In Psalm 51:17 David offers a sacrifice to the Lord. It isn’t a typical animal sacrifice that is seen in other parts of the Old Testament, but a broken Spirit. What an odd choice of words. What does it mean to have a broken spirit? To answer this I think of a horse with a strong will or spirit. While it may be beautiful to see a wild horse that is resistant toward its master, a strong-willed horse cannot be safely ridden or trusted. The animal may buck and cause harm to itself as well as others with its unbroken will to be its own. Only when the horse is broken and trust has been formed between the rider and horse can the relationship take a new form. The rider can take the horse in new directions and journey together. The horse must yield itself in trust to its rider.
Gaining trust is no easy task. It requires a willingness for both parties to be vulnerable to each other. There must be an open-effort with both parties demonstrating no ill will or a plan of harm. It is true that some abuse an animal into submission, but an abused horse can never perform at the same level as one that has yielded its will because it is operating out of fear instead of trust. When a horse trusts its master then it’s willing to stretch the limits of what it feels capable of performing. Ask yourself, do you see God as the abusive master beating you into submission, or as the God who has made himself vulnerable to you and worthy of trust? When we look at the character of God through the life of Jesus in the Gospels, we see a magnificent picture of someone making themselves vulnerable. Jesus advocates for the downtrodden; he brings healing to those who are broken emotionally, spiritually, and physically; he speaks truth in love with the intent of restoration; and he was consistent with his message of peace both in the way he lived as well as the way he died.
When we as people live with spirits that are not broken before the Lord, then we too buck and hurt those around ourselves all the while preventing God from taking us on a beautiful journey. The greatest offering you can give God is your broken spirit. May you trust him enough to be the master of your life. If you do, I believe that you will enter into a relationship with a God who is always leading you down the right path.
My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise. –Psalms 51:17, NIV