“Who can say, ‘I have made my heart pure; I am clean from my sin?’” (Proverbs 20:9)
“Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins.” (Ecclesiastes 7:20)
Since yesterday’s post referred to the blamelessness that results from repentance, and today we are worshipping the Lord, I thought it would be useful to stop and meditate on confession and forgiveness. Like many other texts in the Old and New Testaments, Proverbs addresses the difficulty of being pure when we have sin in our hearts (and minds and lives).
A reference for Proverbs 20:9 cites 1 Kings 8, when Solomon prayed at the dedication of the first temple in Jerusalem. His prayer also served as instruction for the Israelites, as do many prayers of our church leaders today. After declaring God’s faithfulness to Israel, his holiness, sovereignty, and accessibility, Solomon asked the Lord to listen to his peoples’ pleas at the temple, forgiving them for their sins (1 Kings 8:30). Solomon asked God to forgive those who were defeated in battle because of their sins but then turn to the Lord for forgiveness (vs. 33-34). He asked God to forgive those whose sins resulted in God withholding rain from the land, and “teach them the good way in which they should walk, and grant rain upon your land, which you have given to your people as an inheritance” (vs. 35-36). Solomon addressed the possibility that famine, pestilence, military defeat, sickness, or plagues might be the result of sin and asked God to heal the hearts of his people. If he knows, “the affliction of his own heart and stretching out his hands toward this house, then hear in heaven your dwelling place and forgive and act and render to each whose heart you know…” (vs. 38-39). Our sins have consequences, though we hardly know of such extensive results as these, we see the consequences in our relationships.
Finally, Solomon prayed, “If they sin against you—for there is no one who does not sin—and you are angry with them and give them to an enemy, so that they are carried away captive to the land of the enemy, far off or near, yet if they turn their heart in the land to which they have been carried captive, and repent and plead with you in the land of their captors, saying, We have sinned and have acted perversely and wickedly,’ if they repent with all their heart and with all their soul in the land of their enemies…then hear in heaven your dwelling place their prayer and their plea, and maintain their cause and forgive your people who have sinned against you, and all their transgressions that they have committed against you…(for they are your people, and your heritage, which you brought out of Egypt, from the midst of the iron furnace).” (vs. 46-51)
I usually don’t use so much space quoting Scripture, but today I find it especially comforting that at any time, for any reason we can turn to Christ for the forgiveness we need. We are not saved by our confessions, and we are not purified by them. Only Jesus Christ is qualified and has the power and authority to grant forgiveness for sin. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.” (Romans 3:23-25a)
Today, as you worship, will you contritely seek forgiveness for neglecting family members in need, for anger, jealousy, competitiveness, or selfishness toward them? We have a Savior who delights in our confession and repentance, helping us to change not only our behavior but our attitudes, desires, and fears. May this be a Sabbath of shalom.