A Broken Spirit and Crushed Heart: Psalm 51 (part 18)

“The sacrifices of God are a spirit that is broken and

a heart that is broken and crushed—

O God, these you will not despise.

(Psalm 51:19 {Psalm 51:17 in English Bibles})


There are two ways in which we can look at David’s statement about the “sacrifices of God.”  The first way is the way that this verse is typically seen and that is to say that the sacrifices that are “of God” or are “acceptable to God” are a broken spirit and a broken and a contrite heart.  This interpretation clearly fits the context of the passage as a whole and joins hand in hand with the language about sacrifices that is found in the previous verse, and indeed, those who come before the Lord with hearts that are proud and haughty, filled with a sense of their own achievements, will be sent away in shame.  We are a people who have nothing in our hands to show or offer—our lives and works can only earn us condemnation if it is what we are trusting in to bring us to God. 

Yet, there is a second way that we can understand this verse, and that is as a prophetic statement of the coming of Christ.  For it is God himself who would offer himself up as a sacrifice for the sins of his people—beaten and broken, and suffering not only in his death, but suffering in life as he grieved the state of his covenant people.  Thus, in Christ, God himself offered up the sacrifice of a broken heart as demonstrated in Christ’s suffering and death.  In addition, do not the scriptures speak of our sin grieving the heart of God?  Indeed, out of God’s grieving heart he offered up the sacrifice of his Son so that any who would cling to Him as their Lord and Savior would be redeemed from their sin. 

Oh, loved ones, how the cost of sin should cause us to grieve sin all the more.  Someone else paid the price, took the punishment on our behalf—it cost God what we could not pay.  How, then, knowing this, do we so often take sin so lightly—do we take forgiveness so casually?  Beloved, examine your hearts; see where they are broken and supple, but most importantly, look to find those areas that have gotten proud and hard and pray to God that He will crush those parts to dust.  It will hurt when God does so, but beloved, it is only in brokenness that you can have a heart that is right before God. 

O Cross that liftest up my head,

I dare not ask to fly from thee;

I lay in dust life’s glory dead,

And from the ground there blossoms red

Life that shall endless be.

-George Matheson

Author: preacherwin

A pastor, teacher, and a theologian concerned about the confused state of the church in America and elsewhere...Writing because the Christian should think Biblically.

10 thoughts on “A Broken Spirit and Crushed Heart: Psalm 51 (part 18)

  1. I must say thankyou 🙂 I know nothing of you, but I share my utmost grattitude.
    This has given me some hope…. That of wich I haven’t experienced in quite some time now. Living the past eight steady months of my life in turmoil, feeling as if I have a broken and contrite soul.
    I have lived a life full of filthy sin. Knowing that I am no one, and holding close to the thought of GOD loving me even so.
    I am a severely depressed individual w/thoughts un mentionable that haunt me daily, this madness has consumed so very much of my life that I will never be reimbursed for.
    However I was trult touched by the foot note reading’
    this I am eagerly wanting to achieve….
    Thanyou again from someone in NC


    1. Michelle, know first of all, you are in my prayers, may God demonstrate the grace to you that you so desperately need to see right now. The woman caught in adultery was given a choice by Jesus, the same with the woman from Samaria. Do I stay in my sin or do I receive the forgiveness that Christ offers in faith? I feel like, from your note, that God has brought you to that same juncture. Christ’s hand is extended in grace, receive him and his forgiveness and let go of the darkness and he will heal your broken and wounded soul. Know that you have a friend in Florida beseeching the Lord on your behalf.




  2. I feel as my heart is broken today, and my spirit also crushed, my husband told me that he was more or less tired of me and that i smothered him. ive only tried to be a good help mate. i guess ive went overboard, i surley need Gods favor today. I also pray for everyone going through troublesome times right now.


    1. Betty, I am so sorry to hear of your situation at this moment with your husband. My prayer is that God works reconciliation and forgiveness in both of your hearts. May God’s grace be with you even in this dark time. I will be praying for both you and for your husband.


  3. I felt my spirit break under the criticism of a dr in surgery after 26years of withstanding demanding abuse from a variety of drs. I am so sad and hurt at my loss of caring and wanting to do my best for the patients. I wish to not exist. I have only GOD and am wondering why HE would alow this and if it is time for me to die, my purpose having been filled. I am unable to feel or care at this point I am numb. Will my heart fail and allow me release?


    1. Deborah, we live in a dark world filled by the effects of sin and it is easy to fall into despair. Trusting in Christ as Lord and Savior can give you contentment, but typically God does not take away the trials of life–these we must endure, though he will give peace in the midst of these trials of you trust him to do so.

      The answer to your second question is the easier of the two–your purpose is to glorify God no matter what your circumstances. In seeking to fulfill this purpose, we will find the satisfaction that often seems so fleeting in this world. Our society (and your doctors) will tell you otherwise. They will speak of success and recognition as well as an accumulation of wealth or promotions. These are the world’s values, not God’s. If you are doing what God called you to do and to his glory, then you are a success no matter whether you are working in a position of prestige or whether you are laboring in the midst of a free clinic in the inner-cities. While in seminary, I spent three and a half years working with homeless men in downtown Jackson, MS. There were lots of discouragements and at first, nobody really trusted that I was genuine–that took a while. While I am not equating my experience to yours, I think that the principle applies. I gauged my success on whether I was doing what God called me to do–in other words, based on my faithfulness, not on the results that I could see. Fruit came to that ministry, but only after months and months of labor. Find your satisfaction in the words of your heavenly Father, not in the words of doctors who cannot see the big picture of God’s plan and purposes for you.

      Your first question has an answer, though it is much more difficult for most of us to embrace. God chose to bring his Son into glory through the pathway of the cross. Thus, it ought not be a surprise that if God brought his Son to glory through the suffering of the cross that he would also use the same means to prepare us for glory. Jesus said, “take up your cross and follow me…” We must remember that the cross is an implement of torture and death–often our pretty golden symbols of the cross obscure that fact–and we are expected to follow thusly in Christ’s blood-stained path. Our sufferings in this life, then, are given to us as a means of maturing us in grace for heaven.

      That is the eternal perspective, but there is a humanly perspective that I believe we must embrace as well. In our suffering, God is giving us the mercy of being able to enter into Christ’s sufferings in a small way. It is but a little taste as we could not withstand drinking Christ’s cup down to the dregs, but it is a taste nonetheless. It is one of God’s mercies to us because I believe it helps us appreciate the sacrifice that Christ made for us and the more we realize and appreciate Christ’s willful sacrifice for one such as me or such as you, I believe that it enables us to love Him more.

      Deborah, I believe that God has brought you to the point where you need to make a decision. Will you embrace despair or will you embrace God. Despair leads to a lack of hope and a meaningless existence–I saw way too much of men living that way when I worked at the homeless shelter. Embracing God will not take away the abuse of doctors, it will not take away the temptations to sin, it will not take away the pain and suffering of life in this fallen world–but embracing God will give you hope and peace in the midst of the suffering. Embracing God will also give you meaning in life because your meaning will be found in Him and in His glory. Find your meaning in Christ, if it was good enough that he suffered for your sins, trust that God knows what he is doing by allowing you to suffer for his Glory.

      Blessings, I will be praying for you–I pray that these meager words are found to be helpful.



      1. So is the bottom line here that our purpose in life is to suffer and be happy about it? That mercy is extended to not experience the full suffering of Christ until we get to heaven? That we get to experience the full suffering in heaven?


      2. Not so much to be “happy” about it, but to learn to trust the hand who is guiding us through that suffering. The Bible never promises us “happiness” in this life, but the Bible does promise blessedness and joy and peace, there is a world of difference. Misery need not accompany suffering when you know that you do not suffer alone and that you are loved unconditionally despite of the suffering you face. I know that it can sound cliche, but it is true, that if you belong to Christ, you do not suffer alone and you have someone who knows intimately the pain, frustration, and anger you feel; trust him to love you with that kind of unconditional love.

        In heaven is quite a different thing; suffering belongs to this earth and finds its perfection in Hell, but in heaven it is removed and we will rejoice in being in the presence of the one who lifts our suffering. Think of the way that Olympic athletes suffer as they train in their sport, yet when they stand on that gold medal box it all becomes worthwhile and they know it has come to an end. That perhaps, is an analogy of what heaven will be like. The suffering we face is a tool that God uses to prepare us for glory and to help us appreciate what our Lord ultimately did for us.




  4. I’ve always wonder if there’s purpose to all my pain ?! I pray,I do but the the feeling of despair, hopelessness, lost continues to follow me since I remember always felt like my spirit is broken, feeling inadequate always trying to hard to seek someones love, I wish not to care or feel anything at this point, tired of unreturned love. I’ve done my share of hurting, mostly out of anger, but it would never come close to what the hurtful life I’ve been living. just yesterday in one of my despair moments I asked God to hold my hand through this, not to leave me like everyone else has, but I woke up this morning with a broken heart with no one by my side. I wish to give up.


    1. Vanessa, Please do not give up. Open your Bible to Lamentations 3 and begin reading in verse 1, but make sure that you do not stop reading until the end. Jeremiah, who is writing this is in much the same condition as you are feeling right now. He was hurt and heartbroken, Jerusalem had been destroyed, the people murdered by the thousands, many being carried off into exile and he being taken by some fleeing rebels to Egypt. His world was falling down around him. He was a man hurting and heartbroken and without anyone to comfort him…that sounds a lot like you are feeling right now. Yet, in the middle of this great lament, Jeremiah pens these words: “But I call this to mind, and therefore I have hope. The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. The Lord is my portion, says my soul, and therefore I will hope in him.” (Lamentations 3:21-24)

      It is true that to feel like you are feeling stinks. It is no fun to be miserable and alone. Yet God teaches us to seek his face in our solitude. He will fill your heart and loneliness. And when you do not feel him filling it, then ask and ask and ask and ask and ask and ask until he does. Jesus tells a parable about a widow seeking justice and the judge gives her justice because of her persistent asking over and over. Jesus then goes on to say that our prayers should be the same (Luke 18).

      In your grief and sorrow, remember also that God does know and can relate to your suffering. Jesus lived amongst us, suffered in every way that was common to mankind, and then died on that horrid cross for your sins and for mine. Knowing that does not lesson the pain of being crushed, but it does let you know that you are not alone…Jesus has walked this road ahead of you. Read Isaiah 53 also… “Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace. With his stripes we are healed. ALl we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:4-6)

      You and I are both sinners, we have fallen short of the holiness and righteousness of God. We deserve not only to experience brokenness and pain in this life, but eternal and infinite brokenness and pain in Hell. Yet God sent his Son, Jesus, to walk among us, identify with our sorrows, and then to suffer the penalty for our sin. All those who trust in Christ for salvation will be given that. My prayer is that you hold firm to that trust. At the same time, that does not mean life on earth will be easy, but it does mean you do not travel alone. Jesus said, “I will never leave nor forsake you even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20) Vanessa, trust him to do that for you and when you do not feel Him doing so, plead with him over and over and over to do that for you. My encouragement to you, also, is to connect yourself with some Bible-believing Christians and a Bible-believing church who can minister to your needs hands-on. Who can visit with you and talk with you face to face. God gives us the church as a gift to help us through the dark times. Trust him to do so. Know that you are in my prayers.



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