A Moment of Honest Confession

“Then Aaron shall lay both of his hands on the head of the live goat, and CONFESS over it all the iniquities of the sons of Israel and all their transgressions in regard to all their sins; and he shall lay them on the head of the goat and send it away into the wilderness by the hand of a man who stands in readiness” (Lev 16:21).

Word studies must always be done with great caution, since the meaning of a word can only be determined by the context in which it is used. That said, I am truly fascinated by the word “confess,” a word which is closely related to the verb “give thanks/praise.” Both verbs share the same Hebrew root (yadah), but are expressed with different verbal stems, and to entirely different audiences. The verb “confess” is used in a verbal stem that is reflexive (hithpael), and typically expresses actions we do to ourselves (e.g., “I wash myself”) or with another person (e.g., “I marry with other person”). The literal meaning of “confess” cannot be to “praise myself” or to “thank myself” since this would clearly violate the contexts in which this verb appears. Perhaps a better definition would be “to confess to myself who I really am.” When this verbal root is applied to God, however, it is used with a causative verbal stem (hiphil), and means “to attribute a confession to God about who he really is.” The nominal form of this verbal root, todah (“thank you in modern Hebrew”), in fact, is something only given to God in the Hebrew Bible (i.e., a confession of praise; see Lev 7:12-13, 15; 22:29).

Various Confessions

When it comes to a healthy relationship with God, both the reflexive and causative uses of this verb are absolutely essential. To speak accurately about who God is (perfect) and what he deserves (praise), I must also speak accurately about who I am (imperfect) and what I deserve (punishment).

In that moment of honest confession, the perfect God graciously transfers all my imperfections to an innocent sacrifice.

Standing before him through the forgiveness he has provided, I suddenly have no more desire to speak about myself (confess my imperfections). All I want to do is lift my hands and praise God's infinite worth (confess his perfections).

“A Psalm of David. Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless His holy name. Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget none of His benefits; Who pardons all your iniquities, Who heals all your diseases; Who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with lovingkindness and compassion; Who satisfies your years with good things, so that your youth is renewed like the eagle” (Ps 103:1-5).

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