Glorifying God: Humble Confession of Sin
The chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.
– Westminster Shorter Catechism
A humble confession exalts God.
– Thomas Watson, from A Body of Divinity
When our children are young, we try to teach them the importance of forgiving and asking forgiveness. Sometimes after a conflict, maybe most of the time, this “forgiving” process seems a little forced, a bit disingenuous. So it is no surprise that when we get older and are caught in some sort of sin and say to the offended party “I’m sorry,” that it can seem forced, a bit disingenuous. And maybe it is. Maybe we are saying one thing while in our hearts we are still justifying our sinful actions or blaming them on someone else, even on God Himself.
In the Book of Judges, as things spiral downward, there is this point where the people of Israel seem to be saying the right words: “We have sinned against you, because we have forsaken our God and have served the Baals.” But the LORD had heard this so many times, He remains unimpressed. The people were under duress from their enemies and so by saying “I’m sorry”, they hoped the LORD would do what they wanted. The LORD, however, refuses to be manipulated in this way.
So the Israelites seem to give Him more: “We have sinned; do to us whatever seems good to you. Only please deliver us this day.” It is as if they were saying, “LORD, You can punish us if we actually deserve it, but please don’t do that. In fact, why don’t you go ahead and end the consequences now … we said ‘we’re sorry.’”
Thomas Watson points out that “a humble confession exalts God.” What exactly is a humble confession? A humble confession acknowledges the sinfulness of sin, and recognizes what is deserved, i.e., death and hell. It doesn’t try to get anything from God or make Him stop disciplining us by saying the right words (like in the Judges text). It simply says, “I am sorry, will you forgive me?,” and leaves it there. No begging away the consequences, no bargaining with God. This type of confession is ground in which God’s grace bears great fruit. “Nothing in my hands I bring, simply to Thy cross I cling.”
If we are to glorify God, then we must humble ourselves before Him. A humble confession of sin exalts God because it brings God’s amazing grace to the foreground where it can be admired.
Each week during the worship service we spend some time reflecting on God’s Law and confessing our sins before Him. May we do this with humility, knowing what we deserve, accepting the consequences of our sin as from the loving hands of our Father in heaven, and marveling at the grace that He has shown us in Christ, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. And in all of this, may God be glorified.