Jehovah Does Not Despise a Broken Heart
“The sacrifices to God are a broken spirit; a heart broken and crushed, O God, you will not despise.”—PSALM 51:17.
1. How does Jehovah view his worshipers who sin seriously but who are repentant?
JEHOVAH can ‘block approach to himself as with a cloud mass, that prayer may not pass through.’ (Lamentations 3:44) But he wants his people to have access to him. Even if one of his worshipers should err seriously but is repentant, our heavenly Father remembers the good done by that person. Hence, the apostle Paul could tell fellow Christians: “God is not unrighteous so as to forget your work and the love you showed for his name.”—Hebrews 6:10.
2, 3. What should Christian elders take into account in dealing with erring fellow believers?
2 Christian elders should also consider the years of faithful service rendered to God by fellow believers. This includes sacred service on the part of repentant ones who have taken a false step or who have even sinned gravely. Christian shepherds seek the spiritual welfare of all of those in the flock of God.—Galatians 6:1, 2.
3 A repentant wrongdoer needs Jehovah’s mercy. Yet, more is required. This is made clear by David’s words at Psalm 51:10-19.
A Pure Heart Needed
4. Why did David pray for a pure heart and a new spirit?
4 If a dedicated Christian is in a bad spiritual state because of sin, what may he need besides Jehovah’s mercy and forgiveness? Well, David pleaded: “Create in me even a pure heart, O God, and put within me a new spirit, a steadfast one.” (Psalm 51:10) Apparently, David made this request because he realized that the propensity for gross sin was still in his heart. We may not have been involved in the kinds of sin that ensnared David in connection with Bath-sheba and Uriah, but we need Jehovah’s help to avoid yielding to temptation to engage in any gravely sinful conduct. For that matter, we may personally need divine help to remove from our heart such sinful traits as covetousness and hatred—crimes akin to theft and murder.—Colossians 3:5, 6; 1 John 3:15.
5. (a) What does it mean to have a pure heart? (b) What did David desire when he asked for a new spirit?
5 Jehovah requires that his servants have “a pure heart,” that is, purity of motive or intention. Realizing that he had not displayed such purity, David prayed that God cleanse his heart and bring it into harmony with divine standards. The psalmist also wanted a new, upright spirit, or mental inclination. He needed a spirit that would help him to resist temptation and stick firmly to Jehovah’s laws and principles.
Holy Spirit Vital
6. Why did David beg that Jehovah not take holy spirit away from him?
6 When in despair over our mistakes or wrongdoing, we could feel that God is about to cast us aside and withdraw from us his holy spirit, or active force. David felt that way, for he begged Jehovah: “Do not throw me away from before your face; and your holy spirit O do not take away from me.” (Psalm 51:11) Contrite and humble David felt that his sins had made him unworthy to serve Jehovah. To be thrown away from before God’s face would mean to lose his favor, comfort, and blessing. If David was to be restored spiritually, he needed Jehovah’s holy spirit. With it resting upon him, the king could prayerfully seek divine direction so as to please Jehovah, could avoid sin, and could rule with wisdom. Aware of his sins against the Giver of holy spirit, David fittingly pleaded that Jehovah not take it away from him.
7. Why should we pray for holy spirit and guard against grieving it?
7 What about us? We should pray for holy spirit and must guard against grieving it by failing to follow its direction. (Luke 11:13; Ephesians 4:30) Otherwise, we could lose the spirit and would be unable to display its God-given fruitage of love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faith, mildness, and self-control. Jehovah God would especially take his holy spirit away from us if we unrepentantly kept sinning against him.
Exultation of Salvation
8. If we sin but want to have the joy of salvation, what do we need to have?
8 A repentant sinner who experiences spiritual restoration can again rejoice in Jehovah’s provision of salvation. Yearning for this, David petitioned God: “Do restore to me the exultation of salvation by you, and may you support me even with a willing spirit.” (Psalm 51:12) How wonderful it was to exult in the sure hope of salvation by Jehovah God! (Psalm 3:8) After sinning against God, David sought a restoration of the joy of salvation by Him. In later times, Jehovah provided for salvation by means of the ransom sacrifice of his Son, Jesus Christ. If we as God’s dedicated servants sin gravely but want to have the joy of salvation restored to us, we need to have a repentant attitude so as to avoid sinning against the holy spirit.—Matthew 12:31, 32; Hebrews 6:4-6.
9. What was David requesting when he asked God to support him “even with a willing spirit”?
9 David asked that Jehovah support him “even with a willing spirit.” Apparently, this refers, not to God’s willingness to be helpful or to his holy spirit, but to David’s impelling mental inclination. David wanted God to support him by imparting to him a spirit of willingness to do what was right and not fall into sin once again. Jehovah God continuously supports his servants and raises up those bowed down by various trials. (Psalm 145:14) How comforting it is to realize this, especially if we have erred but are contrite and wish to serve Jehovah faithfully evermore!
Teach Transgressors What?
10, 11. (a) What could David teach Israelite transgressors? (b) David could teach sinners only after doing what himself?
10 If God would permit it, David unselfishly wanted to do something that would show his appreciation for Jehovah’s mercy and would help others. With prayerful sentiments directed to Jehovah, the repentant king next declared: “I will teach transgressors your ways, that sinners themselves may turn right back to you.” (Psalm 51:13) How could sinful David teach transgressors of God’s Law? What might he tell them? And what good could this accomplish?
11 When showing Israelite transgressors Jehovah’s ways in the hope of turning them from a wicked path, David could point out how evil sin is, what repentance means, and how to receive God’s mercy. Having felt the agony of Jehovah’s disfavor and a guilty conscience, David would undoubtedly be a compassionate instructor of repentant, heartbroken sinners. Of course, he could use his example to teach others only after he himself had accepted Jehovah’s standards and received His forgiveness, for those refusing to submit to divine requirements have no right to ‘enumerate God’s regulations.’—Psalm 50:16, 17.
12. How did David benefit from knowledge that God had delivered him from bloodguiltiness?
12 Repeating his intentions in another form, David said: “Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God the God of my salvation, that my tongue may joyfully tell about your righteousness.” (Psalm 51:14) Bloodguiltiness brought with it condemnation to death. (Genesis 9:5, 6) So knowledge that the God of his salvation had delivered him from bloodguiltiness in connection with Uriah would give David peace of heart and mind. His tongue could then sing joyfully about God’s righteousness, not his own. (Ecclesiastes 7:20; Romans 3:10) David could not blot out his immorality or bring Uriah back from the grave, even as a present-day human cannot restore the chastity of a person he has seduced or resurrect someone he has killed. Should we not think about that when we are tempted? And how much we should appreciate Jehovah’s mercy shown toward us in righteousness! In fact, appreciation should impel us to direct others to this Fountainhead of righteousness and forgiveness.
13. Only under what circumstances can a sinner have a proper opening of his lips to praise Jehovah?
13 No sinner can have a proper opening of his lips to praise Jehovah unless God mercifully opens them, as it were, to speak His truths. David therefore sang: “O Jehovah, may you open these lips of mine, that my own mouth may tell forth your praise.” (Psalm 51:15) With his conscience relieved because of God’s forgiveness, David would be impelled to teach transgressors the ways of Jehovah, and he could freely extol Him. All who have been forgiven of their sins as David was should appreciate Jehovah’s undeserved kindness toward them, and they ought to take advantage of every opportunity to declare God’s truth and ‘tell forth his praise.’—Psalm 43:3.
Acceptable Sacrifices to God
14. (a) What sacrifices were required according to the Law covenant? (b) Why would it be wrong to think that we can compensate for continued wrongdoing by doing some good things?
14 David had acquired deep insight that made him say: “For you [Jehovah] do not take delight in sacrifice—otherwise I would give it; in whole burnt offering you do not find pleasure.” (Psalm 51:16) The Law covenant required that animal sacrifices be offered to God. But David’s sins of adultery and murder, punishable by death, could not be expiated by such sacrifices. Otherwise, he would have spared no expense to offer animal sacrifices to Jehovah. Without heartfelt repentance, sacrifices are valueless. It would therefore be wrong to think that we could compensate for continued wrongdoing by doing some good things.
15. What is the attitude of a dedicated person having a broken spirit?
15 David added: “The sacrifices to God are a broken spirit; a heart broken and crushed, O God, you will not despise.” (Psalm 51:17) In the case of a repentant sinner, acceptable “sacrifices to God are a broken spirit.” Such a person does not have a belligerent attitude. The heart of a dedicated person having a broken spirit is deeply grieved over his sin, is humbled because of sensing God’s disapproval, and is willing to do anything to regain divine favor. We can offer God nothing of value until we repent of our sins and give him our hearts in exclusive devotion.—Nahum 1:2.
16. How does God look upon a person who is heartbroken over his sin?
16 God does not reject a sacrifice such as a broken and crushed heart. Despite any difficulty we encounter as his people, therefore, let us not yield to despair. If we have stumbled along life’s pathway in some manner that makes our heart cry out for divine mercy, all is not lost. Even if we have sinned grievously but are repentant, Jehovah will not spurn our broken heart. He will forgive us on the basis of Christ’s ransom sacrifice and will restore us to His favor. (Isaiah 57:15; Hebrews 4:16; 1 John 2:1) Like David, however, our prayers should be for a restoration of divine favor and not for escape from needed reproof or correction. God forgave David, but he also chastened him.—2 Samuel 12:11-14.
Concern for Pure Worship
17. Besides pleading for God’s forgiveness, what should sinners do?
17 If we have committed some grave sin, doubtless this will weigh heavily on our mind, and a contrite heart will move us to plead for God’s forgiveness. Nevertheless, let us also pray for others. Though David looked forward to rendering acceptable worship to God once again, his psalm did not selfishly leave others out of the picture. It includes this plea to Jehovah: “In your goodwill do deal well with Zion; may you build the walls of Jerusalem.”—Psalm 51:18.
18. Why did repentant David pray for Zion?
18 Yes, David looked forward to his restoration to divine favor. However, it was also the humble psalmist’s prayer that ‘in goodwill God would deal well with Zion,’ Israel’s capital city, Jerusalem, where David had hoped to build God’s temple. David’s grave sins had threatened the entire nation, for all the people could have suffered because of the king’s wrongdoing. (Compare 2 Samuel, chapter 24.) In effect, his sins undermined “the walls of Jerusalem,” so that they now needed to be rebuilt.
19. If we have sinned but were forgiven, for what would it be appropriate to pray?
19 If we have sinned grievously but have received God’s forgiveness, it would be appropriate to pray that he somehow repair any damage our conduct has done. We may have brought reproach on his holy name, may have undermined the congregation, and may have brought grief to our family. Our loving heavenly Father can remove any reproach brought upon his name, can build the congregation up by means of his holy spirit, and can comfort the hearts of our loved ones who love and serve him. Whether sin is involved or not, of course, the sanctification of Jehovah’s name and the welfare of his people should always be our concern.—Matthew 6:9.
20. Under what circumstances would Jehovah be delighted with Israel’s sacrifices and offerings?
20 If Jehovah rebuilt the walls of Zion, what else would happen? David sang: “In that case you [Jehovah] will be delighted with sacrifices of righteousness, with burnt sacrifice and whole offering; in that case bulls will be offered up on your very own altar.” (Psalm 51:19) David earnestly desired that he and the nation enjoy Jehovah’s favor so as to be able to worship Him acceptably. Then God would be delighted with their burnt sacrifices and whole offerings. This would be so because these would be sacrifices of righteousness offered by dedicated, sincere, and repentant people enjoying God’s favor. Out of gratitude for Jehovah’s mercy, on his altar they would offer bulls—the best and most expensive sacrifices. Today, we honor Jehovah by bringing him the best of what we have. And our offerings include “the young bulls of our lips,” sacrifices of praise to our merciful God, Jehovah.—Hosea 14:2; Hebrews 13:15.
Jehovah Hears Our Cries
21, 22. Psalm 51 contains what lessons for our benefit?
21 David’s heartfelt prayer recorded in Psalm 51 shows us that we should react to our sin with a truly repentant spirit. This psalm also contains pointed lessons for our benefit. For instance, if we sin but are repentant, we can trust in God’s mercy. However, let us be concerned primarily about any reproach we may have brought on Jehovah’s name. (Verses 1-4) Like David, we can appeal to our heavenly Father for mercy on the basis of our inherited sinfulness. (Verse 5) We should be truthful, and we need to seek wisdom from God. (Verse 6) If we have sinned, we ought to plead with Jehovah for cleansing, a pure heart, and a steadfast spirit.—Verses 7-10.
22 From Psalm 51 we can also see that we should never allow ourselves to become hardened in sin. If we were to do so, Jehovah would remove from us his holy spirit, or active force. With God’s spirit upon us, though, we can successfully teach others his ways. (Verses 11-13) If we err but repent, Jehovah will allow us to continue praising him because he never despises a heart broken and crushed. (Verses 14-17) This psalm further shows that our prayers should not center on ourselves only. Rather, we should pray for the blessing and spiritual welfare of all those engaging in the pure worship of Jehovah.—Verses 18, 19.
23. Why should Psalm 51 move us to be courageous and optimistic?
23 This touching psalm of David should motivate us to be courageous and optimistic. It helps us to realize that we need not think that all is lost even if we stumble into sin. Why? Because if we are repentant, Jehovah’s mercy can save us from despair. If we are contrite and wholly devoted to our loving heavenly Father, he hears our cry for mercy. And how comforting it is to know that Jehovah does not despise a broken heart!
How Would You Answer?
□ Why do Christians need a pure heart and God’s holy spirit?
□ What can a repentant person teach transgressors of Jehovah’s law?
□ How does Jehovah view a heart broken and crushed?
□ What lessons are found in Psalm 51?
[Picture on page 15]
Do you pray for holy spirit and guard against grieving it?
[Picture on page 17]
Show appreciation for Jehovah’s undeserved kindness by declaring his truth