David said to God, "Is it not I who commanded to count the people? Indeed, I am the one who has sinned and done very wickedly, but these sheep, what have they done? O LORD my God, please let Your hand be against me and my father's household, but not against Your people that they should be plagued" -- 1 Chronicles 21:17; New American Standard Bible
I will never forget it as long as I live. Once, while in elementary school, some boys and I were having an argument in the latrine when one of the boys threw a bar of soap at me. I dodged the soap and it hit the wall and broke. I picked up the pieces, washed my hands and went into the hallway to go to lunch. As I handed the broken soap to my teacher (our custom was to give the teacher the soap because if left in the restroom it was continually stolen), she angrily said “Who broke this soap?” No one confessed, and since I handed it to her, she assumed it was me. After lunch, she gave a great speech on honesty and respecting school property. She ended the exhaustive diatribe by pulling my pants down and whipping me with a paddle in front of my classmates, boys and girls included.
I had done enough wrong in my time to get a whipping for something I did not do. That didn’t really bother me. I was guilty of enough that the whipping could have served as payment for old debts to society. The embarrassment is what bothered me. I still think that it could have been avoided had the boy spoken up. Better still; had he not thrown the soap, no one would have gotten a whipping.
David should not have thrown the proverbial soap. His pride caused 70,000 (soak that number in) Israelites to die and much of Jerusalem to be destroyed (1 Chronicles 21:14-15a). Finally, David confesses that he is guilty and asks God to give him the punishment. Though a little late, David makes a noble confession. God had stayed His hand already, but let us be careful to note that David’s confession brought healing and David did not make the mistake of leaving his sin unconfessed as King Saul had done (1 Samuel 15).
How many of us have been affected by someone else’s failure to assume their guilt? Who has suffered for our failure? There is great cleansing in confession. Read these words of David from Psalm 32:1-6: “Oh, what joy for those whose rebellion is forgiven, whose sin is put out of sight! Yes, what joy for those whose record the LORD has cleared of sin, whose lives are lived in complete honesty! When I refused to confess my sin, I was weak and miserable, and I groaned all day long. Day and night your hand of discipline was heavy on me. My strength evaporated like water in the summer heat. Interlude Finally, I confessed all my sins to you and stopped trying to hide them. I said to myself, ‘I will confess my rebellion to the LORD.’ And you forgave me! All my guilt is gone. Interlude Therefore, let all the godly confess their rebellion to you while there is time, that they may not drown in the floodwaters of judgment” (NLT).
Who else might be drowning because of us? Children? Co-workers? Spouses? Friends? Church family? It would indeed be better had we not “thrown the soap”, but many of us have. It’s time to make noble a confession. It’s time to take responsibility. It’s time to be cleansed.