Expositor's Dictionary of Texts
Hear ye this, O priests; and hearken, ye house of Israel; and give ye ear, O house of the king; for judgment is toward you, because ye have been a snare on Mizpah, and a net spread upon Tabor.The Confession of Sin
It is the picture of a father dealing with a child who has not yet owned his fault. The father has been trying to persuade the child, but the child will not confess. Then the father says, 'I will try another way, "I will go and return to my place, till they acknowledge their offence, and seek my face"; my absence will be sure to bring with it sorrow and trouble: and "in their affliction they will seek me early"'. And then it is beautiful to link on the next verse. It is almost a pity that it has been thrown into another chapter. The absence has brought the affliction, and the affliction has brought confession: 'Come, and let us return unto the Lord: for He hath torn, and He will heal us; He hath smitten, and He will bind us up'. We often feel as if God was gone away from us. May it not be that there is just that difference, that distinct boundary-line between absence and presence—'till they shall acknowledge their offence'. And may not that affliction which has visited you have come upon this very errand, to say, 'Confess, confess that secret sin, which is keeping God away from you'? Confess your sins. Bring out those captive kings out of the cavern of your heart. You will find it such a relief; there will come such a sense of liberty; God will be so pleased with you; and you will begin, from that moment, to feel so much happier. There may be very little which stands between you and peace but the silence you are keeping, and the deceit you are practising about some sin. Make the effort. Determine, 'Whatever I am besides, I will be honest, be open, and confess'. But now, let us consider how this confession is to be made.
I. Confess in Humiliation—Confession is to God, and it should be done with the deepest and most careful humiliation. Whatever can help to humiliation, do it. God requires that the relation with Himself which has been interrupted and reversed by your sin should be re-adjusted. You must go very low down into the dust, and God must go up very high. The one will not do without the other. As self goes down, Christ must go up; and as Christ goes up, self must go down. Put yourself, really and simply, at the very lowest—down into the dust—that is the essence of confession.
II. Particularize Your Sins—To the same end let your confession to God particularize. Be very minute—as minute, let your confession be, as you can possibly make it. Mention all the little things. Make them stand out in bold relief. It is the sum of confession. Generally, persons are ready enough to confess many, nay, most of their sins—but there is one which they do not like to speak of, even when they are speaking to God. Now, your confession will be nothing at all if you only reach to that. There are a great many good suggestions and rules about confession in the book of Leviticus, 'And it shall be, when he shall be guilty in one of these things, that he shall confess that he hath sinned in that thing'—that thing. That thing do you lay out before God in all its parts—the guilty omissions which went before it—the wrong motives—the secret feelings—the aggravating circumstances, the special acts—the guilty pleasure—the resistance of the Spirit, the grievings of conscience—the miserable consequences.
III. Accept the Punishment.—When you confess sin, always do it as one who is accepting punishment. Open your breast to take punishment. Feel and say, 'Lord, I am here—no punishment can be too heavy for me'. But, Oh! Father, 'mercifully look upon our infirmities, and for the glory of Thy name, turn from us all those evils that we most righteously have deserved'. 'O Lord, correct me, but with judgment; not in Thine anger, lest Thou bring me to nothing.'
IV. Lay the Sin upon the Altar.—And at the same moment realize, and do not doubt, that you are laying your sin upon the true altar, the Lord Jesus Christ. As you speak the self-demeaning words, and as you feel the heaviest convictions, believe that you are laying all upon the head of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who shall carry all that is there laid on Him, up, far, far away into a land, not inhabited, where they shall be seen and mentioned no more.
V. Make Some Act of Devotion.—Then go and try to embody that confession, and give it all the force and substance you can, by some holy act—some self-denying labour of love—some gift of God—some special act of devotion.
But true confession to God will always be accompanied with, and will always produce, the wish to make some confession to man. If you have ever stolen anything, restore it. If you have told a lie, acknowledge it. If you have done anything that can hurt anybody's feelings, or anybody's soul, go and make what amends you can. You owe it to that man, you owe it to your own soul. It will be good evidence to all men of the reality of your faith and love.
References.—V. 15.—J. Keble, Sermons for Sundays After Trinity, part ii. p. 289. J. Vaughan, Sermons (6th Series), p. 14. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxv. No. 1483. VI. 1.—J. Baldwin Brown, The Sunday Afternoon, p. 269. VI. 1-10.—F. Hastings, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxix. p. 261. VI. 3.—T. R. Williams, Sermons by Welshmen, p. 169. J. M. Neale, Sermons on the Prophets, vol. ii. p. 72. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxi. No. 1246.
And the revolters are profound to make slaughter, though I have been a rebuker of them all.
I know Ephraim, and Israel is not hid from me: for now, O Ephraim, thou committest whoredom, and Israel is defiled.
They will not frame their doings to turn unto their God: for the spirit of whoredoms is in the midst of them, and they have not known the LORD.
And the pride of Israel doth testify to his face: therefore shall Israel and Ephraim fall in their iniquity; Judah also shall fall with them.
They shall go with their flocks and with their herds to seek the LORD; but they shall not find him; he hath withdrawn himself from them.
They have dealt treacherously against the LORD: for they have begotten strange children: now shall a month devour them with their portions.
Blow ye the cornet in Gibeah, and the trumpet in Ramah: cry aloud at Bethaven, after thee, O Benjamin.
Ephraim shall be desolate in the day of rebuke: among the tribes of Israel have I made known that which shall surely be.
The princes of Judah were like them that remove the bound: therefore I will pour out my wrath upon them like water.
Ephraim is oppressed and broken in judgment, because he willingly walked after the commandment.
Therefore will I be unto Ephraim as a moth, and to the house of Judah as rottenness.
When Ephraim saw his sickness, and Judah saw his wound, then went Ephraim to the Assyrian, and sent to king Jareb: yet could he not heal you, nor cure you of your wound.
For I will be unto Ephraim as a lion, and as a young lion to the house of Judah: I, even I, will tear and go away; I will take away, and none shall rescue him.
I will go and return to my place, till they acknowledge their offence, and seek my face: in their affliction they will seek me early.