After becoming concerned about the problem, and expressing his conviction about God’s character, Nehemiah is now moved to admit his sin and the sins of his people in verses 6-7: “Let your ear be attentive and your eyes open to hear the prayer your servant is praying before you day and night for your servants, the people of Israel. I confess the sins we Israelites, including myself and my father’s house, have committed against you. We have acted very wickedly toward you. We have not obeyed the commands, decrees, and laws you gave your servant Moses.”
It’s one thing to be concerned and to even have a firm conviction of who God is. It’s another thing to actually confess. Many of us never get this far. We might feel bad about our sins or be concerned about how things are going. Our theology may even be correct. We know things are bad and that God is good but we hesitate at this next step.
Nehemiah boldly asks God to hear his prayer, which literally means, “to hear intelligently with great attention.” There are, at least, three key ingredients in Nehemiah's confession of sin.
There was intensity... Overwhelmed by concern about sin and in awe of God’s character, Nehemiah gave himself to prolonged petition and intercession. He prayed day and night, spending every moment of time in God’s presence.
There was honesty...Nehemiah made no attempt to excuse the Israelites for their sin and actually owned his part in their culpability. He surveyed the grim record of Israel’s past and present failure, and he knew that he was not exempt from blame. Notice that he prays, “I confess the sins we Israelites, including myself…we have acted very wickedly…we have not obeyed…” It would have been easy for Nehemiah to look back and blame his ancestors but instead he looked within and blamed himself.
There was urgency... Nehemiah recognized that sin is not merely a stubborn refusal to obey certain rules, but is also a defiant act of aggressive personal rebellion against a holy God. He knows that they “have acted very wickedly.” He didn’t try to candy-coat his sin. He owned it and called it what it was.
Trying to hide our sins from God is impossible. He knows all about them. Numbers 32:23 reminds us that, “…you may be sure that your sin will find you out.” We need to recognize that all sin, those things we have blatantly done or carelessly committed, or those things that we have left undone, must be identified and then confessed.
It’s better to confess sin now than to wait until it exposes us.
Is there any sin that you are aware of that is being hidden today?