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Confession of Sinfulness

Daniel 9:4–5 (ESV) … “I prayed to the Lord my God and made confession, saying, “O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, we have sinned and done wrong and acted wickedly and rebelled, turning aside from your commandments and rules.”

That confession of sin could be ours. Like us, Daniel lived among a people who were wicked, who had rebelled against the great and awesome God. They had turned away from his commands, ignoring and defying them, just as we have in America. They had shed innocent blood, distorted truth, and violated marriage covenants. Jeremiah wrote:

“I will hand them over to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon.… For they have done outrageous things in Israel; they have committed adultery with their neighbors’ wives and in my name have spoken lies, which I did not tell them to do. I know it and am a witness to it,” declares the Lord. (Jeremiah 29:21, 23)

America was founded on the principles of right and wrong revealed in the Word of God, but many have done outrageous things just like Israel. America is filled with adultery, murder, lies, and wickedness.

But notice that Daniel does not just confess the people’s sins and make apologies for the sins of others, which is so easy to do. Rather, he included himself among those who sinned against the Lord. This man was thrown into the lions’ den by King Darius for praying at his open window, because the other administrators could not find any wrongdoing in Daniel’s life, present or past. (By the way, Daniel 9 may have been one of his prayers from that open window.) Yet this godly man says, “We have sinned and done wrong. We have been wicked and rebelled. We have turned away from your commands and laws. We have not listened to your servants the prophets.”

It is not only the unbelievers in America who have sinned. We are all sinners and fall short of the glory of God. The Westminster Shorter Catechism says, “We sin daily in thought, word, and deed.” A prayer of confession used hundreds of years ago in the time of the Reformation says, “Deepen the sorrow within us for our sins.”

The Pilgrims were a godly people, but when a drought struck their land, they turned to the Lord, humbly confessing their sins. Edward Winslow described the drought and their confession:

There scarce fell any rain, so that the stalk of that [planting which] was first set, began to send forth the ear before it came to half growth, and that which was later, not like to yield any at all, both blade and stalk hanging the head and changing the color in such manner as we judged it utterly dead. Now were our hopes overthrown, and we [were] discouraged, our joy turned to mourning … because God, which hitherto had been our only shield and supporter, now seemed in His anger to arm Himself against us. And who can withstand the fierceness of His wrath?

These and the like considerations moved not only every good man privately to enter into examination with his own estate between God and his conscience, and so to humiliation before Him, but also to humble ourselves together before the Lord by fasting and prayer. To that end, a day was appointed by public authority, and set apart from all other employments.[1]

[1] Stortz, R., & Hughes, R. K. (2004). Daniel: the triumph of God’s kingdom (pp. 152–153). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

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