In our modern culture of preservation of self-esteem, confession is a scarce commodity. We prefer to avoid blame. We redirect misdemeanors, reorganize misbehaviours and reconfigure misadventures, but we rarely confess. Confession requires we admit our shortcomings, some of which may seem to be irreparable. We hate to admit we have failed to maintain a moral standard so we avoid confession. Our consciences prefer evasion to confrontation. We fear admission of guilt would reinforce the discomfort of our inner turmoil. Philosopher Søren Kierkegaard calls it ‘angst’, this apprehension and anxiety over moral failures. Daniel calls it shame. Daniel has not been in the habit of avoiding difficult situations. From his youth Daniel has confronted difficult and dangerous situations with uncommon boldness, and now in his latter years his verve is not about to wane.
Daniel has studied the Scriptures available in his day. He’s especially interested in prophecy. He observes his contemporary, the prophet Jeremiah, has connected the ‘desolation’ of Jerusalem to the stubborn rebellion of the Jewish people. God warned his chosen people, but they ignored His advice, and now they were exiles in Babylon. But Daniel’s study has also unearthed a promise from those same Scriptures. He observes the banishment is prophesied to last seventy years. And he’s done the math. The seventy years are nearly done.
But instead of an attitude of entitlement, Daniel is struck by the weight of Israel’s sin. Instead of considering Israel in terms of ‘they’, he thinks in terms of ‘we’. He accepts responsibility for the corporate rebellion of his people.
His confession is staggering. He lifts the shroud of Israel’s guilt and drapes it across his own shoulders, bowing before God in repentance. This is a prayer worth noting. It’s found in Daniel chapter nine. Observing the number of times Daniel uses the personal pronouns “we” and “our” in verses 4-19 is revealing. This is the same Daniel who, as a youthful prisoner, resolved “not to defile himself” in a culture of compromise; whose awe and acknowledgement of God was the source of his wisdom; whose steadfastness in prayer earned him a death sentence. Now he prays, “We have been wicked and have rebelled; we have turned away from your commands and laws…O LORD, we and our kings, our princes and our fathers are covered with shame because we have sinned against you…Just as it is written in the Law of Moses, all this disaster has come upon us, yet we have not sought the favor of the LORD our God by turning from our sins and giving attention to your truth.”
This is not shallow kudos designed to manipulate a rigid deity. Daniel’s understanding of God’s morality has altered his view of his own self-righteousness. He is man; he is a member of the race Homo sapiens. He feels the weight of the sin of his people and knows confession is the only route to relief.
The Sovereign LORD, the Holy One of Israel says: “In repentance and rest is your salvation” (Isa. 30:15). Daniel not only believes it, he acts upon it. He prays. He confesses. He relies fully upon God’s mercy.
It’s a lot for us to think about. Confession is not easy, but it is necessary to be in right relationship with God. Let’s do it; let’s get on our knees and confess. It’s good for the soul.