Contrition and Restoration
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite spirit, O Lord, Thou wilt not despise (Psalm 51:17).
King David wrote, ‘. . . his delight is in the law of the Lord and in His law he meditates day and night’ (Psa. 1:2). But then David saw Bathsheba, desired her, took her, and violated her. What’s up with that? May I suggest pride. It probably came down something like this, ‘I am the king. I can do whatever I want. I can have whatever I want, whenever I want it. I am not like other men. I have lots of pressure on me. I have unique needs which must be met.’ David also said, ‘The Lord abhors the man of bloodshed and deceit’ (Psa. 5:6). But when David realized Bathsheba was pregnant by his adulterous act, in deceit he sent for her husband, Uriah the Hittite, and urged him to enjoy marital bliss with her so that all would think he was the father of their child. When Uriah refused David had him sent back to the front lines of battle and orchestrated his death. That’s shedding innocent blood. So maybe David later said, ‘Did I really write that? Is it really true that God abhors the man of bloodshed and deceit?’ May I also suggest David is here guilty of unbelief. Can he really trust the Word of God which he had written? And David also said, ‘Who may ascend into the hill of the Lord and who may stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, and who has not lifted up his soul to falsehood, and has not sworn deceitfully’ (Psa. 24:3-4). But his sin with Bathsheba makes clear at this point that David has anything but clean hands and a pure heart. True, he knows God. Earlier he was called a man after God’s own heart (1 Sam. 13:14, Acts 13:22), but something has happened. He deliberately, consciously, intentionally violates all he knows about God and his Word and plunges himself and his family into ruin. That’s rebellion. He was going to do what he wanted to do, no matter what the consequences.
Pride, unbelief, and rebellion – the big three which have ruined millions of people. How are you presently stacking up with the big three? The genesis of pride is thinking too highly of ourselves and too lightly of God. We become big and God becomes small. We are masters of manipulating pride for our own purposes. How so? Are you guilty of theological, cultural, racial, or material pride? I love Reformed Theology, and I believe it best captures the truths of Scripture, but there have been times in meetings with other brothers and sisters where I secretly disdained what I perceived as their lack of biblical depth or overly emotional and shallow worship. How about you? I love my southern culture, but I have looked down my nose at people’s dress and cultural mores in other parts of the country. How about you? I know I have been guilty of racial prejudice. I remember several months ago coming out of my office on a Saturday (the doors were always locked to the building on the weekends) and a black man was standing there, wanting to get in. I assumed he was trying to enter unlawfully and I challenged him. He then informed me that he worked there. I had racially profiled him and expected the worst. How about you? Are you guilty of racial pride? This question is not meant merely for white people. Every culture battles racial pride. And how about material pride? Do you think you are better than others because of the money you make, the car you drive, the community in which you live? Pride is a killer. God hates pride. He resists the proud and gives grace to the humble (James 4:6).
Then there is the issue of unbelief. I find many today in the evangelical church who are not so sure about the inerrancy and infallibility of Scripture. Did God really say that homosexuality, adultery, fornication, drunkenness, and covetousness would send people to hell? Yes he did (1 Cor. 6:9-10). Did he really say Adam and Eve are historic, real people who actually lived on the earth? Are you like David, ‘Did God really say that? Is that really true?’ And then some are not so sure about the sufficiency of Christ. They ask, ‘Is Jesus really the only way to God?’ And instead of going to Jesus for their sins they run to a psychotherapist. And then some are not so sure about the immediacy of the Holy Spirit. Many in the church, it seems to me, live as though the third person of the Trinity is non-existent. They don’t expect much to happen when they pray and labour and guess what, little to nothing does happen. And then some are not so sure about the intentionality of evangelism. They say, ‘That old way of sharing Christ, you know, what you all did in the 1970’s where you initiated conversation right away and shared Jesus, does not work in our post modern world. You must win the right to be heard. You must bring them along.’ People are no different today than at any other time in the world’s history. What did Paul and the other apostles do? Do you really believe they spent lots of time earning the right to be heard? And besides, Iconium, Lystra, Derbe, Philippi, Athens, Corinth, and Ephesus were as wicked then as San Francisco, Atlanta, New York, or Birmingham are today. Are you guilty of unbelief?
And then there is outright rebellion against the Law of God. Has the Holy Spirit checked your conscience on anything? Are you getting a little too close to someone at work? Are you cheating your employer, even in little, ‘inconsequential’ ways? Are you intentionally, deliberately, and consciously in rebellion against the Law of God? ‘To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed, that the fat of rams’ (1 Sam. 15:22). ‘Thou dost not delight in sacrifice, otherwise I would give it. Thou are not pleased with burnt offerings’ (Psa. 51:16). In other words, the outward trappings of religious activity, doing things for God merely from the mind or will, are not sufficient. God is after contrition. He wants you to feel your sin (Matt. 5:4). He wants you to hate it, deplore it, to be repulsed by it. He wants you to love him with your heart as well as your mind and will.
And what happens when God brings contrition? In his mercy, as you flee to Jesus for his holiness (1 Cor. 1:30), he promises to restore you. At the end of his penitential Psalm, David says, ‘By Thy favor, do good to Zion. Build the walls of Jerusalem. Then Thou wilt delight in righteous sacrifices, in burnt offerings, in whole burnt offerings; then young bulls will be offered on Thine altar’ (Psa. 51:18-19). God gives grace to the humble, to the penitential, to those who tremble at his Word. The consequences of sin may remain (David’s family was never the same after his sin with Bathsheba), but God can and will restore the brokenhearted and contrite. ‘He will not allow your foot to slip. He who keeps you will neither slumber nor sleep . . . the Lord is your keeper, the Lord is your shade on your right hand. The sun will not smite you by day nor the moon by night. The Lord will protect you from evil; He will keep your soul. The Lord will guard your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forever’ (Psa. 121:3, 5-8).
Rev. Allen M Baker is an evangelist with Presbyterian Evangelistic Fellowship, and Director of the Alabama Church Planting Network. He planted (2003) and served as Pastor of Christ Community Presbyterian Church in Hartford, Connecticut, until December 2011. His weekly devotional, ‘Forget None of His Benefits’, can be found here.
If you would like to respond to Pastor Baker, please contact him directly at email@example.com.
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