by Rich Bregitzer
(St. Louis, MO)
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
16 You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
17 The sacrifices of God are c a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
I’ve been reading a lot of books on theology lately. I’ve done that on and off for years. For the last few years I’ve mostly read authors that have a liking for what they call “post-modern” theology.
Now I didn’t always read these kinds of books. As a convert to a more dedicated Christian life I read mostly books by pastors and authors who ascribed to a more fundamentalist approach to God and this Christian life.
On the one hand the post-moderns or “emergent” folks have a very liberal and mysterious concept of God. While the fundamentalists are quicker to define things for you.
As both camps move away from God and into doctrine you find the post-moderns are full of grace and mercy and that they are quite quick to admit what they do not know. The fundamentalist camp can be very “fire and brimstone” and are not afraid to let you know a thing or two about hell or sin.
As I have read all these authors and as I have had discussions with people with ideas somewhere between these two theological extremes certain passages of scripture come to mind and bring up all together different questions.
Before we get into that let’s first come up with an understanding of what theology really is. In a nutshell theology is your understanding of God. By picking up any book from an author elaborating on the Abrahamic faiths; Judaism, Christianity or Islam; you will find that author's theology.
Keep in mind you are not finding ultimate truth; you are finding that author’s theology.
Admittedly, some authors seem to have a better understanding of God than others...not because they necessarily understand God, but because their limited understanding matches our own.
Problems really begin though with the things we really do not understand and, if we were honest, we could conclude that there is an awful lot about God that we just don’t comprehend.
That sort of confession causes some to think that this makes God irrelevant or is, in some way, an insult to faith. I disagree. Confessing that we don’t always “get” God isn’t an insult to God and it doesn’t mean that God is irrelevant. It simply means, we – who play at being armchair theologians- need to check our theology, because Romans 11:33 and 34 suggests that we will not get it.
The scripture reads: 33Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom andi knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!
34"Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?"
Ok, if that is the case then why are so many authors writing so many books? Why are so many convinced that they are right when it comes to having God all figured out?
Rather than answering that let me suggest to you that the relationship that God desires could be one where we don’t have to understand him. It could be one where theology, as we know it, doesn’t make a bit of difference. Preach that at some of the bigger seminaries and you may be brought up on a charge of heresy, but hear me out.
As I considered today’s verse I couldn’t ignore that it looks as though God is not looking for people to be able to relate to Him. God isn’t like some angst riddled teenager longing to be understood by the world, but it does seem to be that he is looking for us to trust Him.
See, in our endeavors to understand God we come to a point where the finite minds we have must face the fact that we are trying to search out a God who is unsearchable by adding to that search rules, regulations, routines and regimes when what is needed is a relationship of trust.
As all the man-made, added things are tacked on and begin to pile up we find ourselves entangled in the do’s and don’ts of doctrine and dogma; “this is what you need to do”, “give this up”, “serve in this capacity”, but look at today’s verse – David had a relationship with God. He knew God wasn’t looking for sacrifice. God’s happiness wasn’t dependent upon a religious exercise.
So, let’s ask David: David, what is it? Enlighten us? What does God desire from us? What makes him happy? According to the verse David realized God rejoiced in a broken spirit and a contrite heart. Not that he liked to see us in that pitiful state, but I’ll say more about that in a moment.
First things first: What does a broken spirit look like? Is it the property of a theologian who has all the answers? Is it the property of the Christian author who sells the most books? Does it belong to the pastor that makes the congregation feel happy every Sunday morning? Is it possessed by a group of people dedicated to church growth?
Brokenness enters our lives in many different ways. Is it always the result of those things that cripple us in our walk with God?; things like fear, doubt or procrastination?
Brokenness, contrary to popular belief is not a result of bad situations; it is the result of how we do or do not respond when facing those situations.
Brokenness comes when we try to make things right on our own, or when we think we have the answer only to find out we can't make things right....and in some cases; have only made things worse.
So, rather than turn to God people turn to preachers, gurus and authors for the quick fix answer to their spiritual brokenness.
See, a million authors express a million different points of view with some being convinced that they have cornered the market on the truth. There are some who will admit that they are not 100% positive and that what they are expressing is their opinion; which is fine because God allows us to have opinions – even if they couldn’t be more wrong.
Now let me repeat that we are all broken; that is to say that we are all in need of spiritual repair, but we are not all prepared to admit it and to hand over our broken spirit to God as a sacrifice. It is that sort of sacrifice that our scripture tells us, that God will not despise.
This is sort of hard to think about. We have been taught for so long that God wants us to be useful or as close to perfect as possible. We can't imagine God wanting us broken and all messed up. To our way of thinking people throw broken things away.
God, however, seldom uses anything until he first breaks it.
In Hebrews 10:12 we are told to break up our fallow ground because we cannot expect a spiritual bumper crop unless the soil of our heart has been broken.
And when Jesus wanted to bless and save this world He said “This is my body broken for you....” Brokenness seems important to God.
We all need spiritual repair on a daily basis; regardless if we realize it or not. Try to handle your brokenness on your own and you’ll end up with a temporary fix or maybe an even bigger problem.
Some folks are great at fixing some problems, but even the best Mr.Fix-it fails to have all the answers. Are we ready to admit the same? When will we see a book by authors admitting that they don’t know, but that they are just going to trust Jesus? Will we give up trying to understand God for a life that just trusts him?
Honestly, most probably won’t because most people only trust what they can understand…you, if you are a Christian, are not called to be such a person.
We are not called to arrogance. We are not called to ignorance. But we are called to repentance. Today’s verse also mentions that God will not despise a contrite heart.
To be contrite means to be repentant; to acknowledge the error of your ways; to turn away from yourself and to turn back to God.
One final question and hopefully by now you have found the answer and don’t even need the question, but just in case: Will you follow David’s example and hand your broken spirit over to God who waits to minister to your brokenness as only he can?
As I mentioned earlier; it seems like opinions are okay, but don’t buy into the thinking that this person has it all figured out or that you do. God isn’t looking for you to be his psychiatrist…he doesn’t need you playing at being his analyst, but God does want to know you.
He does want to minister to you and he will reveal himself to you in ways you may understand or in ways that you may not understand; whatever the case may be that is a result of God at work. Should you try the same thing you go right back to searching out the unsearchable and that, according to this scripture, is not what God wants…he is just waiting for you to bring that broken and contrite heart to him.
I find it refreshing that I don't have to perfectly understand God....because it's impossible; only He is perfect. I find it rejuvenating that he doesn't expect me to follow the letter of the Mosaic law because he knows about my brokenness and inability to do so; he knows what we are incapable of and so he sent us Jesus because it is only through Jesus that we gain access to the Father.
And because of that access we are not required to bring sacrifices. God doesn't ask us to give this or that up on his behalf so that we can maintain a relationship with him like some medieval king receiving tribute.
No, the God who doesn’t delight in doctrinal sacrifices does love us in our brokenness and longs for us to come to him; confessing our need for Him because of our broken, not self-righteous, spirit. When we do so we will then be walking in holiness and not holier-than-thou-ness.
That's where there is hope for the hopeless, peace and forgiveness and where the broken are restored time and time again, most importantly, by God's unfailing love.