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Psalm 51:17 meaning...

Sacrifices of God: A Broken Spirit and Contrite Heart: "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit..." The psalmist begins by highlighting what God truly desires in terms of sacrifices. It's not external rituals or offerings alone that capture His heart but the internal disposition of the worshiper. The sacrifice that resonates with God is a broken spirit—a heart that recognizes its brokenness and need for restoration.

"...A broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise."

The repetition of the idea of brokenness underscores its significance. A contrite heart, one that is deeply remorseful and humble, is the essence of true worship. The psalmist expresses confidence that God, far from rejecting such a heart, will not despise it. Instead, He welcomes and responds to genuine repentance.

Theological Significance: The Heart of True Worship

  • The Priority of the Heart:

This verse underscores the priority of the heart in worship. It emphasizes that external acts of worship, though significant, are secondary to the condition of the heart. A broken and contrite heart is the essence of acceptable worship.

  • God's Response to Repentance:

The assurance that God will not despise a contrite heart reveals His character. He is not repelled by those who acknowledge their brokenness but, rather, is inclined to extend mercy and restoration.

  • Transformation through Brokenness:

The concept of a broken spirit implies a transformative process. It suggests that through acknowledging our brokenness and humbly coming before God, we open ourselves to His healing and transformative power.

Practical Implications: True Repentance and Humility

  • Sincere Self-Examination:

This verse encourages believers to engage in sincere self-examination. It prompts us to assess the condition of our hearts, acknowledging areas of brokenness and turning to God in repentance.

  • The Role of Humility:

True worship involves humility—a recognition of our need for God's mercy and a willingness to approach Him with a contrite heart. This humility is the key to receiving God's favor.

  • Authenticity in Worship:

In our acts of worship, whether in prayer, praise, or service, this verse calls us to bring our authentic selves before God. It reminds us that God is not looking for a fa├žade of righteousness but desires the genuine expression of a contrite and humble heart.


Isaiah 57:15: "For thus says the high and exalted One who lives forever, whose name is Holy, 'I dwell on a high and holy place, and also with the contrite and lowly of spirit in order to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite.'" This verse from Isaiah complements the theme of God's dwelling with the contrite and highlights His inclination to revive and restore the contrite spirit.

Luke 18:13-14: "But the tax collector, standing far away, wouldn’t even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me, a sinner!' I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted." The parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector in Luke echoes the sentiment of humility and contrition leading to divine favor.

Conclusion - The Beauty of Brokenness in Worship: Psalm 51:17 presents a profound perspective on worship—one that transcends external rituals and ceremonies. It unveils the beauty of brokenness and contrition as the core of true worship. As we approach God with hearts laid bare, acknowledging our need for His mercy, we find a sacred space where transformation and restoration unfold.

Psalm 51:17. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit. A broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.


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