Confessing Our Sins
(6) We have sinned along with our fathers. We have committed iniquity. We have acted wickedly. (7) Our fathers in Egypt did not give attention to your wondrous works. They did not remember the abundance of your steadfast love but rebelled by the sea, at the Red Sea. (8) Yet, he delivered them for his name’s sake that he might make known his mighty power. (9) He rebuked the Red Sea, and it became dry, and he led them through the deep as through a desert. (10) So he delivered them from the hand of the one who hated them and redeemed them from the hand of the enemy, (11) and the waters covered their adversaries. Not one of them remained. (12) Then they believed his words. They sang his praise.
In the first verse of this segment we encounter three synonyms for “sin” (vs. 6). The first is a translation of the Hebrew word for “missing the mark” or “straying.” The second, “committed iniquity,” speaks of specific acts while the third, “acted wickedly,” describes general evil behavior. Twice the psalmist mentions “our fathers” in confessing Israel’s sin to indicate that the present generation is just as wayward as their ancestors had been (vss. 6 & 7).
Two more repetitions and three synonymous phrases stand out in the remainder of this segment: “delivered” (vss. 8 & 10) and “hand” (used twice in vs. 10) as well as “the one who hated them,” “the enemy” (both in vs. 10), and “their adversaries” (vs. 11). In other words, God graciously rescued Israel from the oppression of the Egyptians even though they did not deserve it.
I. Unworthy: Israel confessing past and present sins (6 & 7)
II. Delivered: Israel rejoicing in God’s protection (8-12)
God delivers us from our adversaries not because we deserve it, but to manifest his glory and demonstrate his power.
John in his first epistle articulates one of the great promises God has given to believers: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 Jn. 1:9). Since receiving God’s full forgiveness hinges on the issue of our confessing our sins, we should be eager to learn what confession specifically involves. In an article entitled, “Confession of Sins in the Spirit-filled Life” that appeared in the Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society (August 2001, 53), Pastor Bob Bryant gives a memorable description: “Dennis the Menace, a well known cartoon character, kneels at his bedside, hands folded, his eyes turned toward heaven and prays, ‘I’m here to turn myself in!’”
The term “confess” simply means “to say the same thing, to agree, to admit or acknowledge.” When we confess our sins, we are simply agreeing with God that we have sinned against him. To confess sins also implies a request for God’s forgiveness as evidenced by the words of Jesus when he taught us to pray, “Forgive us our sins” (Lk. 11:4). In brief, we admit our sins to God so that we receive his forgiveness.
It is important to keep in mind the distinction between judicial forgiveness, that is, being declared righteous when we trusted Christ for salvation, and relational forgiveness, being restored to full fellowship with the Father when we like sheep have turned aside from walking in his ways. John’s call to confession (1 Jn. 1:9) assumes that we have already passed from death unto life (salvation) but need cleansing from our daily sins so that our growth in godliness (sanctification) is not short-circuited. That is precisely what the psalmist is doing by first confessing to Yahweh the nation’s sins (vss. 6 & 7) and then praising him for his deliverance in the Exodus (vss. 8-12). His goal is to see the chosen nation restored to full fellowship with their loving God.