This post is part of my book launch, God’s Triumphant Mercy: A Reflection of Psalm 51
For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering.
Whenever we see the word for, an argument or reason is stated for the previous verse or verses. Why does the Bible highlight that God needs to open our lips in order to declare His praise? Isn’t that up to our own resolve?
In order to help us understand this, let’s consider these verses: “Incline my heart to your testimonies, and not to selfish gain! Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in your ways” (Ps. 119:36-37).
It is God who needs to incline and turn us. It doesn’t happen by our self-determination, but only by God’s enabling grace and power. That’s why Paul wrote: “But by the grace of God I am what I am . . .” (1 Cor. 15:10). His grace is the underlying factor of who we are and what we do as believers.
Unless God is “working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ” (Heb. 13:21), we have mere external religion. God has no delight in that, even though He may have commanded those externals. Ultimately, it’s about our heart.
For example, in Isaiah we read: “What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices? says the LORD; I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of well-fed beasts; I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of goats” (Isa. 1:11).
Later on, He said: “Because this people draw near with their mouth and honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me . . .” (Isa. 29:13). We need God’s inner working in order to be pleasing to Him with our external worship. The Christian life is about being on permanent life-support. Our giving to God is always based on Him first giving it to us.
Many times, after we’ve sinned, we make promises to God or come up with resolves to not sin again. While there’s nothing wrong with a desire and dedication to not sin against God, we may well go about it the wrong way.
He wants us to come to Him with “a broken spirit” and “a broken and contrite heart,” realizing that, apart from Christ, we’re unable to please Him. The sweet-smelling sacrifice of “a broken and contrite heart” is our deep need for Jesus. That’s what God delights in! He wants His Son to be all (see Col. 3:11).
Heavenly Father, work in me that which is pleasing in Your sight.
The Devotional Writer
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