THERE ARE AT least seven individuals in Scripture who confessed outwardly and/or inwardly, “I have sinned…”
- Pharaoh – Exo. 9:27; 10:16,
- Balaam – Num. 22:34,
- Achan – Josh. 7:20-21,
- King Saul – 1 Sam. 15:24, 30
- King David – 2 Sam. 12:13; 24:10; Psa. 41:6
- Judas Iscariot – Mat. 27:4, and
- The youngest of the two prodigal sons – Lk. 15:18, 21.
Of this number, ONLY TWO experienced genuine remorse for their actions and were willing to turn away from their transgressions, even though all seven of them orally confessed essentially the same three words.
But how do we, and can we, determine the identity of the two who were sincere (one in each Testament), as opposed to the five who were not so inclined?
Is it possible to pour through the Bible, read and study the context of each man’s situation, and then decide which of them said more than “I have sinned,” but they actually exhibited penitent hearts of true contrition?
When Pharaoh said, “I have sinned” his was a FEIGNING confession. He just wanted the plagues of hail and locusts to stop (Exo. 9:28; 10:17). The wicked monarch was like a soldier in a foxhole entreating God in prayer for deliverance, only to return to his former sinful ways after the artillery barrage is over.
When Balaam said, “I have sinned,” his was a FAKE confession because he felt compelled to justify the beating of his innocent, defenseless donkey that had seemingly rebelled against him (Num. 22:22-30), when the prophet himself was attempting to defy the Lord’s authority (v. 32). The seer was like an arrogant politician who believes that rules and laws only apply to the masses, but not to himself.
When Achan said, “I have sinned,” his was essentially a FORCED confession because his number one concerned was not over the fact that he had broken God’s command (Josh. 7:20), or that he was solely responsible for the deaths of three-dozen men (Josh. 7:11-12, 15; 1 Chron. 2:7; cf. Isa. 59:2), but that he and his family would mutually pay the austere wages of his own selfish sin (Josh. 32:23; cf. Rom. 6:23). He was like the immature child who complains and cries because he knows he’s going to be disciplined for not listening to his Father’s instructions.
When King Saul said, “I have sinned,” his was a FAULTY confession because he initially denied disobeying God (1 Sam. 15:13, 15), and then later offered a weak alibi (1 Sam. 15:20-21) to vindicate himself of his obvious guilt. The proud ruler was like the insincere person who says, “IF I have done anything wrong against you, I apologize…”
When Judas said, “I have sinned,” his was a FRUITLESS confession because a) he had been a long-time thief of his fellow-disciple’s money (i.e., the treasury box – Jn. 12:6), b) he knew experientially that Jesus was the Messiah (Mat. 16:20), but c) he also knew that he had sold out his sinless Savior for thirty pieces of silver (Mat. 26:15; cf. Exo. 21:32; Zech. 11:12-13). The wayward apostle was alike a self-deceived criminal who thinks he can indiscriminately break the laws of the land and still escape the consequences of his misconduct.
But now, pay very close attention to David and the Prodigal, because while both of them also confessed their sins, their heartfelt words were first born out of a keen personal realization that they had offended the Father (cf. Luke 18:9-14). Watch:
David lamented to Jehovah, “Against You, You only, have I sinned, and done this evil in Your sight…” (Psa. 51:4).
Likewise, the younger prodigal agonized, “How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you…” (Lk. 15:17-19a).
The two mourned the enormity of their iniquities that had separated them from their Father (cf. Isa. 59:1-2; Psa. 51:1ff), while the five were less concerned about the sin and separation, and more worried about the consequences of their rebellion towards Him (cf. 2 Cor. 7:10).
“But Mike, what do all of these confessions tell me – especially about honest confession of my sins?”
These individuals tell us a great deal about the MOTIVES behind our confessions.
Beloved, WHEN (not IF) we sin, we need to take a long, in-depth look at WHY we admit, “I have sinned” (cf. 1 Jn. 1:8).
Is our confession sincere and indicative of a broken and contrite spirit (Psa. 51:17; Isa. 57:15) that acted in defiance of the Heavenly Father, OR is it a weak and feeble means of covering our transgressions?
The Bible says, “Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy” (Prov. 28:13).
Think about it.
“God loves you and I love you and that’s the way it’s gonna be!” – Mike