Psalm 51 and sacrifice


#1

What do you make of these versus in psalm 51 in light of what we know about OT sacrifices, and NT sacrifices, priesthood of believers offering personal sacrifice, etc.

15      O Lord, open my lips,
and my mouth will declare your praise.
16      For you have no delight in sacrifice;
if I were to give a burnt offering, you would not be pleased.
17      The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version, Catholic Edition. (1993). (Ps 51:15–17). Washington, DC: National Council of Churches of Christ.


#2

God does not desire sacrifices that are mechanistic. He wants sacrifices from a heart of flesh, not a friable ceramic/stone heart which shatters and must be shattered to break sin. The psalm echoes another one, where the psalmist prophesied,“but a body you have prepared for me (to sacrifice). Then you will rejoice in sacrifice and whole burnt offering…”

Sacrifice is not always death and destruction. It is also resurrection, food, life and thanksgiving. Sacrifice is a cycle that has two sides; sacrifices of death are temporary. Sacrifices of life can live on. Life is abiding and eternal.


#3

The footnotes in the NABRE have this interpretation:

The mere offering of the ritual sacrifice apart from good dispositions is not acceptable to God.


#4

I try this from my own word, haven’t checked into any commentary yet. Please correct me if I am wrong.

15      O Lord, open my lips,
and my mouth will declare your praise.

Self explained - the psalmist asks God to help him perhaps into an appropriate disposition so that he can praise God appropriately, that his praise may be pleasing to God.

16      For you have no delight in **sacrifice**;
if I were to give a burnt offering, you would not be pleased.

This verse is probably the contention: what is the sacrifice that the psalmist refers to here? I’d say it is the usual offering of doves, lambs, etc.; being offered to God as atonement for sin or to please Him. This verse is thus, seems to me, revolutionary especially at the time of the psalmist where such offering was rather the norm for worship. So what does he try to say?

17 The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
This is the answer for v.16. The sacrifice that is acceptable to God is a contrite heart, a broken spirit, rather than the conventional sacrifice they they used to offer Him.

The sacrifice of a contrite heart is a sure sacrifice that will be accepted by God. This is significant because many a times in the OT, God did not necessarily accept sacrifices offered to Him. Some He accepted, some He did not. Thus the often times pleas by worshippers or psalmists - ‘may my sacrifice be acceptable to You, that You will be delighted by it, and find favor with me’.

Later in the Gospel, Jesus mentioned about the poor in the spirit in the Beatitude, a person who hunger for God.

The psalmist’s prayer in Psalm 51 foreshadowed our prayer and practices today - to offer ourselves as a living sacrifice to Him by changing ourselves (repentance) which is made known by St Paul in Rom 12:1-2.


#5

Concerning the OT sacrifices and the other sacrifices you mentioned, I think the second next verse answers your question:
19 then wilt thou delight in right sacrifices,
in burnt offerings and whole burnt offerings;
then bulls will be offered on thy altar.

Only when offered with a humble and contrite heart are sacrifices (OT sacrifices, NT sacrifices, personal sacrifices offered by the priesthood of believers, etc.) acceptable to God.

Jesus said, “So if you are offering your gift at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” (Matthew 5:23-24)


#6

A+++

I’d give you points or upvotes if they existed.


#7

Thank you everyone for your thoughtful replies :slight_smile:


#8

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