The rhythm that brings peace into our daily lives is holy. It is cycle that repeats in the same way the flowers die back in the winter and return in spring. In the same way a seed falls to the ground and with “just the right conditions and time”, as my grandfather always said, will sprout again and bring forth its purpose. That might be a grain of wheat; a dreaded Johnson grass; a sunflower that cannot be stopped from growing tall and strong; or a persistent thistle that looks pretty but comes to invade.
One of the holy rhythms that brings peace into our daily lives is the rhythm of Confession ~ Pardon ~ Peace. Throughout the Scriptures we see this played out. The God of heaven meets us in our human condition and something explosive and transformative happens. As explosive as a butterfly breaking from its cocoon; as transformative as a rose that brings forth its full bloom with the strong scent of joy; and as powerful as a rushing river that never stops moving forward.
How do we encourage this rhythm of peace? How do we integrate it into our daily lives in a way that forges an avenue, or perhaps a “river”, that keeps us moving along toward more peaceful lives? Confession helps us begin.
Confession is a practice of clearing. It is a way to be honest with ourselves and with God. If we are blessed enough to have someone that will listen, then our confession is farther reaching than we will ever be able to measure.
Skipping over confession is like not learning the alphabet before you begin to write. Letters thrown together without understanding do not make words we can use. If you’ve ever started a new job or project where the instructions are filled with acronyms, then you know this. An acronym for which you have no definition is of no value. Confession lays the foundation for change to happen in our lives; change that brings peace.
The story of David in II Samuel is one example for understanding confession. David didn’t start out as a king. He started out as a shepherd, one of the lowest positions to have in ancient Israel. He grew close to God as he spent his days and nights in creation, watching over flocks of sheep. He learned to fight off wild animals, to depend on prayer, and to communicate through words and music. Eventually David’s skills and experiences matured him into being an incredible warrior and ultimately, he became a king. He was not born into status and power but as life unfolded, David came into status and power. You might say God had him on a journey of preparation.
In a particular moment of his life David let his power and luxury, his heart or his physical desires lead him in a way of sin. We don’t know the specific trigger, perhaps it was all of them together that created an environment for him to act far outside his conscience. We can only speculate the reasons. David made choices that eventually led him into a situation that became darker and deeper. The reality remains the same: he found himself standing in sin and needing desperately to find a way free. His first attempts were to cover up his actions, which he did through some strategic decisions he had the power to implement. It didn’t work. When that failed, he tried to cover up his sin with a murder. That didn’t work either. The prophet, Nathan, learned of David’s sin and went to him with it. There was trust in their relationship, but the confrontation took him off guard; he wasn’t expecting it.
Of course, David knew he had sinned. He was living with this every day. We can look at his confession and see that he understood his sin was against God. David was a man who loved the Lord. His desire was to serve the Lord. And yet, here he was – buried in a situation that was eating him alive. There is no way God would leave his servant in that condition. God provides a way for this situation to be redeemed.
Happy are those whose transgression is forgiven,
whose sin is covered.
Happy are those to whom the Lord imputes no iniquity,
and in whose spirit there is no deceit.
While I kept silence, my body wasted away
through my groaning all day long.
For day and night your hand was heavy upon me;
my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer.
Then I acknowledged my sin to you,
and I did not hide my iniquity;
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,”
and you forgave the guilt of my sin.
Nathan confronts David and the confession comes pouring out almost as if he has been waiting for someone to open the door and invite him into a new place. It’s not always easy to know how to take a step out of the darkness until someone shines a light where you can see. Nathan shines that light for David. And out of David tumbles his cries of regret. He falls before God with the weight of his sin so heavy he can no longer stand. And he gets really honest about where he is. Psalm 51 is his confession.
Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
and cleanse me from my sin.
For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is ever before me.
Against you, you alone, have I sinned,
and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you are justified in your sentence
and blameless when you pass judgment.
Indeed, I was born guilty,
a sinner when my mother conceived me.
The cover up is over. David accepts the reality of his sin. He names it. He accepts that he does not have the power to fix this himself; a simple apology will not do. He cannot erase what has happened. David acknowledges that this is something only God can redeem. And in this moment, David stops trying to be God (controlling both sin and the forgiveness of sin) and he humbles himself before his Creator. He is turning toward God which is what we call “repentance” …turning in a different direction; a direction toward the God of heaven. Now there is space for something different to happen.
You desire truth in the inward being;
therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart.
Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones that you have crushed rejoice.
Hide your face from my sins,
and blot out all my iniquities.
Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and put a new and right spirit within me.
Do not cast me away from your presence,
and do not take your holy spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and sustain in me a willing spirit.
Nathan is with him. And Nathan tells him: “The LORD has taken away your sin. You are not going to die.” (II Samuel 12:13) David has consequences to live through, but his life is being redeemed right there. It begins and it never stops. He will not live a life of shame. He is being redeemed to live a life of faithfulness with God directing his steps. David is being set free from the chains of shame and guilt. Grace is offered. A rhythm of peace is unleashed. A river that will not stop flowing.
Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
and sinners will return to you.
Deliver me from bloodshed, O God,
O God of my salvation,
and my tongue will sing aloud of your deliverance.
O Lord, open my lips,
and my mouth will declare your praise.
For you have no delight in sacrifice;
if I were to give a burnt offering, you would not be pleased.
The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
Confession is a practice of clearing. It may be as simple as an isolated wrong, or it may be dealing with sin that is complex and deep and systematic. In all times for the people of God, confession is a practice that leads to forgiveness, repentance and peace. The Lord forgave David immediately. He did not have to earn it; he only had to receive it. The LORD forgives! And we turn our attentions toward God (repentance) to see what that pardon means in our lives.
Turn to Psalm 51 in your Bible. Pray through it out loud as your personal confession. Name what you want to confess as you read through it. Take a few minutes to comprehend this: in the same way God heard David thousands of years ago, God is hearing you right now. Anytime we offer a confession, the rhythm of peace becomes more and more real in our lives.
God we are all in need of your grace. We are in desperate need of your forgiveness; your pardon; your peace. Please meet each of us where we are and hear our confessions of this day. Like David, we are ready to walk forward with you to understand what the gift of redemption means in our lives. We love you and we trust you completely. We offer our prayer in the name of Jesus, the resurrected Christ. Amen.
Coming up next… Rhythms of Peace: Part II “Forgiveness & Pardon”