Do me a favor and please read Psalm 106.
We’ve made it to the end of book 4 – a section of psalms that mirrored the book of Numbers. A grouping of psalms that focused on praise and hope and God’s kingdom as he rules over all. We went through highs and lows of emotions and now we come to the doxology – the closer. And this time we end with a beautiful “hallelujah” chorus of “Amen! Praise the Lord.”
Psalm 106 is considered a “sister” (or brother) of psalm 105 as they both encourage the listeners (or the writer themselves) to “praise the Lord.” But what sets the two apart is that while psalm 105 (in which you can find my thoughts on it here) encourages praise it does so from a mainly positive voice, at least “positive” from the standpoint of the Israelites. Psalm 106 still has that “praise” voice but it does so with a not-so-happy voice. Psalm 105: Joy. Psalm 106: Confession of sins.
We read about the blessings God bestowed but it is all in conjunction with the many sins of the people. Praise God? Yup – but praise him because he is patient and kind and has not wiped us off the face of the earth – in which we most definitely deserve to be! Praise God for saving us? Yup, but realize he did so because of his namesake and not because we’re good and deserve it (vs 8). We are to praise God for his relentless love of us because we have not reciprocated that love.
For all the praise that this psalm encourages it’s kind of a bummer of a psalm! This psalm reads more like a constant reflection of failures by God’s chosen people than it does for God’s relentless pursuant love! And yet this is still a praise psalm. Why? Because “confession” and “praise” go hand-in-hand. At least in my mind it does.
What does it mean to confess to God? It means we acknowledge sins or faults or crimes – right? And we do so because we acknowledge not only what we’ve done but the fact that we’ve done it against Him. To confess our sins and our wrongs to God acknowledges a hierarchy, a power, and a place where God is above and we are below. Confession proclaims that God is high and mighty, good and true, and I am not. And because I am not I seek forgiveness, restoration, and a place of betterment. I confess because I realize, acknowledge, and know that God is the only one who can bring me from where I am to where I need to go.
Now what about praise? What does it mean to praise God? It means we acknowledge God’s power and strength, his hierarchy and place above us as we are below him – right? Praise proclaims God is high and mighty, good and true, and I am not. And because of his place above all things we praise him. We acknowledge the beauty, the “ahh” and the truth of who God is. We give him thanks, we sing to him our joys, and we proclaim that it is he that brought us, or brings us, to hope.
Did you notice the difference between confession and praise? It isn’t much. God’s place, in both of them (as well as ours) is the same and because of that…we respond. Through confession and praise we acknowledge both of the same truths, beauties, and a hope in God. And then there’s the whole fact that WHEN we confess we are actually praising God because IN confession we not only seek forgiveness but we have hope and joy. Every ounce of confession is wrapped up in praise. The only difference that I can think of between confession and praise is…well, I can’t. Every time I try to break down what it means to confess our sins it always has “praise” with it.
Maybe our issue with confession is that we simply have a bad understanding of it? Maybe our problem with confession is it seems so negative that we feel it’s just on the opposite end of the relationship spectrum we have with God? Maybe… but we’d be wrong and incorrect in that thinking. Both work together to bring us closer to Him. As one Matthew Henry writes, “Our badness makes his goodness appear the more illustrious, as his goodness makes our badness the more heinous and scandalous.”
And then there’s the fact that we can “confess” who God is (as in truth and not confession)…but that’s a whole other blog and conversation.