What does Psalm 51:16 mean?
ESV: For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering.
NIV: You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
NASB: For You do not delight in sacrifice, otherwise I would give it; You do not take pleasure in burnt offering.
CSB: You do not want a sacrifice, or I would give it; you are not pleased with a burnt offering.
NLT: You do not desire a sacrifice, or I would offer one. You do not want a burnt offering.
KJV: For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering.
NKJV: For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it; You do not delight in burnt offering.
Verse Commentary:
David knew the importance of offering sacrifices according to the prescribed pattern given in Scripture. He realized it is worthless to offer sacrifices while the heart is in rebellion against God. The blood of bulls and goats could never wash away the stain sin had left on David's heart (Hebrews 10:4).

He also knew the Law made no provision for forgiveness of adultery and murder in the sacrificial system. Both transgressions required the death penalty. The Pharisees and scribes in Jesus' day adhered to the Law and the tradition of the elders, but their hearts were not right with God. Jesus called them hypocrites and quoted Isaiah 29:13: "This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me" (Matthew 15:7–9).

Today, some believers try to erase their guilt over sins by increasing their offerings, or helping in the nursery, or cleaning the church, or observing optional traditions such as Lent, or a number of other good works. But these "sacrifices" can never substitute for a heart that loves and obeys the Lord. Nor can those efforts outweigh the offense our sin causes to a perfectly good and holy God.
Verse Context:
Psalm 51:16–19 is the final section of Psalm 51. These verses indicate that God doesn't primarily want sacrifices when someone sins. He accepts and deeply desires a broken spirit and a contrite heart, however. Isaiah 1:18 reinforces David's observation about what is important to God. Isaiah reported that the Lord was tired of hypocritical sacrifices. He refused to accept them, but summoned the people to have a personal relationship with Him, and He would cleanse their sin. David ends his psalm with a prayer for Jerusalem. He recognizes that when the Lord revives Jerusalem, He will accept the people's sacrifices.
Chapter Summary:
This psalm opens with David's plea to God to show him mercy. He asks God to blot out his transgressions, wash his iniquities, and cleanse him from sin. He admits his sinning was against God. He also confesses his human sin nature. David asks God to make him as white as snow by purging him with hyssop. He longs for joy to return to him, but knows he was suffering because God had turned away from him. He pleads with God for a clean heart and a right spirit. He does not want God to cast him aside and remove His Holy Spirit. David longs for a renewal of the joy of his salvation. If cleansing from sin occurred and joy returned to him, David would teach transgressors God's ways, and sinners would be converted. He promises near the end of the psalm to declare God's praise if God would forgive him. He knew it would be futile to offer a sacrifice to God, because God delights in a broken and contrite heart and not in sacrifices offered with an unrepentant heart. David closes the psalm with a prayer for God to bless Jerusalem.
Chapter Context:
Second Samuel 11—12 provides the sad background for Psalm 51. Instead of being out on the battlefield and leading his troops, David was walking on the roof of his palace. A woman named Bathsheba was taking a bath on a neighboring roof. David lusted for her and had her brought to the palace, where he committed adultery with her. Learning later that she was pregnant, David summoned Uriah, her soldier-husband and one of David's mighty men, to come home from the battlefield. He expected Uriah to have relations with Bathsheba so it would appear that Uriah was the baby's father. But Uriah did not touch Bathsheba, so David launched an alternate plan. He arranged for Uriah to be put on the frontline of battle and be killed. The plan worked, but the Lord sent the prophet Nathan to confront David with his sin. Overcome with guilt, David poured out his heart to the Lord in confession. Psalm 51 records his confession, and Psalm 32 reports the forgiveness he received from the Lord. Even though he was forgiven, David's sins still carried life-ruining consequences.
Book Summary:
The book of Psalms is composed of individual songs, hymns, or poems, each of which is a ''Psalm'' in and of itself. These works contain a wide variety of themes. Some Psalms focus on praising and worshipping God. Others cry out in anguish over the pain of life. Still other Psalms look forward to the coming of the Messiah. While some Psalms are related, each has its own historical and biblical context.
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