I’ve heard it said, “Confession is good for the soul.” That might have been an appropriate title for this week’s sermon! Confession was a necessary element that took deliberate, “high-handed” sins and put them in the category of a forgivable sin.
But did you know there are several different words that translate “confess” in Hebrew and Greek? Each of the words carries a unique nuance that’s helpful for our understanding of what it means to confess our sin before the Lord.
First, the Hebrew in Leviticus 5:5 uses the word yadah, which we translate here “confess.” Most often, this word is used (in another Hebrew stem) to mean “praise, give thanks.” However, used in sacrificial contexts with this stem, the word means “to acknowledge, confess” or even “to expose, reveal.”
When we confess our sin, we are acknowledging it for what it is: sin! We recognize that our actions miss the mark of God’s divine standard and we expose those actions for what they truly are. We also acknowledge our own inadequacy to solve the problem of that sin.
Second, we also see the word “acknowledge” used in a similar way. The example I gave on Sunday might be helpful here: in Psalm 32:5, David says of his sin, “I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,” and you forgave the iniquity of my sin” (ESV).
The word “acknowledge” translates a Hebrew word yada (not to be confused with yadah, which has a different final letter in Hebrew, though it sounds the same in English!). This word means to declare it, to make it known. Notice how it’s contrasted with “I did not cover up my iniquity.” As opposed to covering up his sin, David “made it known” (yada) and “exposed” it (yadah).
When we jump into the NT, we see the Greek word homologeō used. The word is a compound from two words – “same” (homo) and “word” (logeō). The basic idea is that when we confess, we are “saying the same word” or “saying the same thing” about our sin that God would say about it. We’re calling sin “sin.” We aren’t trying to shift the blame to someone or something else. We’re owning up to our wretchedness before the Lord and “confessing” we need help solving the problems it causes.
To summarize, three different words in the OT and NT give us three different perspectives on the same issue: confession of sin. What does it mean to confess our sin?
1) yadah – we acknowledge it and expose it.
2) yada – we declare it and make it known.
3) homologeō – we say the same thing about our sin that God would say about it.
So confess your sin to the Lord. He is faithful and just and will forgive us for our sin and cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 Jn 1:9)!