Explore The Bible Study: Confession Made

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I WAS WRONG. Many of us have a hard time saying, “I was wrong,” because it places us in a vulnerable situation where we are confessing our failure to someone else. Yet the forgiveness that comes after admitting our mistake can restore a relationship, and it often actually strengthens it. This is especially true in our relationship with God. Lifeway's Explore The Bible Study: Confession Made will examine a prayer of Daniel's that models how we should approach God in seeking forgiveness for sin.

Daniel 8–12 records the final three visions in the Book of Daniel. Daniel’s second vision came after studying the Book of Jeremiah where he read that the exile would last seventy years (Jeremiah 25:11-12; 29:10). For Daniel and some others, the exile had begun in 605 BC, so he realized it might soon end. This prompted him to pray for God to end the exile (9:2-3), leading to Daniel’s confession that God was righteous and the people were sinners (9:4-11) and had ignored God’s warnings regarding the penalties of their sins (9:12-16). This leads to Daniel praying for God to forgive the people’s sin and admitting that they had wronged God in all levels of their relationship (9:17-19).

God is Righteous and People are Sinners - Daniel 9:4-6

The word translated "confessed" literally means “threw oneself down” and it portrays the worshiper on his face before God. The title Lord recognized God as Lord of Daniel’s life and Lord of the world. He is the great and awe-inspiring God. Daniel further described the Lord as a God who keeps his gracious covenant. The word translated gracious further describes His covenant love toward His people. (Source: ETB Leader Commentary)

But Daniel also stated that the love someone says they have for God is evident in the way they keep His commands. Jesus emphasized this in John 14:15, “If you love me, you will keep my commands.” Notice Daniel’s progression in this prayer. First, Daniel acknowledged his own sin; then he proceeded to acknowledge the sins of God’s people. Daniel was one of the most righteous people of his generation; yet, he knew he also needed God’s grace. 

Why would anyone who says they love God, act toward God in this manner? 
Can you identify ways in which you have sinned in this manner? What keeps you from confessing your sins to God?
How do you suppose God would respond if we, individually, or corporately as His church, were to confess as Daniel did?

1 John 1:9 reminds us that, If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Imagine how God would change our world if only His people would admit their wrongs as Daniel did. Yet, what we see is something Daniel observed about God’s people when they did not confess their sins.

The Results of Unconfessed Sin – Daniel 9: 7-14

How would you summarize the results of sin for God’s people? Why does God’s righteousness require Him to punish sin?

Notice God’s compassion and forgiveness that was always available to the people of God. Yet they continued to sin and sin and sin. Notice also that all had failed to live up to God’s standard, including those who are near and those who are far.  Then, in verse 14, Daniel tells us something that is very important regarding sin.

Daniel reminds us that, when we continue to sin, God will not let us forget what we have done. Our iniquity is ever before us. We can’t rationalize our sin; we can’t justify it; we can’t rewrite moral or scientific laws to excuse it; nor can we ignore it. The consequences of our sin are forever with us until we turn back to God. Even then, once we confess and are forgiven, we will or should always remember the way sin has impacted our lives.

Daniel affirmed God’s character as a righteous God, while also recognizing the extent of Israel’s sin. We see in this passage that sin doesn’t change God’s character, but it changes the character of those who say they love God – any failure lies with them. When God’s people acknowledge how righteously God deals with them, it can move them toward repentance that leads to confessing sins and experiencing God’s forgiveness. 

Daniel appealed to God for compassion and forgiveness because he knew the people had sinned greatly. They might receive forgiveness if they turned to God in repentance. God works the same way with us today. When we have sinned, we need to acknowledge God’s righteous dealings with us. He has been faithful to us, and any failure lies with us. When we acknowledge how righteously God has dealt with us, it can move us toward repentance—repentance that leads to confessing our sin and experiencing God’s forgiveness (1 John 1:9). As this is done, our hope for the future is restored as we look forward, once again, to God’s completed work of salvation.

In verses 4-6, Daniel acknowledged that God is righteous, leading him to confess his sin and the people’s sin. In verses 7-14, he described the results of unconfessed sin. Now, Daniel begins to conclude his prayer by imploring God’s forgiveness.

Confessing Completely Restores Completely – Daniel 9:15-19

Knowing what we know about Daniel, why would he say “we” and not “they” sinned and acted wickedly? Did Daniel offer any excuses for his or the people’s sin? Why is this important to observe?

Daniel was asking God to act on behalf of His people. He didn’t offer any excuses for why they sinned. Daniel also included himself in his confession, even though he appears to have not participated in many of the sins that had taken place.

Daniel called on God to bring honor to His own name as he affirmed: Jerusalem and your people have become an object of ridicule to all those around us. Foreign nations mocked God’s people, but worse yet, they mocked Israel’s God, and Daniel did not want that.  At the time Daniel wrote, the temple was gone. Daniel knew it would require the Lord’s doing to rebuild it, so he called God’s attention to its desolation. Daniel wanted this to happen for the Lord’s sake. To be sure, God’s answering Daniel’s prayer would mean blessing and restoration for God’s people. It also would bring honor to God’s name. (Source: ETB Leader Commentary)

Daniel stated in verse 18: We are not presenting our petitions before you based on our righteous acts, but based on your abundant compassion. Nothing Daniel and his fellow citizens could offer would be enough. They could never fulfill God’s righteous standard, but they could confess their sins and repent and he knew God would forgive because of His abundant compassion.

Is it popular today to say to God, “I was completely wrong and I offer no excuses”? What about you personally? How do you approach God for forgiveness? Do you come before Him completely owning your sin, or do you hold back or offer an excuse for your sin?

How Should Your Respond?

God knows we can never measure up to His righteous standard. He sent His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, as sin’s perfect sacrifice once and for all (Hebrews 9:12-14). When we repent of our sins and place our faith in Jesus, we receive God’s salvation and forgiveness (Romans 10:9-10). Forgiveness continually is available when we truly confess our sin (1 John 1:9).

Take time to reflect on your own sinfulness and rebellion. Praise God for the fact that He forgives because of His compassion, not our righteousness! May Daniel’s prayer in verse 19 be your prayer today for yourself and for His people: “Lord, hear! Lord, forgive! Lord, listen and act! My God, for your own sake, do not delay” (Daniel 9:19a).

The downloadable teaching helps provide more details for this study, along with some tools you can use in guiding a group Bible study. Be sure to use this as a supplement to your study of the Explore the Bible Study resources provided by LifeWay.

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