Our use of pronouns can be rather fuzzy. Our "we" may mean "you", as in "Johnny, we mustn't throw toys!" It may mean "they", as in "We won the game!" Or it may mean "I", as in the royal "we" where monarchs use "we" to imply "I". That's traced to past kings using "we" to mean "God and I" in accordance with the doctrine of the divine right of kings.
Indisputably, a "we" can sound presumptuous. Not so with Daniel's "we" in these excerpts from his prayer of confession:
- O Lord … we have sinned and done wrong. We have been wicked and have rebelled; we have turned away from your commands and laws. We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes and our fathers, and to all the people of the land. We … are covered with shame because we have sinned against you. All Israel has transgressed your law and turned away, refusing to obey you. Therefore the curses and sworn judgments written in the Law of Moses have been poured out on us, because we have sinned against you. Our sins and the iniquities of our fathers have made Jerusalem and your people an object of scorn to all those around us. Give ear, O God, and hear; open your eyes and see the desolation of the city that bears your Name. We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy. O Lord, listen! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, hear and act! For your sake, O my God, do not delay, because your city and your people bear your Name. (Daniel 9:5-6,8b,11,16b,18-19 NIV)
Here, Daniel identifies with his people. Daniel's "we" meant, "I and my fellow Israelites need mercy; I'm a sinner, too."
Through divine judgment, Israel had experienced horrendous atrocities by the Assyrians. It would have been natural to utter anguished confessions of their wrongs. Personally, I know how others' wrongs can loom so large that I cannot see myself truthfully. I feel distinct from the wrongdoer, justified in myself. It's like assuming a divine right for the self-righteous, implying, "God and I are on the right page; they sure aren't!" Such self-justification alienates people from one another — and from God.
A leading psychiatrist once said, "I could help far more marriages if partners could give up the need to be right" — in other words, if they could face their own faults. Similarly, God can restore relationships among all who willingly surrender their self-justifications. When we confess our sins, we are agreeing with the Lord: "God and I are united in this truth: I am a sinner needing His tender mercies."
I call that a repurposed royal "we". It's no longer reserved for exalted kings, but for humble sinners who welcome God's merciful grace through Christ. That's how any of us can become authentic royalty, as God's "chosen people, a royal priesthood". (1 Peter 2:9a NIV)
Prayer: Heavenly King, as members of humanity, a nation, a church, and a family, we confess that we fall far short of the mark. We have brought disrepute to Your holy name and justly deserve the consequences of our rebellious nature. Look on us with mercy. Renew and re-purpose the lives of many, including ourselves, through the blessings of Your great salvation. Thy kingdom come! Amen.
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