There were 10 different individuals that made that statement in the Bible, several stated it more than once, for a total of 19 times altogether. It is interesting that there were 10 people, both saved and lost, making this confession - and 10 in the Bible is typical of the whole world. So here, in a sense, we have a picture of the whole world under sin, and their responses when that sin is revealed to them.
My question to you today is: are you like any of these Bible characters? Are there times when you were not sincere before God or others in acknowledging your sin? Are there times when you made this confession of error just so others would leave you alone or that the consequences were alleviated? Or were they sincere, repentant confessions of a broken, contrite heart that realizes that you have sinned against your Saviour, against your Heavenly Father, and you were confessing to make it right and restore that fellowship again, confessing your sins so that God would wash it away and cleanse you from all unrighteousness?
I have to admit, there are times - even as a believer - when I have been less than sincere in my confession of wrongdoing. Perhaps I was going through the motions to ease my guilty conscience when my heart was still not right before God; and other times maybe out of fear that if I didn't make this sin right, I might wander further astray from the Lord. God knows my heart better than I do - and it is passages like these that challenge me to make sure that my heart is always right before the Lord, and that I make it right when it is not.
Praise the Lord for His mercy and grace, and blessed forgiveness when I do truly confess those sins to Him. Confessing means to agree with, to be of one mind about - too often we wait for some feeling. We do not feel grieved enough, so we put off making the sin right, and find ourselves falling further into sin, further hardening our heart in a specific area. It is times like those I have to remind myself that repentance is a change of my mind that will result in a change in my conduct. I don't need to wait for a change in my emotions first. When I sincerely turn to the Lord to make my sin right, eventually I find that my emotions followed along - but the peace of God came immediately when the fellowship was restored, and that was what was important after all!
Before I list the statements made by 10 sinners in God's Word, I wanted to quote this promise, stated by Elihu, one of Job's friends:
Job 33:27-28 He looketh upon men, and if any say, I have sinned, and perverted that which was right, and it profited me not; He will deliver his soul from going into the pit, and his life shall see the light.
When we are truthful before the Lord our God, and sincerely confess our wrongdoing to Him, we will receive His mercy and deliverance in our lives.
For the sake of ease, I will cover these 10 individuals in the order they appear in our Bibles.
1) The Pharaoh of Egypt - Hypocritical confessions to cause Moses to remove each plague. Basically, it was a false confession to remove the consequences of his sin. There was no repentance there, just a bowing under the pressure of the destruction on his nation.
Exodus 9:27 - verses 27-30 And Pharaoh sent, and called for Moses and Aaron, and said unto them, I have sinned this time: the LORD is righteous, and I and my people are wicked. Intreat the LORD (for it is enough) that there be no more mighty thunderings and hail; and I will let you go, and ye shall stay no longer. And Moses said unto him, As soon as I am gone out of the city, I will spread abroad my hands unto the LORD; and the thunder shall cease, neither shall there be any more hail; that thou mayest know how that the earth is the LORD'S. But as for thee and thy servants, I know that ye will not yet fear the LORD God.
Exodus 10:16 - verses 16-20 Then Pharaoh called for Moses and Aaron in haste; and he said, I have sinned against the LORD your God, and against you. Now therefore forgive, I pray thee, my sin only this once, and intreat the LORD your God, that he may take away from me this death only. And he went out from Pharaoh, and intreated the LORD. And the LORD turned a mighty strong west wind, which took away the locusts, and cast them into the Red sea; there remained not one locust in all the coasts of Egypt. But the LORD hardened Pharaoh's heart, so that he would not let the children of Israel go.
It is clear from the whole account of the ten plagues upon Egypt, that Pharaoh was a stubborn unbeliever who would not accept that the God of Israel was the true God. His is the story of an unbeliever hardening his heart over and over until it is too late.
2) Balaam, the son of Beor, the rebellious prophet hired to curse Israel - Made this hypocritical confession of sin to attempt to appease the Lord, but as the next few chapters reveal, he was still running after the riches offered to him and was still looking for a way to be a stumblingblock to Israel.
Numbers 22:34 And Balaam said unto the angel of the LORD, I have sinned; for I knew not that thou stoodest in the way against me: now therefore, if it displease thee, I will get me back again.
Balaam is an interesting case. He is a prophet that was against God's people, yet God spoke to him and his prophecies are recorded in the Word of God. Is his an account of a true believer that got so covetous he was willing to turn from what he knew was right in order to have worldly riches (the wages of unrighteousness - see 2 Peter 2:14-16), or was it simply the case of a religious man that the Lord used (ie. in regards to the prophecies) in spite of himself? Either way, we know here he was insincere in his confession of wrongdoing and was not repentant of his rushing into sin. Remember, Balaam was the one responsible for leading the nation of Israel into idolatry and fornication with the daughters of Moab in Numbers 25 (see also 31:16).
3) Achan, the troubler of Israel - I believe he was sincere here, because this confession was still made in light of the fact that he knew he would be stoned to death for his sin. Being faced with his own upcoming death, as the punishment for his sin, he was honest about what he had done - he was not trying to find a way out or deceive Joshua at this point in time. According to Joshua's plea in verse 19, Achan gave God the glory and admitted the wrong that he had done.
Joshua 7:20 - verses 19-22 And Joshua said unto Achan, My son, give, I pray thee, glory to the LORD God of Israel, and make confession unto him; and tell me now what thou hast done; hide it not from me. And Achan answered Joshua, and said, Indeed I have sinned against the LORD God of Israel, and thus and thus have I done: When I saw among the spoils a goodly Babylonish garment, and two hundred shekels of silver, and a wedge of gold of fifty shekels weight, then I coveted them, and took them; and, behold, they are hid in the earth in the midst of my tent, and the silver under it. So Joshua sent messengers, and they ran unto the tent; and, behold, it was hid in his tent, and the silver under it.