This morning we took psalm 51 as our text. We know the famous portions – restore unto me the joy of your salvation – but the last four verses spoke a couple of points to me.
Psalm 51: 16-19
For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
Do good to Zion in your good pleasure; build up the walls of Jerusalem;
then will you delight in right sacrifices, in burnt offerings and whole burnt offerings; then bulls will be offered on your altar.
1) The purpose of repentance is restoration to the community of God; it is not just private.
2) The purpose of repentance is not a hang-dog sorrow, but a preparation for joy.
Look at the progression in the verses. The Lord refuses the formal sacrifice which leads to a broken spirit. The broken spirit (repentance) leads to God rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem. That is a communal ideal, Jerusalem the city and people of God. Being restored to the city of God leads to being part of the community’s worship; sacrifice is accepted. Personal repentance is necessary, but repentance is not just a personal bath. It is a rejoining to the people of God.
The Lord welcomes and restores sinners. Dust I am and to dust I will return, but I have not been cast away from God’s presence. The Lord has promised salvation. He builds the walls and does good to Zion. We are a people held in His palm, in His memory. The restoration first seen in Christ, is then displayed in this collection of remembered and reformed dust. The Lord remembers his dust.