I confess

Sunday LeftoversI confess I find confession hard.

Don’t we all?

There is nothing easy about admitting one is wrong.  And compounding the difficulty of confession is the further requirement to ask for forgiveness from the one to whom we are confessing.  And when we confess to the Lord, it additionally requires a desire to change — “I’m sick of this sin, Lord.  Will you change me?”

Confession is hard.

But it’s also blessed.

David knew both of the hardness and the joy of confession, which is why he wrote, “How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered!  How blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute iniquity” (Psalm 32:1-2).

Now you might read that and say, “but David there says that it’s blessed to be forgiven.  He doesn’t say anything in that verse about confession.”  True enough.  He doesn’t explicitly mention confession, but as he will demonstrate in this psalm, forgiveness only comes to those who confess, so there is joy not only in forgiveness, but also in confession.

Notice a series of three-fold realities that David uses to make his point in Psalm 32.

First there is the three-fold acknowledgement of sin (vv. 1-2):  he transgresses, sins, and does iniquity.  That is, he is rebels against God’s law, he ignores God’s standard, and he distorts God’s truth.

Then there is the three-fold expression of forgiveness (vv. 1-2):  God forgives, covers, and does not impute David’s sin to him.  In forgiveness, God removes the sin, does not look at or go back to the sin, and does not count the sin against David.

That forgiveness comes from David’s three-fold acknowledgement of his sin (v. 5):  he acknowledges, he does not cover, and he does confess.  In confession, David tells God his sin, he withholds nothing in his confession, and agrees with God that his sin is sin.

Because David has confessed, there are three provisions from God (v. 7):  God is now David’s hiding place, preserver, and deliverer.  Instead of David attempting to hide from God’s sin, God hides David from the sin (and the Accuser of redeemed sinners), and He keeps David alive and covers and surrounds him with deliverance from sin.

And finally, there are three promises of God for David (v. 8):  He will instruct, teach, and counsel David.  Because David is forgiven, he is restored to a right relationship of submission and obedience to God, so God can provide direction for David through His Word.

It should be noted that in all these triplets, the emphasis is not so much on the different aspects of each of them (i.e., the three different kinds of sin, confession, forgiveness, etc.), but on the completeness of each of them.  Man is completely a sinner, confession must be full and complete, forgiveness goes beyond every aspect of one’s sin, and God’s provisions and promises are full and lacking nothing.

The background story of this psalm is more than bleak (read 2 Samuel 11-12) — David ignores his responsibilities as commander-in-chief of the Israelite army, commits adultery with Bathsheba, has her husband killed (and other soldiers also die in the process), and hides his sin from the nation for over a year.  Yet even for such a grotesque series of sins, David says there is potential blessing for the repentant and confessing sinner.  He knows that because this psalm is what he wrote after some time had elapsed after his initial confession.  He has reflected on his sin and the process of confession and forgiveness, and this psalm is a distillation of what he has discovered.

Yes, confession is hard.  But no confession is harder than the blessing of God’s forgiveness is joyous.

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