I have learned more about myself and about my God through parenting than I ever imagined possible. I am more like my children than I realize. I remember when I was younger I did many of the same things my children do, too. My children are not any different than anyone else's children. They all have the same sin nature.
My youngest child loves aggravating. He finds irritating others a great sense of amusement. My oldest child is the boss, controller, manipulator, and drama queen. You can imagine the fireworks this created when he and the youngest child were growing up. Then the middle child is the sneaky one. She is good at flying under the parenting radar. She knows how to get to her two brothers without stirring up trouble for herself. She isn't controlled by emotions and she uses her head before acting. Parenting these three has been an adventure.
Needless to say, the two boys, oil and water that they are, created the most friction. One would stir up trouble and the other would turn up the volume. I would try to intervene. At some point I would tell them to apologize to each other. Sometimes the apology was slightly less than sincere. The guilty child would roll his eyes, sigh, and in a patronizing tone blurt out, "Sorry!" Oh, how that would drive me crazy! The child obeyed, but the heart was far from truly being repentant.
Psalm 51:16-17 "For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise."
In the Old Testament, God had commanded the children of Israel to sacrifice animals as a covering for sin. It was a temporary plan until the promised Saviour, Jesus, was sent. David wasn't saying that sacrifices weren't necessary during that time period. He was saying that the sacrifice of animals wasn't the focus of what God wanted to teach. It wasn't the goal or God's desire and longing. God desired a humble, repentant heart.
When I was disciplining my children, I wasn't focused on getting them to say the words "I'm sorry" as if those words were some kind of magic sin eraser. "Quick! You sinned against your brother. Say the words!" My desire for them was that they would see their sin and see their broken fellowship. My desire was that they would be repentant. It was a heart issue and I was after the heart.
How many times have the words "forgive me of my sins" rolled off my tongue but my heart was not sincere nor repentant? How many times have I treated prayer like a magic Etch-a-Sketch board for my sins, with a few quick shakes the problem was erased? God is looking for a broken and contrite heart.