Without a doubt, scripture has played a crucial role in my marriage’s healing during this season. I find myself continually returning to Psalm 51, a beautiful passage where King David cries out to God during a time of great turbulence. In this entry, I will unravel my own thoughts on this remarkable portion of text; you can read the entire Psalm here.
David was an adulterer, and a murderous one at that. He was also an esteemed man, powerful and known for his fervor for God. In a moment of weakness, he succumbed to the desires of his flesh and set in motion a series of events that would ruin lives and bring shame on his royal name.
I find it so encouraging that the Bible, God’s precious word, would chronicle the experiences of such a man. Thank heavens that the pages of the Old Testament are not filled with flawless, two-dimensional men that needed no mercy. Reading about David’s broken nature invigorates me with hope, knowing that there is renewal in the shadow of grievous transgression.
Psalm 51 is a candid and personal song of repentance and redemption. It illustrates King David’s constantly present guilt (v. 3-6), juxtaposing the darkness of shame against the jubilance of God’s love. The humbled king calls out that his Creator would grant him a new heart and a steadfast spirit as he pleads to once again taste the joy of his salvation (v. 10-13).
Then, we come upon one of my favorite portions of this text. David proclaims that his response to being restored will be one of deliberate action – he will teach transgressors God’s ways, turning them back from their wicked paths (v. 13). This is the only natural response to a life transformed by grace.
Finally we find my favorite verses in this psalm, and perhaps in all of scripture. I have quietly recited this to myself so many times when my spirit felt flooded with oppression from within:
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[b] a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart
you, God, will not despise.
Somehow, David concludes that the true sacrifice is not a ram or bull, but one’s own pride. We are the sacrifice. For repentance to occur, we must place ourselves on the altar and relinquish our very hearts as an offering. God will not despise a sacrifice that we bear from within ourselves; anything else is a hollow religious gesture.
This concept is fundamental to our understanding of penitence. Seeking forgiveness is not a matter of rituals or religious observances; it is one of spirit-rending introspection and surrender. Through all of my soul searching and prayer, I cannot escape the gravitational pull of this simple notion. This is the meaning of repentance.
(I wrote a song about this…. take a listen here.)