3Then I set my face toward the Lord God to make request by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth, and ashes. 4And I prayed to the Lord my God, and made confession, and said, “O Lord, great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant and mercy with those who love Him, and with those who keep His commandments, 5we have sinned and committed iniquity, we have done wickedly and rebelled, even by departing from Your precepts and Your judgments.
One of the distinctive features of biblical and Christian worship through the ages has been the confession of sins. Indeed, one of the signs of the cancer ravaging the modern church is that the confession of sins is often absent. In Scripture and in history, both privately and publicly, God’s people have routinely confessed their sin to the Lord. So when Isaiah sees the Lord, lofty and exalted, seated on the throne of His glory in the temple, Isaiah confesses privately, “Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts” (Is 6:5). And when Nehemiah returns to Jerusalem to rebuild the walls and restore the glory of Jerusalem, the Levites led all Israel to confess publicly, “You [O Lord] are just in all that has befallen us; for You have dealt faithfully, but we have done wickedly” (Neh 9:33). Confession of sins is a routine feature of biblical and Christian worship.
It is this that we observe in our text today. Daniel is in exile in Babylon, meditating on the prophecies of Jeremiah. As he does so, Daniel is overwhelmed by Israel’s sin. So he sets himself to seek the Lord’s face with prayer and fasting and confesses Israel’s sin. He “made confession, and said… ‘we have sinned and committed iniquity, we have done wickedly and rebelled, even by departing from Your precepts and Your judgments.” As we consider Daniel’s words, I would like you to note that Daniel was not personally guilty of the things that he here confesses. He had not rebelled against the Lord nor departed from the Lord’s ways. Indeed, the book of Daniel extols Daniel as a man of faith and faithfulness. Yet Daniel confesses the sins of Israel: “we have sinned… we have done wickedly” not, “they have sinned…” So why does Daniel speak this way?
The answer is that Daniel, unlike many of us, was not a radical individualist. He knew that he was not a mere individual; he was part of a people, an Israelite. Hence, Israel’s sins were also his sins. So he confesses them on behalf of the nation, petitioning God to show mercy to Israel and modeling what all Israel should have been doing.
So too in our prayers of confession. Often we will find ourselves confessing not only our own personal sins but the sins of our people. Why? Because we are not mere individuals; we too are part of a people. We are Americans and America’s sins are our own. So we confess these on behalf of our people, petitioning God to show mercy to us and modeling what all America should be doing.
So note our our prayer of confession for Lent. In just a moment, we will confess: “O Lord, we are evildoers. We are boastful, deceitful and bloodthirsty. We have taken the lives of the innocent, abused the poor and the needy, exploited the helpless, approved perversity and immorality.”
I hope and pray that these things are not true of us personally; nevertheless, they are true of us all covenantally. We are a guilty people. We have taken the lives of the unborn, exploited the poor through the welfare state, used the power of government to confiscate by taxation what rightly belongs to others, undermined the covenant of marriage by legalizing no-fault divorce, and perverted God’s gift of sexuality through pornography, fornication, adultery, and LGBTQ deceit. We are a guilty people. As the church, we are to model a righteous response to such sin – and what is that response? It is to turn from it and to confess it as sin, seeking God’s forgiveness in the Name of Jesus.
So reminded that as we enter into the presence of the Lord today that we confess not only our own sins but the sins of our people, let us kneel before the Lord and beseech His mercy upon us and our people. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.