Chapter 9 is a beautiful, heart felt, prayer by Ezra as he confesses the sins of the Israelites that had returned from exile. Confess used to be a four letter word for me. If I confessed something, that meant I was wrong, I wasn’t perfect, I had messed up, and that meant I wasn’t worthy to be loved. You see, growing up in my household, love was another four letter word that was only ever hinted at if I was perfect. I grew up under the law. Then I met Jesus. I experienced His mercy, grace, and forgiveness. He was perfect so that I didn’t have to be and His perfect love is greater than all my mistakes. And that’s the Gospel.

In Ezra’s prayer of confession, we hear both law and Gospel. Starting at verse 5

5 Then, at the evening sacrifice, I rose from my self-abasement, with my tunic and cloak torn, and fell on my knees with my hands spread out to the LORD my God 6 and prayed:

First the law

“I am too ashamed and disgraced, my God, to lift up my face to you, because our sins are higher than our heads and our guilt has reached to the heavens. 7 From the days of our ancestors until now, our guilt has been great. Because of our sins, we and our kings and our priests have been subjected to the sword and captivity, to pillage and humiliation at the hand of foreign kings, as it is today.

Can you hear the law at work in these verses? The law is heavy, burdensome, more than we can handle on our own. The law is consequences, punishment, and bondage.

Now for the Gospel

8 But now, for a brief moment, the LORD our God has been gracious in leaving us a remnant and giving us a firm place in his sanctuary, and so our God gives light to our eyes and a little relief in our bondage. 9 Though we are slaves, our God has not forsaken us in our bondage. He has shown us kindness in the sight of the kings of Persia: He has granted us new life to rebuild the house of our God and repair its ruins, and he has given us a wall of protection in Judah and Jerusalem.”

Listen to the words of Gospel in this passage: gracious, giving, light, relief, not forsaken, kindness, new life, rebuild, repair, and protection.

The Gospel says,

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9

and

“Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.” James 5:16

It turns out confess isn’t a four letter word after all! And when my upbringing tries to weigh me down with the bondage of the law, I hold onto verses likeProverbs 28:13 “Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy.”

Proverbs 28:13 “Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy.”