Old Testament

Readings from the Old Testament / Hebrew Scriptures

When God brought the Israelites back home to Jerusalem, following the period of exile in Babylonia, Ezra, the priest, offered a prayer of confession on behalf of the people.

“O God, I am too ashamed to raise my head in your presence. Our sins pile up higher than our heads; they reach as high as the heavens. LORD God of Israel, you are just, but you have let us survive. We confess our guilt to you; we have no right to come into your presence.”
Ezra 9.6,15

The psalm writer speaks of the joy of forgiveness following confession.

Happy are those whose sins are forgiven,
whose wrongs are pardoned.
Happy is the one whom the LORD
does not accuse of doing wrong
and who is free from all deceit.
When I did not confess my sins,
I was worn out from crying all day long.
Then I confessed my sins to you;
I did not conceal my wrongdoings.
I decided to confess them to you,
and you forgave all my sins.
Psalm 32.1-3,5

The psalm writer turns to God for help in time of suffering.

I confess my sins;
they fill me with anxiety.
Do not abandon me, O LORD;
do not stay away, my God!
Help me now, O Lord my savior!
Psalm 38.18,21,22

In this psalm of confession, attributed to King David, David seeks God’s forgiveness for having arranged to have someone killed in battle.

Be merciful to me, O God,
because of your constant love.
Because of your great mercy
wipe away my sins!
Wash away all my evil
and make me clean from my sin!
Create a pure heart in me, O God,
and put a new and loyal spirit in me.
Do not banish me from your presence;
do not take your holy spirit away from me.
Give me again the joy that comes
from your salvation,
and make me willing to obey you.
Psalm 51.1,2,10-12

Proverbs, one of the wisdom books of the Bible, reminds us of God’s mercy.

You will never succeed in life if you try to hide your sins.
Confess them and give them up; then God will show mercy to you.
Proverbs 28.13

God is always ready to forgive.

Come back to the LORD your God.
He is kind and full of mercy;
he is patient and keeps his promise;
he is always ready to forgive and not punish.
Joel 2.13b

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