There is a very specific Scripture which matches this Psalm. You can find it in II Samuel 11. I remember well using this Scripture when Bill Clinton was unfaithful and speaking about what it means when our ruler is found to be morally lacking. Of course, we are all morally lacking, but what does it mean when our President, or our pastor, or our teacher, or whatever position in society you may want to lift up. How do we handle the unfaithfulness of people to God in a very visible, hard to argue manner? David paid the price. He continued to rule, but he paid a price, a very steep price. We read about his state of mind in this psalm.
It is a psalm that has a song taken from it which back in the old day was incredibly popular.
I’ll never forget singing this song around campfires. When we served in Italy one of the churches where we pastored had a booklet of songs with all of these older praise songs. You know, As the Deer, Shine Jesus Shine, these kinds of songs that we would sing around the campfire. Boy, they would belt them out. To this day I can’t hear any of these songs without the Italian first coming to mind and then I struggle for the words in English.
But this Psalm does elicit an incredible amount of thought and material for the writer. It is perfectly suited for Lent. We find David fully recognizing his sin and asking for forgiveness and asking for his heart to be created clean again. The Psalm begins with an appeal for mercy. It then transition to a recognition that if David received mercy and forgiveness then he would be able to teach others what not to do.
Remember yesterday when we talked about sacrifice and that which is acceptable to God. Today we find that out. Again, it is within a context of one being found guilty in sin that they cannot escape. What is the sacrifice that God requires and that is pleasing to the Lord. Yesterday we saw that it was thanksgiving. Today? We can look at vs.17 and hopefully understand the context from which David is writing. The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit. That is what the Lord requires.
Let’s talk about that for a bit. A broken Spirit, what does that look like? Someone who has been beaten down their entire life has a broken spirit. I can assure you that this is not what the psalmist is describing. Someone who has experienced a traumatic life event could have a broken spirit which is difficult to overcome. That is not what the author is describing here. A broken spirit is what is needed in relationship to our interaction with God. Think about the actions that David took to not only commit adultery with Bathsheba but then to try to cover it by murdering her husband. It is an action taken by someone who feel entitled and who feels like they can get away with anything.
David’s actions are the opposite of a broken spirit. David’s actions are those of someone who thinks they are untouchable, and that God basically doesn’t exist. Or, even worse, if God does exist then He exists at my pleasure and for my purposes. David knew God existed, but probably thought that God existed merely for the purpose of furthering David’s cause and not God’s own kingdom. A broken spirit is one that recognizes our desires and our wishes and our wants are subject to God’s plans. That is hard to bring into the equation when your whole life God has seemed to present before you all that you want. That was David’s experience. In this psalm he has a broken spirit because he recognizes that it is for God’s glory that he moves and has his being. That would be a good lesson for us.