These verses come from a prayer of repentance that King David offered after he had sinned with Bathsheba. In this psalm, David is acknowledging his sin and asking God for forgiveness and restoration.
In verse 16, David is expressing his understanding that God is not pleased with mere ritual sacrifice or burnt offerings. In the Old Testament, these were the prescribed ways of offering worship and seeking forgiveness. However, David recognizes that these outward acts alone are not enough to make things right with God. He understands that true repentance and a contrite heart are what God desires most. David is saying that even if he were to offer the prescribed sacrifices, they would not be enough to please God because his heart was not in the right place.
In verse 17, David goes on to describe the kind of sacrifice that God desires - a broken spirit and a contrite heart. A broken spirit refers to a sense of deep sorrow and remorse for one's sin. A contrite heart refers to a willingness to turn away from one's sin and to submit oneself fully to God's will. David is saying that these are the sacrifices that truly please God. God desires genuine repentance, a heart that is open to him, and a willingness to follow his ways.
It is important to note that David is not saying that sacrifices and offerings have no value. Rather, he is acknowledging that they are not enough on their own. It is the heart and attitude of the person offering the sacrifices that matter most. A person can offer countless sacrifices, but if their heart is not right with God, they are meaningless. As the prophet Samuel said to King Saul, "To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams" (1 Samuel 15:22).
In these verses, David is teaching us an important lesson about true repentance and worship. He is reminding us that God desires a heart that is broken and contrite, rather than outward acts of worship or sacrifice. This is a message that is echoed throughout the Bible, as we see in Isaiah 66:2: "These are the ones I look on with favor: those who are humble and contrite in spirit, and who tremble at my word."
In summary, Psalm 51:16-17 is a powerful reminder that God desires true repentance and a contrite heart more than any outward act of worship or sacrifice. David acknowledges that the prescribed sacrifices of his time were not enough to make things right with God, and that what truly pleases God is a heart that is broken and contrite. These verses teach us that true worship and repentance come from the heart, and that a willingness to turn away from sin and submit oneself fully to God's will is the sacrifice that God desires most.
Psalm 51:16-17. You don’t delight in sacrifice, or else I would give it. You have no pleasure in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit. A broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.