Psalm 51:13-17 (NIV)
Then I will teach transgressors your ways, so that sinners will turn back to you.
Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God, you who are God my Savior, and my tongue will sing of your righteousness.
Open my lips, Lord, and my mouth will declare your praise.
You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.
We know from Luke 3:8, from the preaching of John the Baptist, that we need to “bring forth fruits in keeping with repentance. . .” Once we have confessed a sin and been cleansed by God, we must show the Lord that we will not take lightly the sacrifice that was made on our behalf. If we go on sinning as if nothing happened, if we confess a sin and resolve to make it right but never follow through, then the prayer was worthless. Hebrews 10:26 states, “For if we gone sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins.” And Paul makes the same point in Romans 6:1-2. How can we possibly keep sinning after supposedly purifying ourselves from that same sin? So David in Psalm 51 seeks to act the way a purified person ought to act! He chooses to teach others about the Truth and convert sinners to the path of righteousness. He chooses to sing with his tongue instead of spread lies with it. He chooses to make a spiritual sacrifice from his heart rather than slaughter a few animals and walk away feeling proud of himself. He makes his path straight and follows God with all his heart!
After all, we find in the text that God does not need sacrifices of lambs and other animals unless there is sincere motivation behind it. In fact, in a number of verses, we find that God specifically desires the motivation behind the sacrifice, and not simply the sacrifice itself. In 1 Samuel 15:22, we read, “Has the Lord as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifice, as in obeying the voice of the Lord?” In Proverbs 21:3, the writer states, “To do justice and judgment is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice.” And there are a number of other verses that say the same thing. Of course, none of this is meant to diminish the importance of sacrifices – it was a command from God that the Israelites fulfill this obligation, and complete obedience to the Law was required of these people.
“The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise.” There is certainly more to “church” than just showing up for attendance. Today, some Christians feel that by having their names on the directory of a “faithful” church of Christ, that automatically means they get into Heaven free. They think that perfect attendance is something that God will give them a golden star for! We sometimes think that preachers, elders, deacons, etc. will get a special pass to get into Heaven. But without motivation and without spiritual, heartfelt, genuine sacrifice to God, without a sincere desire for the Lord and His service, we are wasting our energy and not fit for the Kingdom of Heaven.