The Holy Office of Confession

By Ed Hurst | Posted at 10:49 PM
Most of the time, the word translated "confession" in the Bible appears in the context of owning up to sin. That's a good word for translating the concept. The Latin word from which we get the English "confess" means "to stand with" -- in this case, it means standing with God, as a public endorsement of His declaration we have sinned. Such has a very long and distinguished history in the Bible. Who can forget Daniel's prayer of confession as he realized the time of the Exile was drawing to a close?

And I prayed to the LORD my God, and made my confession, and said, "O Lord, the great and awesome God, keeping the covenant and mercy to those who love Him, and to those who keep His commandments, we have sinned and have committed iniquity, and have done wickedly, and have rebelled, even by departing from Your commandments and from Your judgments." (Daniel 9:4-5)

He goes on at length in confessing how surely Israel deserved the Exile, and all that went with it, and far more besides. That there were still Hebrew people alive was a tribute to God's vast mercy. Or how about Nehemiah's prayer over the same thing?

And I said, "I pray You, O LORD God of Heaven, the great and awesome God who keeps covenant and mercy for those who love Him and keep His commandments; let Your ear now be open, and Your eyes open, so that You may hear the prayer of Your servant, which I pray before You now, day and night, for the sons of Israel Your servants, and confessing the sins of the sons of Israel which we have sinned against You. Both I and my father's house have sinned. We have acted very wickedly against You, and have not kept the commandments nor the statutes nor the judgments which You commanded Your servant Moses." (Nehemiah 1:5-7)

Isaiah, too (6:5), as well as others. Notice how they accept the burden of responsibility for things they personally did not do, but which was done in their name as a member of their nation. This is drawn from the fundamental nature of sin's propagation, and how it brought about the Fall in the first place. Sin spreads farther than the virulent infection, and passes more surely than DNA. It is more fundamental to our nature than any other thing you can name. It's hardly an insult for me to look any living, breathing human and say, "That one has sinned." It's only because I've already looked in the mirror and said the same thing.

Has our nation, the United States, not sinned as well? Worse, we have striven mightily to cover this sin, to prevent anyone thinking about it. Those who dared raise it in the past have almost uniformly been called "leftist kooks," and we still hear scolding about "blame America." Why must we engage in the most obvious, slimy justifying to insure we need not acknowledge this was a hideous act? While some use visceral guilt to push their political agenda, that does not excuse closing our eyes to the simple fact we did evil. Let me assure you a very integral part of the sacrificial system of Moses was to insure we look fully upon the gory mess as a reminder of the costs of sin.

So here, without any political agenda, let me call on my fellow believers to mourn the unspeakable suffering and death of those on whom we dropped nuclear bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Let us be hesitant to do so again, keeping a steady eye on the sure results, regardless what justification men may offer. We have sinned. Let us pray our nation be reluctant to sin more.

Ed Hurst is Associate Editor of Open for Business.

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