14 Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God,
O God of my salvation,
and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness.
15 O Lord, open my lips,
and my mouth will declare your praise.
16 For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it;
you will not be pleased with a burnt offering.
17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart you,
O God, will not despise.
18 Do good to Zion in your good pleasure;
build up the walls of Jerusalem;
19 then will you delight in right sacrifices,
in burnt offerings and whole burnt offerings;
then bulls will be offered on your altar.
To be “brokenhearted,” if you really think about it, is really the most difficult demand that can be laid on a sinful human being.
To be curbed a little isn’t objectionable to our big egos. You hardly ever come across someone who won’t acknowledge that they don’t fail sometime and at some things. Everyone acknowledges that they could do better than they sometimes do. As long as there’s talk about nothing worse than curbing a person’s lavish excesses, you’re not going to get an actual objection from most of them.
That kind of curtailed person walks around by the thousands on the biblical broad road, strutting their restraint and modesty. Hemmed in by the fences of their own self-righteousness, they live and work in their own kind of hell.
But that doesn’t matter to God. It doesn’t matter to him in his mysterious judgment as long as his light penetrates and exposes what’s going on.
But as far as the Searcher of every heart is concerned, you don’t make a lick of progress by punishing, curbing, subduing, and if necessary even cracking and breaking your bodily members. Every child of God knows the failed track record here.
But things can’t stay like this. The sails of sinful living have to be trimmed. It has to be reined in. The body has to be forcibly subdued. But people don’t want to do this any longer. And this will destroy them. It will kill them. Sins, to be specific, need to be rendered ineffective. Things that appealed to people before no longer do. Change is noticeable. Progress is being made. And this amounts to more than merely curbing. It consists of circumcising the old, wild nature.
And yet this does not get you to where you should be. It can’t. For however much you mutilate your way of living, this is not yet taking a stand against it. Then you’re simply replacing the natural leg you amputated with a wooden one, or if necessary, with a crutch, and you keep on stumbling along in your old ways with artificial support! Oh, even mutilated spiritual strugglers are under the constraints of hell.
No, our physical members behave like unchecked growth. They are untamed sucker shoots in daily living. When it comes to dealing with God, you have to deal with life itself. The divine medical doctor doesn’t just examine your foot or your hand. He examines everything. Even what’s beneath your clothing! Right down to your heart! And he doesn’t hesitate or doubt for a second. He talks straight from the shoulder! Man-to-man! “This heart has to change!”
Listen closely! Objections arise immediately to that diagnosis by the Lord our God: “My heart can’t handle that! I’d die if I tried. I live by what’s in my heart. Test me! Take everything else, O divine physician, but don’t let the scalpel of your Word cut into my heart. Take this hand; here, I offer it to you! Take that leg; I can do without it! Just let me keep on creeping along and stumbling forward. I’m willing to do anything to be saved. I’m ready for anything. No pain frightens me, no matter how intense it might be. But whoever heard of a person having to give up their heart? That they had to cut it out? That they had to crush it to a pulp? How could anyone endure that kind of procedure and remain alive?”
With talk like that, the willful, self-righteous heart bent on protecting itself reappears!
But no, O Lord my God, I will not withhold even my heart from you. Even my heart needs to be changed! It is too arrogant. It needs to be humbled. My heart and my will truly do want to bow before you!
But God in his holiness remains adamant.
But no, emphatically not! A yielded heart is still not enough! The promise of salvation is held out only to a broken heart. A yielded heart doesn’t matter, because in the first place it just doesn’t go far enough. It’s still too inflexible. Even if it might bend over and bow down today, tomorrow it will snap right back up. And that amounts to only playing games with the Almighty. That’s dealing in appearances, not inner truth.
That’s why not a jot or tittle of God’s Word can be changed! Broken! Really broken! Shattered to pieces in the full sense of the word! That’s what has to happen to your arrogant and resistant heart.
“But … then it’s all over for me. Then I’d stop existing. That amounts to dying!”
That’s definitely the case, my good readers. That’s what it’s all about. And that’s exactly why it has to be as stated. Your heart has to be broken. You have to die. You have to stop living for what’s in your old heart. Because if you really do get to that point, then you won’t die, but you’ll start living again!
There’s room for everything else in hell. Just not for a broken human heart!
When living for self disappears in brokenheartedness, that’s the precise moment when living in Jesus begins. In the instant that you lance a vein and drain the bad blood of living for self, the life-giving blood of Jesus flows into your soul.
This is why the text uses the word “broken.” “A broken heart!” A heart shattered to pieces! A brokenness that endures until the heart lies in smithereens!
This doesn’t happen all at once. For some people the hammer of his Word pounds on the rock pile of their heart for years.
First he trims a little. Then he cuts more deeply. Then he applies more pressure on you. He sends judgments that frighten you, and he compels you to take swallow after swallow from the chalice of his fury. His intent is to oppress your soul.
Your joy flees. Your favorite plaything is gone. Your circle of friends melts away. Every night you long for the morning. Every aspiration is dashed.
That’s when every crushed person weeps and laments, complaining: “The world doesn’t offer me a thing anymore.” They feel like adding: “This last blow has simply broken my heart!”
Then God answers: “No, no, no! What broke in you is only what you imagined to be the love and hope of your heart! Your heart itself is intact!” And now the real spiritual work begins. Blow after blow was the tugging of a higher hand within you. Blow after blow was the prodding of your soul. Blow after blow was the pounding of God’s hammer, his Word, on different parts of your heart.
That’s what happens to the idol Dagon. An arm comes off. A foot falls off. Finally the whole idol is cut in half, its proud bearing devastated. And God keeps hammering on it until its will, its emotions, its honor, its self-worth, its virtue, and its piety, even its praying and charitable giving, all lie in the dust, pulverized at God’s feet.
When that happens, a miracle occurs. When Dagon has been toppled, the godless ego is rendered impotent. Everything that was our pride and strength lies there as pulverized dust. But lo and behold, in the same heart where Dagon lies dashed to pieces, Someone else, Someone better has forced his way in!
Don’t you know him?
He’s your Savior. “Comforter” is his name!
Abraham Kuyper, Ever in Thy Sight: 31 Devotions on the Psalms