and all those things have been, says the Lord: but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembles at my word' (Isa 66:1, 2). Note, God says, he has made all these things, but he does not say, that he will look to them, that is, take delight in them; no, there is that wanting in all that he has made that should take up and delight his heart. But now, let a broken-hearted sinner come before him; yes, he ranges the world throughout to find out such an one, and having found him, 'To this man, ' He says that such a man to him is of more value than is either heaven or earth; 'They, ' says He, 'shall grow old'; 'they shall perish' and vanish away; but this man he continues: he, as is presented to us in another place, under another character, 'he shall abide for ever' (Heb 1:10-12; 1 John 2:17).


40 Days of Prayer, Day 4

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Day 4, Wednesday, August 24

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.” Psalm 51:16-17

The Necessity of the Broken Heart

Just as Israel had the sacrificial system, the church has ceremonial aspects of our worship. In our context, as believers in Christ and as a church gathering together regularly for worship, we also have been given tangible expressions of our relationship to God. We have baptism and the Lord’s Supper. The church regularly gives, sings, prays, fellowships and serves. All of these acts originate from the mind of God. Just as He provided the religious life of Israel, He has provided for the church these tangible expressions of our relationship to Him. However, just as with Israel’s religious life, these expressions are not intended as an end to themselves. These religious rites provide us with physical tools to portray spiritual realities. David, after the sin with Bathsheba, knew that mere religious ceremony was insufficient to reconcile his relationship to God. In fact, mere religious ceremony is never sufficient. We are creatures of habit. We also tend toward laziness in our relationships. We get comfortable with others and take them for granted. We are prone to allow ongoing rote activities become substitutes for authentic relationship. Moments of crisis shock us out of the mundane, rote external behavior and pierce us to the heart. David likely had an active religious life when the sin with Bathsheba emerged. However, it might well be that David had defaulted to the external actions without having his heart engaged in the relationship with the God He worshiped.

The same thing can happen to us. We might sing every Sunday but as the words are coming out of our mouth, our hearts and minds are focused on something else. We might attempt to appease God through giving some money to the church or someone in need. We might try to impress God through church attendance. Just as for Israel, there is nothing inherently wrong with religious acts as God provided those to both Israel and the church. Sacrifices and burnt offerings originated with God. He gave them to Israel in order to provide tangle expressions of worship and faithfulness to Him. Giving, worship and the church also come from God. He established these aspects of religious life. God gave us tools to express gratitude, repentance, dependence and worship directed toward Him, but all of these acts must begin within the heart of the worshiper.


Prayer Focus

God, protect me from mere external religion. Engage my heart and mind as I pray, study and worship. You know my heart and You know my weaknesses. I am prone to act religious while being completely disconnected from You. Draw me close to You. Amen.


From Bunyan’s The Acceptable Sacrifice

But we will demonstrate by several particulars, that a broken spirit, a spirit RIGHTLY broken, a heart TRULY contrite, is to God an excellent thing.

First. This is evident from the comparison, 'You do not desire sacrifice, or I would give it, You do not delight in burnt-offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit.' Note, he rejects offerings and sacrifices: that is, all Levitical ceremonies under the law, and all external performances under the gospel; but accepts a broken heart. It is therefore shown by this, were there nothing else to be said, that a heart rightly broken, a heart truly contrite, is to God an excellent thing; for as you see such a heart is set before all sacrifice; and yet they were the ordinances of God, and things that he commanded; but a broken spirit is above them all, a contrite heart goes beyond them, yes, beyond them when put all together. You will not have the one. You will not despise the other. O brethren, a broken and a contrite heart is an excellent thing. Have I said a broken heart, a broken and a contrite heart is esteemed by God above all sacrifices.

40 Days of Prayer, Day 3

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Day 3, Tuesday, August 23

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.” Psalm 51:16-17

The Sacrifices of God

For David and for all the Israelites who are reading this psalm, the sacrificial system of the nation of Israel would have been very familiar. There were regular sacrifices of worship and thanksgiving, along with offerings for sin. There were periodic ceremonies such as Passover and Yum Kippur, demonstrating the need for forgiveness and mercy for the whole nation. These events also celebrated God’s gracious provisions for the nation in the past. For David, having been caught in this egregious sin, the religious standards of his day dictated a journey to the center of religious life, the tabernacle. There, those riddled with guilt would confess and make sacrifice. Usually the offering of a lamb or some other animal would provide tangible expression for the confessor. Confidence in such religious rites arose out of the origin of these rites. God had provided Israel with the sacrificial system. This system, which was intended to give tangible expressions to the nation in times of thanksgiving and in times of repentance, came from God. David’s instinctive reaction after getting caught in adultery and murder would have been to run down to the tabernacle. However, David also knew the founder and author of these religious expressions. God never intended the ceremony to be a substitute for our hearts. God never intended the Passover to be celebrated as mere external religion. From the beginning of the formalized religious life of Israel, all of the sacrifices and ceremonies were intended to communicate profound spiritual truths that radiated out of a relationship between God and Israel. Each individual act of worship and sacrifice provided the individual the opportunity to express profound spiritual truths. These acts communicated aspects of God’s relationship to that individual and to the whole nation. God never intended these acts of worship to be disconnected from the heart of the worshiper.

Religion without Relationship

God is a God of relationships. He describes His relationship to us in a variety of ways. For instance, the Bible depicts God as a loving Father and us as His children. The Bible describes our relationship to God as similar to the way a sheep relates to a good shepherd. The Bible uses imagery for Christ’s relationship to the church as that of a groom to a bride. Jesus even described His relationship to Israel as a mother hen desiring to gather her chicks under her wing. God is a God of relationships and all religious expressions provided for Israel and for the church were granted by God as a means of expressing our relationship to Him. Sin breaks the relationship. God, as a God of relationships, offers grace and mercy and forgiveness. The tangible religious act of an offering for sin provided Israel a demonstrative means of expressing confession, contrition and God’s willingness to forgive. Not limited to sin offerings, gratitude also draws people closer to God and thus God provided offerings of thanksgiving as a means of expression for the nation’s gratitude for daily provisions. In addition to religious offerings, times of worship provided moments to cultivate intimacy. God provided worship for the Israel to enhance their relationship with Him. All of the formal religious ceremonies were intended to enhance the relationship. These ceremonies were never an end to themselves.

That is why David, though steeped in ceremonial traditions of the worship of Israel, does not run down to the tabernacle and offer a guilt offering. He has the resources. Surely the king of Israel could produce a bull or a lamb to offer. He has access for the tabernacle resided in Jerusalem, David’s city. David knew that no mere external religious expression would resolve the depths of the broken relationship between him and God. God knew David’s heart. God knew David’s motives. God knew long before David knew that to offer a sacrifice without the heart being fully engaged would be a fraud. David offered himself to God with a full confession of his broken heart. Broken hearts happen when relationships dissolve and the offending party feels the weight of the broken relationship. Mere external expressions can never restore what is broken at the heart level.  Our sin breaks the heart of God and damages our relationship to Him. God is a God of relationships. He knows our hearts better than we do. He seeks to restore the relationship because He is a God of relationships.

Prayer Focus

O God, You have created us for relationship.  My sin separates me from You.  No mere religious ceremony can make our relationship right.  Forgive me!  Restore me!  Give me a desire to walk with You.  Amen.


From Bunyan’s The Acceptable Sacrifice

Note by the way, that this broken and contrite heart is excellent only to God: 'O God, ' said David, 'You will not despise it.' By which is implied, the world does not have esteem or respect for such a heart, or for one that is of a broken and a contrite spirit. No, a man or a woman, that is blessed with a broken heart, is so far off from being esteemed by the world, that they are but burdens and trouble wherever they are or go. Such people carry with them unrest: they are in carnal families as David was to the king of Gath, troublers of the house (1 Sam 21). 

 Their sighs, their tears, their day and night groans, their cries and prayers, and solitary carriages, put all the carnal family out of order. Hence you have them brow-beaten by some, distained by others, and their company fled from and deserted by others. But mark the text, 'A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise, ' but rather accept; for not to despise is with God to esteem and set a high price upon.