A Wandering Heart – A Conquered Heart
by Dr. Chuck F. Betters, Guest Writer
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
At the turn of the century, the well-known agnostic and writer W.E. Henley wrote his now-famous poem, “Invictus”. The first two stanzas describe well the kinds of traits we so admire in our culture:
“Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance,
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.”
The Unconquerable Soul…
Sadly, the unconquerable soul Henley refers to here is one that stands in opposition to God and all other comers. Those of us who choose to remain aloof, unconquered, will never know God, for the key to knowing Him lies in just the opposite direction. As David said, what God seeks from us is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise (Psalm 51:17).
Samson, listed in the great faith chapter of Hebrews 11, was a long-haired, muscle-bound, charismatic leader and judge of Israel. He started out confident, impulsive and proud. His life, unfortunately, reflected too well the moral degradation and compromise of his nation. Instead of living a life of holiness, he repeatedly compromised his faith and allowed his animal instincts to get the best of him. Finally, beguiled and betrayed by the vixen Delilah, he fell hard - a victim of his own lust and foolishness. Captured, blinded, and imprisoned, Samson's sin led him to slavery and humiliation.
A Broken and Contrite Heart…
Samson lived out the remainder of his days chained to a grinding wheel by his enemies, the Philistines. Samson’s plight reminds me of David's lament for King Saul: How the mighty have fallen! (2 Samuel 1:19). Through this pain and suffering, Samson's God purged Samson’s heart of all its former pride and self-sufficiency. Samson's repentance, as well as his life, was nearing completion. When given one last opportunity to again display his God-given strength, he prayed, humbly and contritely, for God's help, even though what he planned would cost him his own life. In the huge pagan temple of the god Dagon, amid the taunts and jeers of the thousands of Philistines who had gathered to mock and belittle him, Samson performed for them. The big man confidently and prayerfully placed his large hands on the support pillars of the temple (Judges 16:28) and brought that entire great structure down upon them all.
Our God is an awesome God. He reigns over heaven and earth. He desires that we see our sins in the light of the cross - and hate them for their ugliness. But He also desires that we bow in our failures, recognizing that apart from Him we can do nothing.
Samson ended his life with a broken and contrite heart. He was, at the end of his days, a man both bloodied and bowed. Through his pain and his terrible suffering, he came back into close fellowship with his God; his heart was marked and renewed, made truly alive for perhaps the first time in his life. A circumcised heart, one like Samson's, is always characterized by brokenness.
A Man After God's Own Heart?
David, described as a man after God's own heart, was no stranger to sin, including the murder of Uriah and adultery with Bathsheba. Caught dead to rights in the midst of his terrible sin, David was completely undone, left without excuse. He prostrated himself before God and admitted plainly his own sin. The extraordinary Psalm 51 was David's prayer of confession. It gives us insight into why this man, guilty of such evil, could still be called a man after God's own heart. Here is a man ready to accept full responsibility for what he had done, recommitting himself to obedience, and pleading for renewed intimacy with God - an intimacy he knew he did not deserve:
Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from sin, for I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge.
Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
Psalm 51:1-4, 51:10-12
Broken and contrite, King David renewed his commitment to his sovereign King and Lord.
Two Men: Samson and David
Two sinners: Repentant and resolved to surrender to God's purposes.
Two hearts: Stained yet conquered and cleansed by God's love.
What about you? Is there unconfessed sin in your heart? Is it time to repent, to allow God's love to break your heart wide open to receive His forgiveness and restoration?
Experience the love and forgiveness that only God offers through His only Son, Jesus Christ.
More from Dr. Betters
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