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Lenten Meditation: Thursday, February 18

1 John 1

5 This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. 6 If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all[b] sin.

8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

Daniel Chapter 9

In the first year of Darius son of Xerxes[a] (a Mede by descent), who was made ruler over the Babylonian[b] kingdom— 2 in the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, understood from the Scriptures, according to the word of the Lord given to Jeremiah the prophet, that the desolation of Jerusalem would last seventy years. 3 So I turned to the Lord God and pleaded with him in prayer and petition, in fasting, and in sackcloth and ashes.

4 I prayed to the Lord my God and confessed:

“Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and keep his commandments, 5 we have sinned and done wrong. We have been wicked and have rebelled; we have turned away from your commands and laws. 6 We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes and our ancestors, and to all the people of the land.

I recall a conversation had with a member of a church I once served. He asked about the prayer of confession that we offered corporately each Sunday. More exactly, he asked why he was being asked to confess to a bunch of sins of which he was not guilty. “I didn’t ignore the poor this week,” he explained. “I didn’t forsake the commandments.”

I understood his point. He didn’t say he was without sin, just without these particular sins. He was not alone, I am sure. I’m not certain there are many who would claim to be without a need for confession, but why do we confess together a unison prayer of confession?

The turn from communal praise—which starts our worship—to corporate confession, is one of the hallmarks of the Reformed tradition. As members of Christ’s body, it is important to not only confess personal sin, but to acknowledge the reality of sin and brokenness in the world. This is what Daniel is doing. Daniel seemed to have little to confess. Daniel is a great biblical hero, true to God, falsely accused, thrown to lions but vindicated in his faithfulness. So what is he doing confessing?

We note that Daniel is not confessing personal sin. He is acknowledging the sin of God’s people as captured in the prophet Jeremiah. Daniel is recognizing, on behalf of God’s people, that the people have been unfaithful. Why else would Daniel be praying from Babylon?

The world is not as God intends it. We see in Jesus Christ God’s intention for God’s creation. We cannot let cruelty, injustice, prejudice, and other forms of human evil go unnamed and unacknowledged. As the first letter of John puts it: If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. Here the author uses the first person plural pronoun. He doesn’t say “if you say you have no sin. He says if we say we have no sin,

The letter goes on to say that with confession comes forgiveness. From naming the cruelties of the world we are assured that God forgives and restores us. This brings us hope, for without forgiveness and mercy there can be no end to hate and injustice. If hearts cannot be turned to God, we would, indeed, be lost.

Jesus-who was without sin—knew the reality of sin in the pain of the cross. And yet, even as the sinless one suffered and died, hope was not gone. Jesus rose from the grave and returned to those who had left him for dead. What wondrous love is this? The love that God has for us all, our hope, and the light that shines in this present darkness.

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