"The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and a repentant heart, O God." -- Psalm 51:17
PSALM 51 is the prayer of David when Nathan the prophet came to him after he committed adultery with Bathsheba and also masterminded the murder of Uriah the husband of Bathsheba. Nathan came not as a political adviser but a prophet of God telling David of his sin and that how it has utterly displeased God! It's in the middle of this psalm that David mentioned God's desire for a broken spirit and a repentant heart more than any other sacrifices. Before verse 17 this chapter is filled with prayers from a broken heart like the one, we find in verse 10 "Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a loyal spirit within me. 11 Do not banish me from your presence, and don't take your Holy Spirit from me." This prayer is not only about nice words it came from a broken heart. Here we ask the questions what is a brokenness of spirit? Why is this pleasing to God? Is this a blessing or a curse? A reminder of guilt or a mentor of grace?
I think more than anything else what is so important here is to discover why is this brokenness of the spirit pleasing to God? And along with this question we can also ask how is this demonstrated in the life of David, specifically at that time David committed adultery with Bathsheba and masterminded the murder of Uriah. In our discourse we will not just talk about the sin, we will talk about the God who granted forgiveness in response to a broken spirit. It is very important to take note that the prayer of David from a broken spirit is a result of God's conviction of sin when God sent Prophet Nathan to rebuke David of his adultery with Bathsheba. It seems to me that before David actually uttered his prayer of repentance a painful process of brokenness is happening in his heart. And that process of brokenness led him to pray a prayer of repentance.
What then is brokenness? And why is this a pleasing sacrifice to the Lord? Not all brokenness of spirit is scandal related but they are all pride related. In the case of David brokenness became a tool by which David can know God and respond to Him in repentance. In the case of Job, Joseph and Jeremiah's brokenness is not related to an obvious sin yet brokenness unveiled a not so obvious sin of relying on our own strength rather than God. God allowed Job to experience a brokenness none of us would want. Take time to read the book of Job and you will find out that in the most mysterious way Job's suffering led him to discover God in the most unique way. Jeremiah's brokenness is another mysterious blow to the prophet who never had "success" in ministry as religion would expect. Through lamentations and many weeping Jeremiah knew God. Joseph's story is perhaps the more appealing because in the end he was vindicated. Yet what this young man went through brought him closer to God more than anything else.
Honestly, after reading their stories in the bible I will not blame you if like me I don't like this process of brokenness. Like our Covid Captivity is a unique way God is allowing this process to happen again. Pain and suffering are too deep to handle just theological discussions. Because intellectual discussions alone are not enough to help us survive these realities of life. Job, Jeremiah, and Joseph and David they all filed their plea to God admitting that this is beyond my human strength and beyond my theology and way, way beyond my limit!
Is God a sadist that he requires this for his children? Or have we become too proud beyond our recognition? I think what we can get out of this topic is not about a satisfactory answer that will solve the mystery behind it. Rather, we are prayerful that God will make us see the beauty behind this. And out of that we come out transformed, refined, and responsive to God. I must admit that in the discussion level none of this will make sense.
Because it is not meant to just be discussed it is meant to be experienced! Perhaps God will send a little light that though we may not understand this, we will begin to recognize a divine purpose in this long process. And somehow, we can say no wonder God desires a broken spirit.