Sermon: Psalm 51, A broken and contrite heart

"Be gracious to me, O God, according to Your lovingkindness; According to the greatness of Your compassion blot out my transgressions. 2     Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.     3     For I know my transgressions,And my sin is ever before me.     4     Against You, You only, I have sinned and done what is evil in Your sight, so that You are justified when You speak and blameless when You judge.     5     Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me.     6     Behold, You desire truth in the innermost being, and in the hidden part You will make me know wisdom.     7     Purify me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.     8     Make me to hear joy and gladness, let the bones which You have broken rejoice.      9     Hide Your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquities. 10     Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.     11     Do not cast me away from Your presence and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.     12     Restore to me the joy of Your salvation and sustain me with a willing spirit.     13     Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, and sinners will be converted to You.  Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, the God of my salvation;  Then my tongue will joyfully sing of Your righteousness.  15 O Lord, open my lips, that my mouth may declare Your praise.  16 For You do not delight in sacrifice, otherwise I would give it; You are not pleased with burnt offering.  17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.  18 By Your favor do good to Zion; Build the walls of Jerusalem.  19 Then You will delight in righteous sacrifices, In burnt offering and whole burnt offering; Then young bulls will be offered on Your altar."

Being king must have gone to David's head.  He may have thought himself above even the Law of God.  He set aside all his morals, scruples, and ethics to follow the way of his selfish desire.  He looked with lust on Bathsheba as she bathed; he had her brought to his palace and engaged in an adulterous alliance with her.  Then when she told him she was pregnant, he tried to cover his sin by having her husband Uriah brought home from battle for some R&R.  Uriah refused the luxury of sleeping at home so David had him abandoned in the front lines of battle where he was slain.

This was no sin of impulse.  David wasn't just caught up in circumstances beyond his control.  He planned and plotted to carry out his sin and he put great effort into concealing it.  This Psalm reveals David's folly and restoration.  It is the Psalm of the changed heart.  David's story could be told and retold under a hundred different scenarios.  Maybe this Psalm relates your own story.  This morning let me relate a situation that parallels and illustrates the universal process of spiritual recovery.

When he was just 19, Al Johnson had joined two other men in robbing a Kansas bank.  The case was closed after the two other criminals were killed in an auto crash and were mistakenly identified by bank officials as the robbers.  Al felt sure he would never be caught.  He married a Christian girl and even pretended to be a Christian.  She knew nothing of his past crime.  Then someone sent him a tract in the mail entitled, "God's Plan of Salvation."  Reading it, he noticed the Bible verse that said, "whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved."  The realization struck that salvation was for him.  He could be forgiven and his conscience set free.  The guilt of his crime accused him, the cowardice of hiding his crime shamed him.  He realized his guilt and hated it.  That is the first step in having a changed heart.  David took it, and so must we.  What is the first step to a changed heart?

  1. CONTRITION: V17:  "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; A broken and a contrite heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise"
    1. David spoke of a broken and contrite heart.  The word for "contrite" means
      1. To be bowed down with the awareness of our spiritual bankruptcy.
      2. That our inner spirit is crushed with a sense of its guilt.
      3. That we have a genuine and deep sorrow for our rebellion against God and a determined desire to do differently.
    2. A contrite heart
      1. Does not seek to rationalize or explain or excuse or defend or justify sin.
      2. Does not try to fool God or others or self.  It recognizes that God demands truth and honesty.
      3. Does not mean merely feeling bad or remorseful about sin!
      4. Does not seek to blame circumstances or other people or God for our own failure.
        1. Remember Adam saying, "The woman YOU gave me handed me the fruit and I ate it.  Eve pointed to the serpent and said, "He deceived me and I ate."  He blamed God and Eve, she blamed the serpent.
        2. Can't you just hear David doing something like that?  Blaming God or blaming Bathsheba: "Lord, if you hadn't made me king I wouldn't have been walking on the palace roof in the first place.  And besides, did you see what she wasn't wearing?"
        3. Maybe we do the same thing: "Well, Lord, if you were married to this jerk, you'd cheat too!"  Or "It's not my fault, the boss is so cheap I have to steal from the company to survive!"  Or, "If I didn't have such terrible neighbors, I wouldn't lose my temper as much!"
    3. A contrite heart recognizes that sin is:
      1. A spiritual crime since it is a violation of God's laws.
      2. An offense against all that is decent and moral and right.
      3. Rebellion, disobedience, and stubbornness of heart.
    4. When we become aware of our sins, iniquities and transgressions, and are contrite, we need to know that
      1. God isn't interested in empty apologies.
      2. God doesn't want cheap promises or resolutions.
      3. God cares nothing for our efforts to balance evil with a little more good.
      4. God desires a broken and contrite heart which is the true sacrifice of one who determines to turn from sin, to forsake sin, and to abandon it.

Al Johnson became convicted of sin, was contrite, humbled his heart and decided to truly forsake his sin and to follow Jesus Christ.  When he did, his life changed.  He stopped a lifelong habit of lying and cheating.  And after much thought and prayer he confessed his crime.  His confession made television newscasts and newspaper headlines.  Honest acknowledgment of sin is an essential in our own lives, too, and it was another step in David's reclamation.  What is the next step in having a changed heart?

  1. CONFESSION: verses 3, 4:  "For I know my transgressions, And my sin is ever before me.  4 Against Thee, Thee only, I have sinned, And done what is evil in Thy sight, So that Thou art justified when Thou dost speak, And blameless when Thou dost judge."
    1. There are two sides to his confession:
      1. He confessed to himself: "I know, I am acquainted with, I recognize my sin! I cannot deny it or escape it or forget it.  The memory haunts me, the devil accuses me, the sin taunts me, and it is always before me."
      2. He confessed to God: "Against You only have I sinned."
    2. Along with his admission of guilt is a confession of God's correctness and justice in judging him for his sin.  David makes no plea for indulgent lenience or permissiveness, no claim that God is being too hard on him, no appeal for a light sentence.  Simply put, it is, "I am wrong, you are right!"
    3. Genuine confession demands:
      1. A right estimate of sin.  It is not a mistake, or a slip, or mischief.
      2. A right attitude to sin.  A loathing, a disgust, a disapproval.
      3. A right conduct with regard to sin.  A forsaking of and a determined renunciation of sin.
    4. This brings us to the cross of Christ.
      1. At the cross, we do not hide our sins, but confess them and trust the Savior to wipe them away.
    5. Solomon said, "He who conceals his transgressions will not prosper, But he who confesses and forsakes them will find compassion." Proverbs 28:13.  To confess demands the honesty of:
      1. It was Isaiah who said, "Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, ..." Isaiah 6:5.
      2. It was Peter who fell at Jesus' feet and said, "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!" Luke 5:8.
      3. The publican smote his breast and prayed, "God, be merciful to me, the sinner!" Luke 18:13.
      4. Paul who declared "It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all." 1 Timothy 1:15.

Al Johnson, convicted of sin, converted to Christ, went and tried to make things right with the state by confessing his crime.  As it turned out, under a Kansas statute of limitations, he was set free.  There was no penalty that could legally attach to him for his crime.  David experienced something even better than that.  And there is something even better for the Christian.  There is forgiveness, justification, salvation.  Let's consider, then, the last step in having a changed heart:

  1. CLEANSING: verses 7, 9, 10:  "Purify me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. . . 9 Hide Thy face from my sins, And blot out all my iniquities.  10 Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me."
    1. David recognized the filth and grime of his sin and wanted to be cleansed of it.
      1. He said, "Purge me, purify me, wash me."  The words he uses imply a thorough scrubbing.  One pictures an old time mother with her child at the sink scrubbing him until his skin literally shines and squeaks.
      2. He said, "Blot out my iniquities."  It is the image of erasure where a mark is totally obliterated, wiped away and removed.
      3. He said, "Create in me a clean heart, and renew a right spirit within me."  David knew the inclination of one's heart to evil.
        1. He knew that "every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually." Genesis 6:5.
        2. He knew that "The heart is more deceitful than all else And is desperately sick." Jeremiah 17:9.
    2. It was not David's desire, nor God's intent, to gloss over or to wink at or to indulge sin. Sin had to go.
    3. It is not while we indulge, or excuse, or conceal sin, but when we have experienced God's cleansing that we can know the joy of His salvation.
    4. Sometimes we have door-to-door salesmen trying to sell us some "Miracle Cleaner" that will remove everything from berry stains to tattoos.  Never works!  But God has a cleanser that never fails: "the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin."  1 John 1:7.  All sin, all times, all people, always.


In a sense, the statute of limitations had cleansed all Al of punishment.  Yet, although he was beyond the scope of law to punish him, he still chose to repay his share of the stolen funds to the bank.  In time he became the manager of a service station, the father of three admiring children, and an outstanding Christian layman.  But he didn't do that alone.  David couldn't do it alone.

Someone once said, "Man cannot cope with guilt alone.  I don't care how many worship services you attend or good deeds you do, your goodness is insufficient.  You can't be good enough to deserve forgiveness. ... No one.  Not you, not me, not anyone.  Quit trying to quench your own guilt.  You can't do it.  There's no way.  I don't care how bad you are.  You can't be bad enough to forget it.  And I don't care how good you are.  You can't be good enough to overcome it.  You need a Savior."  And, for those who come to Jesus Christ in contrition and confession, He is that savior.  Will you come to Him?  Will you ask Him to cleanse your heart?  Will you allow Him to transform your life?  Will you experience the salvation He, and He only, can provide?  This is the moment to decide as you ask Him to change your heart.




    About The Author

    Matt Slick is the President and Founder of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry.