Finding Comfort in Confession
Finding Comfort in Confession
There’s a fascinating part of the story of Daniel that most people don’t notice. They’re too fixated on the lion’s den, fiery furnace, and crazy prophecies.
In the middle of all those fantastical parts of the story, Daniel spends nearly an entire chapter confessing his sins, along with the sins of Israel. Even though you won’t find any mention in the book about Daniel’s sin. Here’s a sample of his confession:
All Israel has broken your law and turned away, refusing to obey you. The promised curse written in the law of Moses, the servant of God, has been poured out on us because we have sinned against him. He has carried out his words that he spoke against us and against our rulers by bringing on us a disaster that is so great that nothing like what has been done to Jerusalem has ever been done under all of heaven. Just as it is written in the law of Moses, all this disaster has come on us, yet we have not sought the favor of the Lord our God by turning from our iniquities and paying attention to your truth. So the Lord kept the disaster in mind and brought it on us, for the Lord our God is righteous in all he has done. But we have not obeyed him. (Daniel 10:11-14)
From the rest of the story, Daniel seems like a saint. But he’s lumping himself together with the rest of Israel and saying, “We’re nothing but a bunch of sinners.” Amazing. Is this what your prayers sound like? Not for many people.
Alternatives to Confession
Most of us just don’t do confession. Instead of confessing our sin…
- We RATIONALIZE our sin. We think, “I didn’t have any other choice but to sin!”
- We COMPARE our sin. We say, “At least my sin isn’t as bad as that guy’s sin. He’s a mess.”
- We HIDE our sin. We think, “If I ignore my sin, maybe the consequences won’t catch up to me.”
- We try to MAKE UP for our sin. We reason, “I’ll just do something good, and it’ll outweigh the bad.
- We just SURRENDER to our sin. We say, “Yes I sinned. I’m a sinner! That’s what the Bible says. I don’t know why you would expect anything else out of me.
- We DOUBLE DOWN on our sin. We think, “Hey, I’ve already sinned this much. I might as well go all the way.”
We have so many alternatives to confession. We just don’t like to confess our sin. And when we do, we tend to soften our sin. We use words like mistakes. Shortcomings. Limitations.
When Daniel talks about his sin, he uses words like wickedness. Rebellion. Disloyalty. Shame. This is clearly a guy who’s mourning over his sin, not just the consequences of his sin. Lots of people feel bad about their sin, but they only feel bad about the consequences of their sin.
Mourning Consequences Instead of Sin
A few years ago, I promised our youngest daughter that I would build her a treehouse. Then our church bought a new building, and for 3 months I was helping out with all the volunteer work crews that were down there 6 days a week building the place. After that experience I didn’t want to build anything for the rest of my life.
But if you have kids, you know they never forget promises. Ever. So at least once a month, my daughter says, “Daaaadddyyyy, when are you going to build me that treehouse?” And that makes me feel really bad. For about 10 minutes. Then I forget about it again.
Do I feel bad that I broke a promise to my daughter? Am I mourning the fact that I made a solemn oath before God as my witness, and now I’ve violated that pledge to the ruler of the universe? No. I feel bad that I’ve gotta listen to my daughter whine about it. I don’t feel bad about my sin. I feel bad about the consequences of my sin.
Daniel was so different. He felt the weight of his sin against God, and so he confessed his sin directly to God. And what motivated that was his complete confidence in the mercy of God:
Now, Lord our God, who brought your people out of the land of Egypt with a strong hand and made your name renowned as it is this day, we have sinned, we have acted wickedly. Lord, in keeping with all your righteous acts, may your anger and wrath turn away from your city Jerusalem, your holy mountain; for because of our sins and the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and your people have become an object of ridicule to all those around us. Therefore, our God, hear the prayer and the petitions of your servant. Make your face shine on your desolate sanctuary for the Lord’s sake. Listen closely, my God, and hear. Open your eyes and see our desolations and the city that bears your name. For we are not presenting our petitions before you based on our righteous acts, but based on your abundant compassion. (Daniel 10:15-18)
He’s going back and remembering the times when God’s had compassion before, like when he delivered the Israelites from Egypt. God rescued them and took them to the promised land, and not because they deserved it. Daniel says it wasn’t because of their righteousness, it was because of God’s abundant compassion.
What Drives Confession
God’s compassion is what drew Daniel to confession. As Paul says in Romans 2, “God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance.” His mercy is what empowers us to confess our sin and overcome our sin.
I had a boss once who was really unpredictable. Every day you came in, you would never know what kind of mood was in. He might be totally cool, or he might chew your head off for nothing. You just didn’t know. So when I had a problem? When I made a mistake? I would never go talk to him. I would just try to fix the problem myself, and pray that he never found out. I didn’t want to take the risk of getting chewed out by that guy.
Then I went to work for a boss who was very gracious and kind. He never got upset. He never got in your face. So when I made a mistake? I would go straight to that boss, because I knew he would have grace on me, and I knew he would help me fix the mistake. He would get me out of the problem!
God’s kindness and compassion is what empowers you to confess your sin, fight against your sin, and overcome your sin.