At times, the guilt and shame of acknowledged sin can leave us feeling crushed, speechless, and perhaps even wondering how we can recover.
In these instances, I believe the Penitential Psalms can give voice to emotions and thoughts we cannot express on our own.
The majority of the Bible cover God speaking to us. One of the beauties of the Psalms is that they to teach us how to speak to God.
The Penitential Psalms are songs of confession. In the 6th century AD Cassiodorus , a Roman statesmen and author, saw the vital nature of reading God’s Word. In his text on the Psalms, he designated seven as Penitential.
Of those seven, Psalm 51 probably is most recognizable. This morning I want to draw your attention to the final verse.
“Then shalt thou be pleased with the sacrifices of righteousness, with burnt offering and whole burnt offering: then shall they offer bullocks upon thine altar.”Psalm 51:19
Just a few verses before David wrote,
“For thou desirest not sacrifice: else I would give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart thou wilt not despise.”Psalm 51:16-17
So, which is it? Sacrifices of burnt offerings or not?
I believe a phrase I read recently reflects well the truth of this verse and a central theme in God’s Word.
Because of, not in order to.
God did command the Old Testament sacrificial system. But the whole system rested on the “because of”. Because of God’s grace, and the offerers’ existing faith and relationship with God, the sacrifices were desired by God and acceptable. The very same sacrifices and offerings from a proud and sinful heart would be rejected (cf. Isaiah 1).
So too, in the New Testament, we are forgiven and adopted into God’s family BECAUSE OF what Jesus has done. We serve and worship BECAUSE OF what Jesus has done, not IN ORDER TO please God and be accepted by Him.
You may be struggling under the burden of guilt and shame today. But never let yourself think that you can say, think, or do anything IN ORDER TO please God.
You may even be right with God but never worship IN ORDER TO deserve God’s continuing favor.
And do not let your motivation to serve be IN ORDER TO earn God’s gifts.
Rather, let it always be BECAUSE OF.
Let the forgiveness of your sins and acceptance by God be BECAUSE OF Jesus Christ.
Let your motivation, worship, and service always flow from BECAUSE OF who God is and what Christ has done.
In Psalm 51 IN ORDER TO BE forgiven David threw himself on the mercies of God (Psalm 51:1-2, 7-9, 14).
Then, in the closing verse of the Psalm David offers sacrifices BECAUSE OF God’s grace.
May it be so with us.