So David blessed the LORD in the sight of all the assembly; and David said, “Blessed are You, O LORD God of Israel our father, forever and ever.
“Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, indeed everything that is in the heavens and the earth; Yours is the dominion, O LORD, and You exalt Yourself as head over all.
“Both riches and honor come from You, and You rule over all, and in Your hand is power and might; and it lies in Your hand to make great and to strengthen everyone.
“Now therefore, our God, we thank You, and praise Your glorious name.
“But who am I and who are my people that we should be able to offer as generously as this? For all things come from You, and from Your hand we have given You.
“For we are sojourners before You, and tenants, as all our fathers were; our days on the earth are like a shadow, and there is no hope.
“O LORD our God, all this abundance that we have provided to build You a house for Your holy name, it is from Your hand, and all is Yours.
“Since I know, O my God, that You try the heart and delight in uprightness, I, in the integrity of my heart, have willingly offered all these things; so now with joy I have seen Your people, who are present here, make their offerings willingly to You.
“O LORD, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, our fathers, preserve this forever in the intentions of the heart of Your people, and direct their heart to You;
1 Chronicles 29:10-18 NASB
As I was finishing out 1 Chronicles the other day I ran into this blessing and prayer and I was again struck by how David understood that whether under the Law or not, God’s focus is on the uprightness in a person’s heart. It wasn’t just the behavior of sacrificing; David knew that it was purity of intent that God sought. There are a lot of truths about relating to God in this prayer but I’m going to focus on brokenness in a person’s heart (here’s an example of praying and declaring things that God already knows but saying them aloud before Him anyway). For now I want to dig into David’s understanding that God knows and evaluates the intent of a person.
I don’t mean to mislead, I don’t believe that “wanting to do good” but sinning is OK. Feeling bad about continuing in sin isn’t enough. I believe God truly required and requires us to seek after holiness diligently but not just in our actions and words but within our hearts.
In an example from David’s life, when he was confronted by Nathan about his sin over Bathsheba and Uriah (2 Samuel 12) David confessed his sin (2 Samuel 12:13) and declares God’s desire not just for offerings that physically show David’s repentance but God desires repentance in David’s heart. David wrote the following Psalm announcing the contrition he was experiencing before God.
For the choir director. A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet came to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba.
Be gracious to me, O God, according to Your lovingkindness; According to the greatness of Your compassion blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity And cleanse me from my sin.
For I know my transgressions, And my sin is ever before me.
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.
Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, And in sin my mother conceived me.
Behold, You desire truth in the innermost being, And in the hidden part You will make me know wisdom.
Purify me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Make me to hear joy and gladness, Let the bones which You have broken rejoice.
Hide Your face from my sins And blot out all my iniquities.
Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me away from Your presence And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of Your salvation And sustain me with a willing spirit.
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.
O Lord, open my lips, That my mouth may declare Your praise.
For You do not delight in sacrifice, otherwise I would give it; You are not pleased with burnt offering.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.
By Your favor do good to Zion; Build the walls of Jerusalem.
Then You will delight in righteous sacrifices, In burnt offering and whole burnt offering; Then young bulls will be offered on Your altar.
Psalms 51:1-19 NASB
David understood that the Law wasn’t his enemy but that God’s desire was met by a brokenness.
Christianity isn’t about feeling bad, understanding our guilt is not a feeling but a state of being. As sinful beings who are trying to relate to a holy God there will be times of brokenness over our sin and how we’ve demonstrated willful rebellion to the God of all creation. Jehovah is God and He deserves to be worshiped, exalted and obeyed and we will fail that calling. That doesn’t mean we should feel bad; on the contrary, we should feel grateful, blessed and loved by a holy God who created a way for us, sinful people, to be able to get back into a living relationship with Him. We should know how valuable we are that He would sacrifice so much to redeem us to Himself rather than leaving us as objects for His holy wrath.
Seeking to dive back into His shadow (Psalms 91) as soon as we know we’ve moved away from God through sin comes only with repentance in our hearts but shouldn’t be twisted by Satan or other humans to heap shame and bad feelings on our heads. Repenting of sin means seeing it as spiritually toxic, odious and despicable as God sees it and running from our willfulness back to the mercy that He gives us with joy in our hearts for how much He loves us.
I appreciate the example of David in his prayer, his understanding of God and his repentance. It can feel heavy to own up to our spiritual failure and shortcomings but the truth of almighty Jehovah is that no one you’ve ever met is any better than you are at this and God loves you. You cannot get Him to love you any more and you cannot get Him to love you any less. He loves you so much that He, the Creator of everything, was willing to live a perfect life for you and die for you. He is the only living God and He loves you just like He loved David.