In Psalm 51:17, we read, The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.
What is the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the expression “a broken spirit”? When I hear of someone with a broken spirit, I imagine a person at the end of their rope and deeply depressed. If this is the correct interpretation of a broken spirit in Psalm 51:17, we soon get the impression God wants us depressed because this is “the sacrifice” He desires. We know this can’t be true from other parts of the Bible because nowhere do we see God encouraging us to be depressed. Instead, He encourages us to be bold, courageous, and have no fear keeping our minds focused on Him and His law. (Joshua 1)
This is why we know, for sure, Psalm 51:17 can not possibly be talking about a depressed person. It has to refer to something else.
To understand Psalm 51:17, we need to think like a Jew and not a Christian living in 2021. Why? Because the writer of the Psalm was a Jew who spoke Hebrew and had a Hebraic mindset. There are huge differences between a Hebraic attitude and the Greek mindset we are accustomed to.
So what happens if we replace our Greek way of thinking with a Hebraic mindset? Then we understand “a broken spirit” refers to someone who has their independence broken, in other words, a slave. We see this in Rom 1, where Paul refers to himself as a slave of Christ. Here Paul takes great pride in being unable to do anything of his own free will, only able to do what Jesus His Lord did. And we see this in the Gospels, where Jesus Himself refers to Himself as a slave of His Father Yehovah.
Being a slave is the same as having a broken spirit in the Bible. Now we understand the sacrifice Yehovah desires is not a deep depression, feeling as if we are at the end of our rope. It is obedience to the law of Moses, just as Paul obeyed Christ and Christ obeyed His Father Yehovah.
Psalm 51 teaches us there are two ways we can obey the law. We can do it with a broken spirit or without a broken spirit. The difference is motive; those with a broken spirit obey the law of Moses because they love Yehovah and Jesus (John 14), those who have not yet had their spirit broken obey out of a sense of duty and obligation.
By now, you might be asking, “why should I obey the law of Moses when Christ came to do away with the law”?
In Colossians 2:14, we read, “having wiped out the handwriting of requirements (some translations says debt) that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.” Nowhere in Colossians 2:14 does it actually say He nailed the law of Moses to the cross, nor does it say He took the law of Moses out of the way. Instead, it says, He wiped out the requirements that were against us, nailing it to the cross. What requirements or debt were nailed to the cross?
In Eph 2:15, we read, “by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace.” What law was set aside in His flesh?
If we are to understand Colossians 2:14, we first have to understand the law of Moses. The law of Moses has in it several rules and regulations on how to atone for unintentional sins, but it can not atone for intentional sins. So if you committed a deliberate sin in the Old Testament, you would be cut off from God forever and, therefore, become a slave to sin. Hebrews 10 says this still applies today; if we accept the Blood of Christ and then proceed to sin intentionally, we can never come back to the cross, and we will be lost forever. Whenever someone sins intentionally, the Bible says they are guilty of spiritual adultery. The law of Moses requires the death penalty for an adulterer or adulteress. But first, the law of jealousy has to be fulfilled before the death penalty can be enforced. The law of jealousy is found in Numbers 5. In Numbers 5, it says the adulterer or adulteress will, during the trial, receive a handwritten document saying what they are accused of. It was this document, not the law of Moses, that was nailed to the cross.
When Jesus lived on the earth, it was not much different from today. The law of Moses was set aside in favor of Jewish traditions and artificial doctrines. (Mark 7:13) These traditions and manufactured doctrines made it very difficult for a gentile to convert into Judaism. This was not God’s intention; Yehovah intended for Gentiles and Jews to be one saved people living in obedience to the law of Moses. What happens In Eph 2:15 is that the law Jesus set aside was not the law of Moses. Instead, it was these man-made traditions and artificial doctrines.
Eph 2:15 and Col 2:14 do not say the law of Moses was set aside, done away with, or nailed to the cross. But let’s say you chose to ignore this and still believe the law of Moses does not apply to you as a Christian.
In the book of Acts, Paul is falsely accused of telling Jews and Gentiles they did not have to obey the law of Moses now that they believed in Jesus. Every time Paul proved his accusers wrong.
The Bible says God never changes; several times over in the Old Testament, Yehovah says He expects His saved people to obey the law of Moses. Jesus says, in the Gospels, we are expected to obey the law of Moses as long as there is a heaven and earth.
Can the law save us? No, the law can not save us. Remember when Israel was saved out of Egypt? They did nothing to earn their salvation; it was a pure act of grace. But after their salvation, Yehovah gave them the law of Moses and told them that now that they were saved, He expected them to live by the law. In the New Testament, in 1.John, the Bible clearly says if we do not obey the law, our faith in the cross is dead and can not save us.
In Psalm 34:18, the Bible says if we do not have a broken spirit, we are not saved. What Psalm 34:18 says is the same thing as in 1.John, if our faith in the cross does not show itself in obedience to the law of Moses, we are not saved.
The law of Moses can never save us, but if we do not obey it, we are not saved.
The sad truth is, most Christians do not have a broken spirit. Most Christian pastors and leaders do not have a broken spirit. They want the “get out of hell free card” and their fire insurance, but they have no desire to obey and no desire to show love for Yehovah. This is why so many Christians will hear, “depart from Me, for I do not know you, you who have rejected the law of Moses” (Matt 7:21-23)
Make sure you are not among them; make sure you have a broken spirit.