Corporate Confession (Nehemiah 9:33–34) - Radical

Corporate Confession (Nehemiah 9:33–34)

“Yet you have been righteous in all that has come upon us, for you have dealt faithfully, and we have acted wickedly. Our kings, our princes, our priests, and our fathers have not kept your law or paid attention to your commandments and your warnings that you gave them.”
– Nehemiah 9:33–34

These verses come in the end, near the end, of a long prayer of confession among the people of God, before him, as they’re acknowledging God’s faithfulness to them and their unfaithfulness to him. What strikes me, when you get to Nehemiah 9:33–34 and they’re praying and confessing sins really of their fathers before them that have led to the destruction of Jerusalem and exile in Babylon. When you get to Nehemiah 9:33–34 and these people are confessing sin, they say, “Yet you have been righteous in all that has come upon us, for you have dealt faithfully and we have acted wickedly.”

Nehemiah 9:33–34 Discusses the Biblical Principle of Confessing Sin Corporately

When they’re talking about the sins of their fathers, they’re not just saying they have acted wickedly, like those who went before us who caused this destruction of the city of Jerusalem and led to the exile. I mean, you could hear them almost in a self righteous way saying, yeah, they sinned and they brought this about, but now here we are, we’re seeking you, but that’s not what they do.

As they pray, they put themselves in this picture. We have acted wickedly against you. Not they have, we have. It’s the same thing we see, if you look back in Nehemiah Chapter one, when Nehemiah prays. I mean, he’s not even in Jerusalem at that point.
He says, “We have sinned against you.” There’s a picture here. Just like we see in the Lord’s prayer when Jesus teaches us to pray, it says our Father in heaven.

Nehemiah 9:33–34 Explains What the Bible Says about Corporate Prayer

There’s not just an individual picture in prayer. There’s corporate petition in prayer, that we pray to our God because we have sinned against God. We are people who have, the words of Nehemiah 9:33, have acted wickedly against God.

I want to encourage you as you pray, even as I encourage my own heart, that we would be honest about our sin before God, not just others’ sin, that we would see a corporate dimension to our sin. When we see the church, we’re not just supposed to think about, okay, my sin, that person’s sin, that person’s sin, like our sin against God. We have lived with pride before God. We have given ourselves over to idolatry and immorality in all kinds of ways.

When we pray, we pray we have sinned against you, oh God. Yes, there’s a personal picture that we need to confess our sins specifically before God in our lives. We don’t need to do that to the neglect of corporate identification with the people of God and our need for the mercy of God. We pray, yes God, each of us in different ways. I’ve sinned against you. We need your mercy in so many areas of our lives. We need your grace to cover over each of our sins, but we need your grace, also God, to cover over our sin together. God, we have run after so many idols in this world. We have compromised with so much immorality in this world. God, we have sinned against you. We’ve been casual before you with sin.

This Verse Challenges Us to Not Be Individualistic in Our Faith

We have not walked in the fear of you. Lord, we have sought good for ourselves apart from you, which is not good for ourselves and not glorifying to you.

We have acted wickedly in so many ways, and we together, we need your grace. Lord, we come before you crying out for your mercy, crying out for humility, crying out for your grace to cover over our sin against you.

Help us not to be so individualistic that we lose sight of the community of faith we’re a part of, of the church, and what it means to confess sin corporately together, and in the process, oh God, to receive your mercy corporately, to celebrate your grace as a community of faith in the church. God, we need your grace. In Jesus name we pray together. Amen.

David Platt serves as pastor at McLean Bible Church in Washington, D.C. He is the founder and chairman of Radical. He is the author of several books, including Radical, Radical Together, Follow Me, Counter Culture, and Something Needs to Change.

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