Miles to go...

I have miles to go... please pray each day for the next leg of my Biblical journey!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Day 41: What God Wants

Bertram Mackennal [Public domain]

Psalm 51:16-17

New Living Translation (NLT)
16 You do not desire a sacrifice, or I would offer one.
    You do not want a burnt offering.
17 The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit.
    You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.


This is really a continuation of yesterday. Whereas yesterday I just assumed that perhaps David was inspired to write that psalm after he had committed adultery with Bathsheba, this Psalm really is. Preceding the words of the Psalm are directions for the choir director, and describes this as being specifically about that sinful period in his life.

I think the easiest trap for us to fall into is thinking that God is only some passive, benevolent spirit in the sky that is quick to forgive when we pay a little lip-service to Him. While He is loving, patient, and forgiving, He's also a just God, and He makes His justice known, even to His own children. The consequences of our actions can bring disastrous results, and God isn't one to let us off the hook easily. He wants us to learn from our experiences, and the lessons He teaches aren't easy ones.

How often do we plea with God for this or that, making our requests known, and then like an afterthought, we remember to say "oh yeah, while I'm at it, will you forgive me of all my sins?" I hope I'm not the only one who has been guilty of that. Or maybe we rush through it at the beginning of our prayer; "Oh Lord, please forgive me for having done such-and-such today. Now will you help me out with this?"

David understood what God really wanted from us. In a time when animal sacrifices were required for just about everything, including to cover sins (because the Lamb of God had not yet come to bear that burden), David knew that what God wanted even more than an adherence to the laws of sacrifice was sincerity.

God doesn't want us to flippantly ask forgiveness as though it were something to mark off our to-do list. He wants us to be broken, naked, and deeply sorrowful before Him. Ok, now I don't mean "naked" as in "nude", despite the imagery, I mean He wants us to be totally transparent, not trying to hide anything from his sight or to cover any of our actions with excuses.

We should learn from David's example. He was on his knees before God, begging for His mercy and compassion. He pleaded with God not only to erase the stain of his sin, but to cleanse him of his guilt and purify him from it. He owns up to what he's done, and is so sorry for his actions that he says it haunts him day and night! He can't get it out of his head how he took another man's wife, and then plotted to ensure that the wronged man would be killed in battle. He knew that Uriah's blood was on his hands, and He specifically asks God to forgive him for that. He accepts that God's judgment against him is just, and that he has deserved the price he has paid. Do you remember what that price was? His sin cost him the life of his child. And the consequences of his actions didn't just affect him. Imagine what Bathsheba must have been going through! Sure, she had moved into the palace after losing her husband, but now she had lost her child! She must have felt a lot of resentment towards her new husband, the king. Don't ya think?

As David prayed, he got it. He knew that burning a sacrifice, although required by law, really wasn't good enough. He understood that what would please God far more than going through the motions was for him to offer himself, his own broken spirit and his own broken heart, as his sacrifice. And that is exactly what he offered, knowing that God would accept such an offering and restore David to the joy of his salvation. He wasn't asking that God would simply let him be happy again, He was asking that God would restore his happiness with the kind of joy that comes only from God, through obedience to God.

That is the manner in which we should pray. We screw up daily, so many times that we can't even keep track. Most of the times we don't even acknowledge the things that we do to offend God, because they're so habitual that we don't recognize them as being wrong. But they pile up around us, creating clutter and chaos in our spiritual lives (even if we don't claim to have one) until we completely break down emotionally. 

The only one who can, or will, pull us out of the quicksand is God. And until we are truly, deeply sorry for having strolled into the quagmire in the first place, God's going to let us keep sinking. Things will never get better until we come before God, broken in spirit, and offer ourselves to Him.

Isn't it time?

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