Confession*: Part 2

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WE may now turn (after the proof which the four chapters cited give of the value of confession), in a more general way, to the testimony of Scripture upon the subject. Let us quote a few cases of it. Confession, as used here, consists in the putting into the light that which (in one's own self) the light makes manifest, as not being in itself to our praise. A man oft goes on, where there has been failure in others against himself, without perceiving it: God, never. His Holiness and His justice forbid the thought that His omniscience should not fully, clearly, weigh and judge all evil. Connected with His ways, who pardoneth iniquity, for He is merciful and compassionate, there is a frequent recording of the perception of the evil; sometimes, also, the making of it felt and known, ere lie goes on, even to bless.
(*(Continued from Page 57).)
Genesis 3
(a)-In the third chapter of Genesis-after man has failed, entirely. failed, by putting himself into the hands of Satan-we find a remarkable inquisition and investigation made by the Lord as to the facts of the new state of things, their mode of introduction, and their source. Conscience-stricken, Adam and Eve had made them- selves a vesture; had tried to avoid the presence of the Lord, for they were naked (vers. 7-10). The cited Adam accuses Eve (ver. 12); Eve accuses the serpent (ver. 13); the serpent, then, first, gets a double sentence (part present and part future) pronounced upon him (vers. 14, 15); next, Eve hears the sentence of a present judgment to be inflicted upon her pronounced (ver. 16); and, lastly, the same is done as to Adam (vers. 17-19). It may be said, " What has this to do with confession?" Much, every way; because confession by man derives its whole value from the character and ways of the God to whom he confesses. The portion before us suggests, and the testimony of Scripture amply confirms the suggestion, that it is one of God's ways to make manifest the real character of that with which He deals; He who is light cannot have much to do with anything, or body, without its real character becoming manifest; for that that doth make manifest is light. In having to do with God, we may be pretty sure that what we were and are will be made manifest; no flesh shall glory in His presence, that is, in itself: glory it may, it ought, in Him; and that it, in all its ruin as a creature, has known Him who will have mercy, and will abundantly pardon. What should a marred, self-ruined creature glory in? In self? That would be really to rejoice in the enemy's work. If it glories in God-in what He has revealed Himself as Redeemer-God to be-its failure cannot hinder that glorying; but it shuts out all other. It cannot hinder that, because He is Redeemer-God only to those that need redemption. But if He rolls forth a tide of redemption's blessings for the lost, His glory and their liberty both demand that the character of the new relationship of the new blessings should be known.
Genesis 4
(b)-This chapter presents a case somewhat similar to the last, in the case of Cain's petition for protection of his life when sentenced to be a fugitive and a vagabond.
" And Cain said unto the Lord, My punishment is greater than I can bear. Behold, thou hast driven me out this day from the face of the earth; and from thy face shall I be hid; and I shall be a fugitive and a vagabond in the earth; and it shall come to pass, that every one that findeth me shall slay me. And the Lord said unto him, Therefore whosoever slayeth Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold. And the Lord set a mark upon Cain, lest any finding him should kill him."
(c)-In nothing, perhaps, was the wisdom and moral power of Joseph more shown than in his so acting as to extort confession from his brethren as to their sin against himself, ere he revealed himself to them. That it was not resentment or retributive justice which lead him is plain; the course he pursued tried his own brotherly affections more than it oppressed them. But how could he have confidence in them, how could they find his presence to be refreshment and shelter if he had, at the first, avowed " I am Joseph." I cannot doubt that Joseph was specially overruled in his course of action, because the whole scene so plainly points to a greater than Joseph. Their confession was simple, little as they knew before whom it was made.
" And they said one to another, We are verily guilty concerning our brother, in that we saw the anguish of his soul, when he besought us and we would not hear; therefore is this distress come upon us. And Reuben answered them, saying, Spake I not unto y on, saying, Do not sin against the child; and ye would not hear? therefore, behold, also his blood is required. And they knew not that Joseph understood them; for he spake unto them by an interpreter."
The avowal "1 am Joseph," coming in after the devoted offer of self-sacrifice and the pleading of Judah, as found at the close of the forty-fourth chapter is powerful. The whole history points to what is yet to come, the conduct and acting of the Lord Jesus, that second Joseph, with the Jews, in the latter days, whereby He will draw forth from them confession of their guilt-yearnings of heart and devotedness of purpose ere Ile reveals Himself to them as the present Messiah in glory, the once despised and rejected Jesus of Nazareth.
In the eighteenth of Genesis we find (vers. 20, 21) " the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great;" and the Lord says, " I will go down now, and see whether they have done altogether according to the cry of it, which is come unto me; and if not, I will know." He went down, and judgment was the answer. The cry that came up had an answer according to what God in government was, not according to the thought of those from whom it came. So here when the cry and groaning of distress from the children of Israel came up before the Lord, the answer was not according to their thoughts, but according to the mind of God upon that cry-it led to deliverance. It is important to remember this. Intelligence as to the result of sorrow poured out before the Lord is sustainment to the heart and mind; but the groan, the sigh that is poured forth before him, will in no wise lose its reward, even when intelligence is defective or absent.
How blessed the word (chap. 3:7) " I have surely seen the affliction of My people which are in Egypt, and have heard their cry by reason of their task-masters; for I know their sorrows;" and (ver. 9) " behold, the cry of the children of Israel is come unto me; and I have also seen the oppression wherewith the Egyptians oppress them."
(e)-Instruction of no little value is to be found, to the servant of the Lord, in comparing Moses, when running before he was sent (as recorded in Ex. 2:11-1511And it came to pass in those days, when Moses was grown, that he went out unto his brethren, and looked on their burdens: and he spied an Egyptian smiting an Hebrew, one of his brethren. 12And he looked this way and that way, and when he saw that there was no man, he slew the Egyptian, and hid him in the sand. 13And when he went out the second day, behold, two men of the Hebrews strove together: and he said to him that did the wrong, Wherefore smitest thou thy fellow? 14And he said, Who made thee a prince and a judge over us? intendest thou to kill me, as thou killedst the Egyptian? And Moses feared, and said, Surely this thing is known. 15Now when Pharaoh heard this thing, he sought to slay Moses. But Moses fled from the face of Pharaoh, and dwelt in the land of Midian: and he sat down by a well. (Exodus 2:11‑15)), and Moses when commissioned to go, as recorded in chaps. 3 and 4. Until his sense of power and energy, and conceit in his own ways were broken down in him, and feelingly confessed, he was in no state to be a vessel used of the Lord. Alas the discipline that broke down self, and made him know what Egypt was, made him forget the counsels and power of the Lord. What a thing will, fallen human will, is! It will either accomplish divine counsels and plans in its own way, and by its own energy; or if it tastes the circumstances of difficulty sufficiently to discredit itself (as not being in itself equal to meet them), it will refuse to be obedient to the Lord.
Still, be it noticed, that oversight of God's presence and power to bless, all-sinful as it is, does not present the impediment to progress which a heedless, unbroken good opinion of one's own wisdom and energy does. The self-complacent, energetic Moses, that kills and buries the Egyptian in the sand, disheartened because his brethren have not confidence in him, flees from the face of Pharaoh into Midian. Mistrustful of self, of his own wisdom and power, he is forced of the Lord to go and have honor thrust upon him. Such is poor fallen man! Such is the God who makes a man to be his servant and uses him as such.
(f)-In glancing for a moment at Israel's deliverance from Egypt, we see one of those awful cases of confession extorted in judgment, which show plainly the error of those who would either supplant "faith in Grace" by confession; or consider that confession necessarily supposes that faith in grace exists.
The folly of these notions, and the narrowness of the human system out of which they flow is proved by such cases as Judas.
" Then Judas, which had betrayed him, when he saw that he was condemned, repented himself, and brought again the thirty pieces of silver to the Chief Priests and elders, Saying, I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood. And they said, What is that to us? see thou to that. And he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself" (Matt. 27:3-53Then Judas, which had betrayed him, when he saw that he was condemned, repented himself, and brought again the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, 4Saying, I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood. And they said, What is that to us? see thou to that. 5And he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself. (Matthew 27:3‑5)); who "fell that he might go to his own place" (Acts 1:2626And they gave forth their lots; and the lot fell upon Matthias; and he was numbered with the eleven apostles. (Acts 1:26)).
The way that the Lord extorts, again and again, confession from Pharaoh and his partners in iniquity, and his sinful people, ere the full judgment falls on Egypt-is a solemn lesson. Awful proof of what the potsherd is when it strives with its Maker, and its mad folly in so doing. Such " pillars of salt," as may herein be found are strong enough to bear throughout man's day, the names and inscribed confessions of such as Pharaoh and his hosts; an Achan; a Balaam; a Saul; a Judas; a Simon Magus; barren in themselves, may they serve as beacons and guards to ourselves!
(g)-I pass by, with a simple reference to them, the large place which confession (in the better connection of confession flowing out of man's relationship to God) holds in the polity and mediatorship: tabernacle and priesthood; feasts, sacrifices, and ordinances, etc., of Israel: every part of which, however, is redolent with the truth, and deeply typical of more important realities in those eternal, heavenly, persons and things, which were the counterparts. To take one example: see, for instance, the frontlet of gold with " Holiness to the Lord" inscribed upon it upon Aaron's forehead, that he might bear the iniquity of the holy things which the children of Israel should hallow in all their holy gifts; to be upon his forehead, that these might be accepted before the Lord.
(h)-While Israel was worshipping and sacrificing before the golden calf, Moses was praying for them in the mount. He pleaded the Lord's glory, and prevailed, for " the Lord repented of the evil which He thought to do unto His people" (Ex. 32:1414And the Lord repented of the evil which he thought to do unto his people. (Exodus 32:14)). Yet when he had known their sin for himself, after descending from the mount, he had to return up again to pour out his confession.
" And Moses returned unto the Lord, and said, Oh, this people have sinned a great sin, and have made them gods of gold. Yet now, if thou wilt forgive their sin-; and if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book which thou hast written." Moreover, the Lord said to Moses:
" Say unto the children of Israel, Ye are a stiff-necked people: I will come up into the midst of thee in a moment, and consume thee; therefore, now put off thy ornaments from thee, that I may know what to do unto thee. And the children of Israel stripped themselves of their ornaments by the Mount of Horeb" (chap. 33:5 and 6); and then (ver. 7) "Moses took the tabernacle and pitched it without the camp, afar off from the camp, and called it the Tabernacle of the Congregation. And it came to pass, that every one which sought the Lord went out unto the tabernacle of the congregation, which was without the camp." All which things were expressions of failure and humiliation, therefore by Israel.
Among the sacrifices, the sin and trespass offering, and among the feasts, the great day of atonement, may be specially noted as avowals of failure.
(i)-When Moses was angry with Eleazar and Ithamar, because a certain sacrifice should have been eaten of, Aaron replies ('twas at the time of the death of Nadab and Abihu)-" Behold, this day have they offered their sin-offering and their burnt-offering before the Lord; and such things have befallen me; and if I had eaten the sin-offering to-day, should it have been accepted in the sight of the Lord? And when Moses heard that, he was content."
And many a neglected, unused privilege stands for a record of sin against us, if the failure and judgment which hinder us the enjoyment are not pleaded before the Lord.
(j)—I will now advert to two passages of peculiar interest connected with Israel under judgment, and how it gets again into blessing-Lev. 26 and Deut. 30. After describing the ten-fold judgment upon them, mercy's rays dawn in thus—" If they shall confess their iniquity, and the iniquity of their fathers, with their trespass which they trespassed against me, and that also they have walked contrary unto me; and that I also have walked contrary unto them, and have brought them into the land of their enemies; if then their uncircumcised hearts be humbled, and they then accept of the punishment of their iniquity then will I remember my covenant with Jacob, and also my covenant with Isaac, and also my covenant with Abraham will I remember; and I will remember the land... And yet for all that, when they be in the land of their enemies, I will not cast them away, neither will I abhor them, to destroy them utterly; and to break my covenant with them: for I am the Lord their God. But I will for their sakes remember the covenant of their ancestors, whom I brought forth out of the land of Egypt in the sight of the heathen, that I might be their God: I am the Lord." As sure as are the mercies which are in store for Israel-" a covenant ordered in "all things and sure"-so surely is there but one narrow neck of land (isthmus of confession, and acceptance at the Lord's hand of His judgments) that leads, as the way, into that land and its blessings.
In Deuteronomy we have the same truth, with the blessed addition of the explanation of the reason of this, viz., the obedience of faith.
" And it shall come to pass, when all these things are come upon thee, the blessing and the curse, which I have set before thee, and thou shalt call them to mind among all the nations, whither the Lord thy God hath driven thee, and shalt return unto the Lord thy God, and shalt obey his voice according to all that I command thee this day, thou and thy children, with all thine heart, and with all thy soul; that then the Lord thy God will turn thy captivity, and have compassion upon thee, and will return and gather thee from all the nations, whither the Lord thy God hath scattered thee. If any of thine be driven out unto the utmost parts of heaven, from thence will the Lord thy God gather thee, and from thence will he fetch thee: and the Lord thy God will bring thee into the, land which thy fathers possessed, and thou shalt possess it; and he will do thee good, and multiply thee above thy fathers. And the Lord thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with thy soul, that thou mayest live. And the Lord thy God will put all these curses upon thine enemies, and on them that hate thee, which persecuted thee. And thou shalt return and obey the voice of the Lord, and do all his commandments which I command thee this day. And the Lord thy God will make thee plenteous in every work of thine hand, in the fruit of thy body, and in the fruit of thy cattle, and in the fruit of thy land, for good: for the Lord will again rejoice over thee for good, as He rejoiced over thy fathers: if thou shalt hearken unto the voice of the Lord thy God, to keep His commandments and His statutes which are written in this book of the law, and if thou turn unto the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul."
The discovery of their real state (v. 1), and return of heart and soul to obey the Lord (v. 2), will lead to the Lord's turning to them (v. 3); gathering from all lands (v. 4), and blessing in the land (v. 5); to inward blessing (v. 6) and outward deliverance (v. 7), to liberty of obedience and external prosperity (v. 8 and 9).
(v. 10). " If thou shalt hearken unto the voice of the Lord thy God, to keep His commandments and His
statutes which are written in this book of the law, and if thou turn unto the Lord thy God, with all thine heart and with all thy soul" -and then follows, from verse 11 to the end of verse 15, the obedience of faith, as quoted by Paul in the 10th chapter of the epistle to the Romans, as lying at the root of our blessing.
Yes (and it is an important truth ever to bear in mind), God cannot deny Himself. Give up the place of supremacy He cannot; admit any one into blessing, save in the spirit of obedience, is as impossible as to admit any one into blessing, save upon the ground of a perfect obedience. His grace to us claims our being subject, so subject as to be willing to renounce the natural law of creature-blessing, the obedience of works, and to accept His appointment to us as sinners, and submit ourselves to the righteousness of faith without works. He maketh us willing in the day of His power.
(k)-In the intercession of Moses for Israel at the time of its murmuring, as given in Numbers, the 14th chapter, he winds up his splendid intercession with these words" And now, I beseech thee, let the power of my Lord be great, according as thou hast spoken, saying, The Lord is long-suffering, and of great mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression, and by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation. Pardon, I beseech thee, the iniquity of this people according unto the greatness of thy mercy, and as thou hast forgiven this people, from Egypt even until now."
To which this gracious reply is added-" And the Lord said, I have pardoned according to thy word: but as truly as I live, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord."
The study of these cases may well cheer the heart, and strengthen faith in every cloudy and dark day.
No temptation but such as is common to man has befallen any of us; the Lord knows how to deliver: and, blessed be His name, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous, whom we should wrong (even Moses himself being judge) did we set Him in comparison with Moses, though divine grace has stooped to glorify Moses, in making him a type (feeble and failing) of Him that was to come. Coming up out of darkness, the eye can avail itself of the least, the feeblest rays of light, and see in it and use thankfully objects, which, when we have got into the full light, and in sight of objects therein, have no glory in comparison.
In chap. 16:15, and again in chap. xx. 10, we find two failures of Moses in mediatorship, such as have no parallel in our blessed Lord-perfect in all things: as true to the feeblest of the people as to the glory of Him that sent Him.
(l)-There is a remark which might well be made upon the Book of Numbers, in connection with that which produces humiliation and confession in the people of the Lord, viz. the sense of failure against a gracious and faithful God. The name of Numbers is, doubtless, derived from the numbering of the people here recorded; but the book is, in a certain sense, the picture of the camp in the wilderness. As such it contains, alas I the record of the number of the failures of the people, stiff-necked and rebellious people as they were. In the midst of this record of their sins, a beautiful and touching proof is introduced of the graciousness and faithfulness of the God against whom they sinned. Balak hires Balaam to curse the people. He comes, for reward, to do so, but cannot, for the testimony that bursts from him is for blessing. " God hath not beheld iniquity in Jacob, neither hath He seen perverseness in Israel," etc. Amazing grace and faithful love, which, on the one hand (because it is love), claims a response, and will not hide from its object the pain and displeasure it feels in being treated unworthily in return for all its goodness; and which, on the other hand, counts the efforts of the adversary to curse to be an attack upon itself; its right to choose, its capacity to justify, its unwavering faith- fullness and purpose to bless. God will not pass by our dishonoring of Him, or, in so doing, our forsaking of our own mercies. Holy, love cannot pass it by. But He judges His own people. The effort of Satan is not merely to curse the people, but also to impugn the God who has taken them for His. Neither effort can be successful. The introduction (in the heart of that book which tells us of God's reckonings of His people) of such efforts of the adversary is striking: the juxtaposition of the two things helps the soul into humble confession.
(m)-In Deuteronomy, chap, 26, there is a new phase of confession, viz., in connection with blessing in the land. Come into the land, the Israelite was to take the basket of first-fruits to the place where the Lord should set His name. The priest, receiving the basket, should place it before the altar. (v. 5). "And thou shalt say before the Lord thy God, A Syrian ready to perish was my father; and he went down into Egypt, and sojourned there with a few, and became there a nation, great, mighty, and populous." Then follows the mention of oppression crying to God, deliverance, and entrance into the land (v. 6-9); all of it by the Lord's power, shown toward them in their distress.
The basket of first-fruits records His grace which them into blessing, worship, and joy. The real blessedness of the position held by Israel in the land could, never be enjoyed otherwise, for the cream-the kernel-the sweetest part of the blessing, was not in itself or in the enjoyment of it, but in the truth of its being God's gift in grace to a poor and feeble people. He had put the blessing on them. It was His gift and purpose blessing for them. Precious truth! and distinctive; peculiar to and in harmony with Deuteronomy, the second law-book testimony of how a weak and feeble people could get blessing, even by the obedience of faith.
(n)-In reading chapters 28 to 33 how plain is it that until Israel learns how to blend obedience, as of failed people, with the mercy of their God they never can get their promised blessing.
In Joshua-book of the entrance, through Divine grace and power, into the Land-we get, consistently enough, few references to confession. There is one chapter, however, the seventh, in which we find a vivid an important contrast drawn between bewailing upon one face, weakness, when it is the effect of covered sin, am the putting away of the evil. The camp was all-victorious; for God was with them; -suddenly their strength is found to have departed, as suddenly as does Sampson's, when his hair is cut. In vain does nature stir itself up, to fresh efforts. God had been dishonored by Achan, and the covered sin is the camp's weakness. Joshua goes to humble himself before the Lord: he is met with a stern command to sanctify the people. He uses the appointed lot and Achan is taken-and judged; and the strength of the Lord is with them again.
Judges-as the picture of Israel's possession of the land-is a book replete with causes for, and instances of humiliation, and also of the value of confession. The declension is gradual, but steady: what can man keep safely in his own hand? and the motives which act in the people and in the Judges whom Mercy raised up, from time to time, are more and more mixed, as the book progresses. The energy and grace of God had -approved themselves in Joshua, and a God-honoring people, who marched into blessing. But what will man do when, being as he is, he is left in possession of blessing? He will corrupt himself, dishonor God, and find the blessing to be a judgment.
No difficulty, no adverse circumstance can triumph over the man that walks with God; but possession, in divine things, is not always retention. To keep what has been won, supposes the winner to abide in the power by which he won. Often while "getting of possession" is in question, there is a purpose and intention of God in the soul, which enables it to put down self, but which it retains not when in possession; then it would enjoy the winnings; it forgets God; self enters, and the blessing is gone. Compare, on this subject, the blessed Lord's untainted course through an evil world when Satan was Prince of it, and man's course in the millennial earth, when Christ has set the world to rights: If self is entirely subject to God-what can prevail against us? If self is not wholly for God, there is but the lack of "an occasion" between us and rebellion. There is we know but one that is perfect. It is well to remark the different aspects of energy in faith," as connected with getting into blessing- standing fast in it-partial recoveries-and when all, outwardly has failed. God never fails; and there is always a present path with him, and for him, to those that are his upon earth. May we find and keep to it.
What a book is the Book of Ruth! What a divine presentation, in the simple history of a poor woman's experience of the Divine ways and counsels. More than this: for He who, being God over all, blessed forever, could show such individual delight in the ways and counsels which would issue in His people's blessing, as to have cast the history of this poor woman in the type of the blessed things of His Son,-surely! He has His character made manifest thereby. So it is, and ever has been, from the beginning. His delight in salvation has multiplied types of it. Who can read this account without the thoughts of redemption-blessing as contrasted with creation-blessing rising to His mind. God as the God of resurrection, too, stands confessed. Redemption and resurrection as principles acted upon in domestic circumstances; for redemption as an end and resurrection as a way, are so completely, so inseparably connected with what are essentially divine glories, that not only will they eventually form a vast scene above and below into which God will bring his glory; but, when He acts to display Himself anywhere (even in a poor woman's history), His action takes that form. No creature standing in its perfectness, as a creature, with blessings committed to it, can possibly be so blessed as a failed creature brought, with a renewed heart and new nature, through redemption, into the glory of God, as being part of the purchase of the Lord Jesus. Neither outside, nor inside, can the blessedness of the former case be made equal to that of the latter. Now in this view it is clear, if man was set as the center of a system and has lost all his character and portion, through sin,-but that redemption has come in to make good the thought of Man the center of a system, and that this is found true in the Son of man, the Lord Jesus; then, we that are gathered around Him, rejoicing in Man the center of a system, we have Him, who is that center, and Him only to glory in.
And so will it be throughout eternity. The redemption-glory is not separate from God.-The glory of God was not the sphere proper to the mere creature man, it is the sphere we look for as redeemed sons of God-and, O how ineffably connected with all the height of divine blessedness, God the Father; the Son of. God-Son of man; the Church His Bride-the new Jerusalem in the heavens, full of the Holy Ghost-vessel of His Heavenly glory; on earth-Israel in the land,-the Gentiles around, blessed,-the knowledge of the glory of the Lord covering the earth as the waters cover the sea. How could Eden compare with such a chain of blessedness? And one's self there; myself; confession surely is natural;-
"There no stranger God shall greet thee,
Stranger thou in courts above."
For myself I do not doubt that the whole picture given in the hook of Ruth is typical. The names are all remarkable; Elimelech (God as king); Naomi (pleasure); Ruth (satisfied); Orpah (nakedness of mouth); Boaz (strength); Obed (servant). God as king has ever had a pleasant purpose before Him of grace. He has shown it in two different ways in this world of distance from Him. The two covenants are witnesses hereof. Both, as seen here below fail; but of one only can we say that the purpose of it never failed, and that, returned to the Lord's presence, it came under the guardianship of Him who is Strength, and brought forth a servant-the heir and line of all blessing.
It was grace, full and free grace, which introduced a Thamar, and a Rachab, and a Ruth into the line of descent of the root and offspring of David; and has thus stained the pride of man. Poor Naomi, she who had longed for children and murmured against God for having dealt very bitterly with her-how was she reproved when the Lord gave her a son-and she heard her neighbors say "Blessed be the Lord, which hath not left thee this day without a kinsman, that his name may be famous in Israel. And he shall be unto thee a restorer of thy life, and a nourisher of thine old age: for thy daughter in law, which loveth thee, which is better to thee than seven sons, hath born him."
In Samuel 1 we have the account of the failure of the office of prophetic Judge, and a view given us of man's King and God.
In the 12 chap. there is a most memorable portion;- one that shows how wherever man may find himself, however he may have wrought folly, still that nothing can shut the door, if there be but the obedience of faith.
Samuel recalls the nation's past sins, and the mercies which confession had often brought in, together with the present sin.
" When Jacob was come into Egypt, and your fathers cried unto the Lord, then the Lord sent Moses and Aaron, which brought forth your fathers out of Egypt, and made them dwell in this place. And when they forgat the Lord their God, he sold them into the hand of Sisera, captain of the host of Hazor, and into the band of the Philistines, and into the hand of the king of Moab, and they fought against them. And they cried unto the Lord, and said, We have sinned, because we have forsaken the Lord, and have served Baalim and Ashtaroth: but now deliver us out of the hand of our enemies, and we will serve thee. And the Lord sent Jerubbaal, and Bedan, and Jephthah, and Samuel, and delivered you out of the hand of your enemies on every side, and ye dwelled safe. And when ye saw that Nahash the king of the children of Ammon came against you, ye said unto me, Nay; but a king shall reign over us: when the Lord your God was your king."
He then, ver. 13-15, exhorts them to the obedience of faith and warns against the disobedience of unbelief; charges home upon them, their exceeding great wickedness, and gives them a sign from the Lord thereof,-(v. 16-18). When fear seizes upon their hearts (v. 19), he puts before them this solemn truth:-
" Fear not: ye have done all this wickedness: yet turn not aside from following the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart; and turn ye not aside: for then should ye go after vain things, which cannot profit nor deliver; for they are vain. For the Lord will not forsake His people for His great name's sake: because it hath pleased the Lord to make you His people. Moreover, as for me, God forbid that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you: but I will teach you the good and the right way: only fear the Lord, and serve Him in truth with all your heart: for consider how great things He hath done for you. But if ye shall still do wickedly, ye shall be consumed, both ye and your king."
Confession of entire failure,-purpose of heart to cleave to the Lord,-obedience according to present circumstance, -upon the sure ground of the vanity of every other course, and on the firm footing that the Lord will not forsake His people for His great name's sake; because it hath pleased the Lord to make you His people:-what blessed rallying in the day of rout and defeat is here.
'Twas a lesson Saul never could learn; but David he apprehended it and practiced it.
In the second book of Samuel there is a portion to be noticed, the seventh chapter. It is full of instruction as to the ways of God, and the feebleness of the heart of man. Man, when blessed, oft finds the blessing, given of the Lord to him too much for him: affecting his heart and drawing forth affections beyond the measure of his judgment, in the ways and thoughts of God; it sometimes discovers the weakness of the receiver and puts him into the place of being judged. David,-delivered from his enemies and established in the kingdom,-bethinks himself of the God who had saved and exalted him. 'Twas right and meet he should so, and should prove and show forth his gratitude. To do this, however, wisely, he needed a waiting on the Lord's thoughts, and a humble following of them out in the set of circumstances in which the Lord had placed him. He might have bethought himself, as did Solomon, in his wisdom, how shall I be able to rule the Lord's people? 'Twas a heavy fall and broken bones, however, which brought forth, from the sweet psalmist of Israel, the expression (accompanied with a sigh, " my house is not so with God"!) " He that ruleth over men must be just ruling in the fear of God." Instead of being occupied with the line marked out for him, it was in his heart that he should build the Lord a settled house. Nathan consented and encouraged: how different is Nathan here, sent for by the king, from Nathan sent, in c. 12, to the king. The Lord comes in in grace to correct prophet and king. He lets David down into his proper place. He was not to be the Patron but the patronized. God recalls to him whence he was, and how he got into the place where he stood, and gives him "a why" for it-that the Lord loved his people Israel, meant to establish them, that he would build David a house (instead of David's building him one of stone), a house of living children, among whom was to be found Him who was the root and offspring of David-the True Beloved One-in whom God would always be well pleased. David is now in his right place.
" Then went king David in, and sat before the Lord, and he said, Who am I, O Lord God? and what is my house that Thou hast brought me hitherto And this was yet a small thing in Thy sight, O Lord God; but Thou hast spoken also of Thy servant's house for a great while to come. And is this the manner of man, O Lord God? And what can David say more unto Thee? For Thou, Lord God, knowest Thy servant, For Thy word's sake, and according to Thine own heart, hast Thou done all these great things, to make Thy servant know them."
And then he goes on musing and speaking of what the Lord is.
There is something in this sort of confession which is strangely sweet; which blessedly connects itself with the thought of glory-of grace and glory. Never shall we be more little in our own eyes than when we find ourselves in that glory which the Father has given to the Son and which he gives to His Bride.
It does seem that there is a solemn lesson to be learned in David's history, the vast difference between floating, with many a rude buffet and struggle, in the current of God's power, over all circumstances of difficulty, to a point of desire-and the gaining the mastery over one's self. The David that overcame all was self betrayed afterward. There is a difference, and it is a marked one, between the king's song of triumph—triumph through the Lord's power over all his adversaries (as found in the 22 chapter), and the humble confiding thanksgiving (in the 23 chapter) of how he found grace could triumph over His own sin. Deep and awful was the sin which used the pinnacle of glory to which God had raised him, as the place in which to dishonor God. The king who should have ruled for God committing such sins as David, the man after God's own heart, did! Well may man tremble even to the end of his course. Deep was the sorrow, sore the judgment which resulted. The sword was never to depart from the house and retributive justice avenged the dishonor put upon the Lord's name by the sin, after it was pardoned, by pouring into David's own heart, as a father, into the very midst of his family, the self-same evil. No humiliation, no confession could avail to remove the judgment in government, though the sin was forgiven and the soul of David was restored to communion with the Lord.
It may be well to call attention to the fact of the difference of God's dealing with the soul as to the question of remission of sins, and his dealing with the person as a member of the society on which his name is called. He saves us as being in ourselves chiefest of sinners-we should thereupon be holy-if we sin, and live in sin, our communion with Him is interrupted, and His Spirit is quenched and grieved. When sin is confessed, His Spirit will again act freely in blessing, though we may find the effect upon our own souls of sin and its habit; but intercourse with God is renewed. No sooner was David awakened to a sense of the deed he had done by Nathan's parable and application, and avowed (chap. 12:13) " I have sinned against the Lord," than the assurance is instantly given. "The Lord hath also put away thy sin, thou shalt not die." But while this assurance was immediately given to David's confession,-he had to bear before man the chastening of the hand of the Lord. If the entire difference of these two things are not marked, there must be weakness: either the sin will be supposed not to be forgiven because the judgments are continued; or the judgments thought lightly of and overlooked, because the sin is known to be forgiven.
It may be true, in His dealings with His people, that God's ordinary way is as to those that walk with Him to pardon a transgression before He chastens for it; but if the governmental conduct of God is known, His walk with His people through the wilderness, then, the correction will be looked for, and such visitations as will mark before man that sin cannot be committed in impunity where God professes to be, or in those who profess to walk before Him. It is a solemn and a very serious thought for our souls in such a day as this is. But
David had his protracted discipline after the sin was pardoned. See, for instance, the death of the child (chap. 12); Amnon's sin and violence against Tamar, the sister of Absalom; and Absalom's treacherous murder of Amnon (chap. 13); Absalom's rebellion leading to David's flight (chap. 15); Shimei's cursing, and Ahithophel's hostility (chap. 16); David's agony about Absalom; the consequences among his people (chap. 19); and all this in spite of the spirit of gentle submission and confession shown by David throughout. Doubtless there was not only the Lord's avenging of His own name in all this, but also a forming and fashioning of the soul and mind of David to the mind and will of God. The need of this in David and in the people is shown in chap. 24.
The confessional supplication of Solomon at the dedication of the temple (1 Kings 8) seems to identify itself in principle with the confession implied in the whole sanctuary. The blessing was one that supposed sin in the people and judgments resulting therefrom.
The confession (1 Kings, chap. 10:4-9) of the Queen of Sheba before Solomon in his glory, as compared with the confession of Moses before his father (Ex. 18) is worthy of notice. At the beginning, in the very outset, of the dispensation which measured man, while it was full of types and shadows of better things to come-things which would proclaim God and His answers to man's known need. Moses, the mediator, and Aaron, the high-priest, defer to this Midianite stranger in sacrifice; and then Moses is directed by him what to do-and longs to take this stranger with them for eyes to them in the wilderness: but when the dispensation had run out its exhibitions into such an item as that and the kingly glory to come, all earth, as it were, bows before the monarch, and there is no heart left in the queen of Sheba, when she had seen the king of glory.
Alas, what is man! This same Solomon (blessed type of a greater that was to come) degrades himself, through his many wives, and sinks down to the sanction of idolatry.
" His wives turned (1 Kings chap. 11:4) away his heart after other gods; and his heart was not perfect with the Lord his God as was the heart of David his father. For Solomon went after Ashtoreth, the goddess of the. Zidonians, and after Milcom, the abomination of the Ammonites," etc. We have no record of his restoration similar to that of David; but his Book of Proverbs stands as his witness against his folly, and the Book of Ecclesiastes, as his avowal of the entire insufficiency of any display of God in providential circumstances to satisfy the heart of man. His wisdom, his blessedness, and his wealth, were not so good as the fashion of David as a man after God's own heart.
The tender mercy of the Lord in the midst of judgment, remembering mercy is ever sweet-blessed His remembrance of David, when rending the kingdom from out of the family of Solomon, and giving " one tribe, that David my servant may have a light alway before me in Jerusalem, the city which I have chosen me to put my name there." How merciful was the Lord when in judging Jeroboam (chap. 14) He thought of the little child, "And all Israel shall mourn for him, and bury him: for he only of Jeroboam shall come to the grave, because in him there is found some good thing toward the Lord God of Israel in the house of Jeroboam." So again how affecting is the word, " For the Lord saw the affliction of Israel, that it was very bitter: for there was not any shut up, nor any left, nor any helper for Israel. And the Lord said not that he would blot out the name of Israel from under heaven: but he saved them by the hand of Jeroboam the son of Joash."
These instances may, for the present, suffice as illustrations of individual confession; they present, I think, most of the different aspects in which confession is seen in Scripture. To pass through all the cases which are recorded can easily be done by those that desire it. Those already cited will show the difference between confession of dispensational failure and confession of sin individually committed by oneself. There are other connections of the subject which may well be considered, at another time, if the Lord so will.