The Sacrifice God Wants from Us

November 18, 2016 • Life for Leaders

You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.

Psalm 51:16-17


A dog with head bowed as if sorry.In Psalm 51, David confesses his sin without holding back. He implores the Lord to forgive him and create within him a clean heart. Then David adds that God does not “delight in sacrifice” or “burnt offerings.” Yet there is a sacrifice that is pleasing to the Lord. “My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise” (51:17).

When we sin, God is not impressed by the things we try to do to atone for ourselves (as if we could!). We cannot offer any goods or services to the Lord to motivate him to forgive us. After all, God can produce all the goods and services he needs. But we can offer that which we alone can give to the Lord: our open hearts, our sorrow over our sin, our fervent intention to repent. This is the “sacrifice” God desires from us.

How do we become broken over our sin? There is no simple answer. Sometimes we are shattered by the sorry results of sin. Sometimes we are so overwhelmed by the grace of God that we hate anything in us that dishonors him. But, in all times, genuine sorrow over sin comes as a result of the work of the Holy Spirit in us. Through the Spirit, God helps us to see our sin as it is and to yearn for cleansing and a new, holy life.


Have you ever offered to God the sacrifice of a broken spirit? When?

What helps you to feel genuine sorrow over your sin?

What helps you to turn from your sin?


Gracious God, I cannot offer you anything to make you forgive my sin. Your forgiveness comes as a free gift through Jesus Christ. For this I am eternally grateful.

But, when I sin, I can offer the sacrifice of a broken spirit and a repentant heart. I can offer my true sorrow over how I have wronged you. I can present my desire to turn from sin so that I might live my life for you.

Help me, dear Lord, to the sacrifice you desire. Keep me from tolerating my sin. Penetrate my defenses and rationalizations, so that I might see my sin as it is. By your Spirit, give me a passionate desire for you and your righteousness.

Indeed, create in me a clean heart, O Lord. Amen.


Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online Bible commentary: Forgiveness and Accountability in the Workplace



3 thoughts on “The Sacrifice God Wants from Us

  1. Jonathan Russell says:

    Mark, really appreciate your devotionals that greet me each morning at work. Reading this morning’s piece, makes me think of the role of penance in our Christian walk. As an evangelical Christian penance is not part of my nomenclature, however, I often wonder about the role such acts of contrition have with regard to repentance— the turning away from our sin. Obviously forgiveness is God’s free gift of grace– nothing we can do to earn it, but repentance is our part in the process. On this topic, I am often reminded of the movie, THE MISSION. As Robert DeNiro’s character climbs the face of cliff with all the armaments of his mercenary trade on his back, one of the Jesuit priests asks Jeremy Iron’s character, “how long must he continue to do this” and the response was something along the lines, “as many times as he needs to.” In this case, DeNiro’s character had to come to a point where he was broken. Is Repentance a discipline which the protestant church should seek to develop? And if so, how so?

    • Mark D. Roberts says:

      Jonathan, thanks for your comment. Very interesting question. I have not given much thought to it before. I need to now. Love The Mission, by the way, and Morricone’s soundtrack, too. Blessings to you!

  2. In the first line of the third paragraph of the prayer, “Help me, dear Lord, to the sacrifice you desire,” do you want the word “offer” between “to” and “the”: “to offer the sacrifice you desire”?

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