Today’s passage: Psalm 32
Today’s chocolate: Endangered Species 88% cacao dark chocolate
I’ve been thinking a lot about confession lately, but largely in the sense of James 5:16, “Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed.” I’ve had confession between humans on my mind, from accountability partners, to the 5th step of the 12-step program, “admitting to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs,” to the Catholic practice of confession as part of the Sacrament of Penance. While keeping our sin to ourselves divides us from our fellow man, confession connects us to the community around us and helps us to repent, turning away from our sin. But that’s not the sort of confession David’s talking about here. He’s talking about confession to God.
And that’s weird, when you think about it. In this psalm, David says to God, “I acknowledged my sin to You, and my iniquity I did not hide; I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,’ and You forgave the guilt of my sin” (5). Now, if you’ve lied or stolen from a person, it makes sense to confess your sin to them as part of the process of repenting, because part of the sin is keeping truth from them. But being omniscient, God already knows about your sin! Trying to “hide your iniquity” from God is as futile as Adam and Eve hiding from God in the garden, covering up their naked bodies with fig leaves. Who you think you foolin’, fam? God knows what’s underneath there.
I think that’s the first part of why we confess our sins to God. It’s an acknowledgement that it’s pointless to hide. David writes, “When I kept silent, my body wasted away” (3) and “For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me” (4). Not talking to God about his sin, keeping this area of his life away from God’s healing influence, was eating at David and even taking a physical toll on him. He says God’s hand was heavy on him, suggesting that God is deliberately putting pressure on him to confess. God has created a world where our conscience can weigh on us when we’ve done evil; he didn’t have to do this, he could have made a world where having unconfessed evil is comfortable, but he wants us to come back to him when we walk away. As C.S. Lewis put it, pain is God’s megaphone, and the pain of an unresolved conscience is a very particular sort of megaphone.
At the end of the day, that’s why God makes confession to him part of the process of receiving forgiveness from him. Like prayer in general, it’s not telling him anything he doesn’t already knows. It’s as much an admission to ourselves as to him; it’s grabbing onto God’s hand and letting him pull us out of the pit of self-deception where we tell ourselves we didn’t do anything wrong. David begins the psalm,
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,
And in whose spirit there is no deceit! (1-2)
and there’s not much I can add to that. It’s good to quit fooling yourself. And it’s good to get reconciled to God.