In studying our Bible we find there were seven men in the Old and New Testaments that had much to do with sacred history who made the most fearful confessions that ever fell from the lips of men. Yet there was but one of these men that received any benefit from his confession.
We first notice King Pharaoh; we find his confession recorded in Exodus 10:16. His confession consisted of three words. Here is the confession as it fell from his lips: “I have sinned.” And yet as fearful as his confession was and as far-reaching, and as horrible as the consequences of that confession were to that man, yet he held on to his sins, until they put him in the bottom of the Red Sea. Though he made his confession, he received no benefit in the world from it.
We next notice a prophet whose name was Balaam. In Numbers 22:34 Balaam said, “I have sinned.” His confession was an honest one; but as truly as Pharaoh had his heart set on keeping the Israelites in bondage, Balaam had his eye on Balak’s gold. This prophet was out of God’s order, and he went to curse Israel for Balak, over the protest of the Lord. But on his way, the reader will remember, God sent an angel out to meet him, and a number of times when the donkey that Balaam rode came to the angel he was turned to the right or left. While the donkey beheld the angel, Balaam did not see it.
It seems a little strange that at times a dumb brute has a greater spiritual vision than a backslidden preacher, but nevertheless this was the case with this man Balaam. When God couldn’t do anything else with Balaam, He had the dumb beast that he rode speak to him in man’s voice, and then Balaam made his fearful confession. It was those three fearful words, “I have sinned.” Nevertheless he kept his eye on Balak’s gold until fifteen hundred years later God had St. Peter preach Balaam’s funeral. In Peter’s discourse he said, “Balaam died, the lover of the wages of unrighteousness.” The reader will notice that Pharaoh and Balaam made the same confession, and yet both died sinners.
We next notice a man whose name was Achan. We read this man’s wonderful history in the Book of Joshua, recorded in the seventh chapter and the twentieth verse. We notice that Achan had disobeyed God and had stolen a Babylonish garment, a wedge of gold, and a few shekels of silver. He held on to these things that he had stolen until he defeated the army of Israel, disgraced the cause that they represented, grieved the Lord, caused thirty-six of his own brethren to be put to death, his wife and children to be destroyed, and he himself was taken into the valley of Achor and stoned to death. But we find that Achan had made the same fearful and awful confession that Pharaoh and Balaam had made. He said, “I have sinned,” but he held on to his crookedness until it damned him. Beloved, when will we learn a lesson from these fearful and awful consequences of holding on to sins until they wreck and ruin precious and immortal souls ?
The reader will see that these three men made the same confession and neither of them received any benefit. My judgment is that each of them made an honest confession, but nevertheless each man held on to the sins he had confessed until they destroyed him.
We will next notice King Saul. In I Samuel 26:21 Saul said, “I have sinned,” but he held on to his disobedience, and carried jealousy in his heart. He laid plans to murder another man and so grieved God that God would talk to Him no more. The reader will notice that Saul made the same confession that the other three had made. But don’t forget, beloved, that Saul held on to his sins, though he had confessed them, until he fell on his own sword and ended his own life on Mount Gilboa. He was Israel’s first king. He was chosen over God’s protest and had a good start, but a fearful and awful ending. He held on to his sins until it was too late to get back to God
Our next man that made this fearful confession was a man whose name was Shimei. We read of him in II Samuel 19:20. Shimei said, “I have sinned,” but he held on to his sins, and his crookedness, and his skullduggery until he was finally put to death by King Solomon, died in disgrace, and left a blotch on Israel. Although his confession was honest, he did not forsake his sins, and they finally destroyed him. I am convinced that every reader of this page can call to mind some friend or neighbor, or maybe some relative, who to their knowledge has made honest confessions time and again, but yet never did forsake his sins. Finally his sins destroyed and damned him.
We next notice probably one of the saddest characters described in the Holy Scriptures. This is Judas Iscariot. We read in Matthew 27:4 these same three fearful words, “I have sinned,” and yet while Judas confessed his sins, he held on to the thirty pieces of silver, until Christ was captured and tried before Pilate and Herod. He had worn the crown of thorns and purple robe; He endured the Roman scourge; He had been beaten and was spit upon, mocked, and hissed at as He staggered under the Cross, and was finally nailed to the Cross. The earth had reeled and staggered, and darkness like a nightmare had settled down over the Judean hills. The Son of God had begged for water and had been refused, and could have only a cup of gall. Hardened sinners had wagged their heads and said, “Truly this was a righteous man.” And yet, beloved, up to this time Judas was still holding on to those thirty pieces of silver. What a horrible thought, to think that a man of good intelligence will hold on to that which is perishable until he loses that which is eternal! Yet we find that Pharaoh, Balaam, Achan, King Saul, Shimei, and Judas Iscariot, all six, have done that very thing.
We next notice the prodigal son. This is the only man out of the seven who confessed and received any benefit. We read, in the fifteenth chapter of Luke and the eighteenth verse, the words of the poor prodigal. “I have sinned.” But the prodigal did more than confess. No sooner had he made his confession to himself and the hog pen than he resolved to arise, retrace his steps, go back to his father’s house, and make the same confession there that he had made in the hog pen. So we hear him say, “I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, and am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants.” Thank God, he left the hog pen, and took up his lonely march, clothed in rags, facing a wrecked life, and carrying a guilty conscience, but headed in the right direction.
Beloved, think of this, we next read that his father saw him when he was a great way off, and ran to meet him, and when the father met the wayward boy he fell on his neck and kissed him. The poor, dirty, ragged boy undertook to make the same confession to his father that he had made in the hog pen. But his father kissed him and pulled him to his bosom, and, bless God, the past record of the prodigal son was blotted out. What a wonderful picture of God’s love! Here we see such beautiful marks of the love of God as He deals with a penitent soul.
We first notice that the father ran to meet him. No man can read of the old father running to meet this returning prodigal and fail to see the wonderful interest that the father felt in his heart for that beloved boy. In the second place, we can see the old father’s arms around his boy, and he pulls him to his bosom. You can just see the old white locks hanging over the boy’s shoulder, and the tears as they trickle down over the white beard. In the third place, we see the old father planting the kiss of reconciliation on the face of his boy. There the father and the son were reconciled. In the fourth place, we see the old father putting a beautiful robe on this returning boy. Beloved, there is the robe of righteousness that our Heavenly Father will hand over to every returning prodigal. This is a beautiful gospel robe. It meant the dark past was blotted out; the future before him was shining bright. But, in the fifth place, we notice that the old father had them to bring a pair of shoes and put them upon his boy. Thank God, here we see a splendid pair of gospel shoes, and now the poor prodigal that was barefooted is “shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace.”
In the sixth place, we notice that the old father put a ring on the hand of this boy. He now had his kiss of reconciliation, the beautiful robe of righteousness, the splendid gospel shoes, and just think of this, it was sealed with the father’s ring, as it was placed upon the hand of the prodigal boy. Now we notice the seventh thing that took place. Listen now, you will hear the old father testify. Here is his testimony, “This, my son, was lost, but he is found; he was dead, but he is alive forevermore; I have received him safe and sound.” A spiritually minded man can see that all of the above marks of these wonderful steps in divine things make up a clear-cut case of salvation from sin.
But we not only believe in the first work of grace, but, with John Wesley, believe in the second blessing, properly so called. And now we want to prove to the reader that, though this young man had received so much, there was still room for a second blessing, for the old father now gives the command, “Let the fatted calf be killed, and let us make him a feast.” And the next time we see the old boy he not only had the kiss of reconciliation, and the robe of righteousness, and the gospel shoes, and his diamond ring on, but, bless your heart, he had beef gravy all over his face. The music was rolling, and the old boy was dancing, and they were making merry. Now, beloved, don’t you see that after this man had left the pigpen, and had made his confession, and had received the kiss, and a robe, and a pair of shoes, and a ring, and had received his father’s testimony, that he was sound and was alive? Yet up to this time the fatted calf was still kicking up his heels in the barnyard, showing that the boy didn’t get the second blessing until after he had gotten the first.
And there is another point right there that can be noticed just at this time; while the music and dancing was going on, the elder son returned from the field, and raised a fuss with his father, and got mad, and would not go to the feast. His old father went out and entreated him, but the last account we have of the elder brother he was not in the banquet hall, but was on the outside with a spell of anger and sulk. Doesn’t that look a great deal to you like the nominal church of the twentieth century? How many times have the readers seen some poor, wayward boy get gloriously converted, and some few months later get powerfully sanctified? Then just see the elders of the church, who ought to be at the feast, taking part and eating tenderloin steak and dancing before the Lord, turn away and begin to fuss, and accuse their Heavenly Father, and call the returning prodigal hard names. How many times I have seen the story of the prodigal son fulfilled! They are well-nigh without number.
But, thank the Lord, the old prodigal sure did get the goods, and no make-believe about it. I have always admired the man that will make his confession and go to the bottom in order that God may bring him back to the top, for after all, the way up is down. Praise the Lord, from whom all blessings flow!