I want to focus on Daniel and Zacchaeus: Daniel’s prayer 9:4-19 and Zacchaeus’s act of repentance. Confession is good for the soul and Acts of Restitution reveal a changed heart.
Daniel prays an authentic prayer of confession for himself and the people of Israel who are in captivity far from their homeland in Babylon. “We have sinned and done wrong” is the very essence of confession and at the heart of this prayer. He goes on to recite the history of sin and failure to be faithful to God. He also is aware of God’s covenant and promises to his people as well as God’s “great mercy.”
Daniel, after honest and humble confession, prays for God to act to save his people and return them to their homeland. The next King after Darius (mentioned in verse 1) is Cyrus and King Cyrus allows the exiles to return to their homeland in Judah and their capital city, Jerusalem. Confession is good for the soul and the nation.
In Luke 19 we meet Zacchaeus, a chief tax collector. It means that he had many tax collectors working under his authority, collecting much money. And a sizable amount made it’s way to Zacchaeus, at the top of this taxing pyramid scheme, who was very wealthy. He lacked for nothing that money could buy. Yet he was estranged from his own people whom he severely taxed on behalf of the occupying force, the Romans. He was also estranged from God, as he was interested most of all in money and possessions. Zacchaeus taxed his own people beyond a just and fair rate, to selfishly keep an enormous amount for himself.
Clearly Zacchaeus was a “sinner,” that is a notorious sinner, which meant to his people that he was unforgiven, completely lost. But Jesus saw it differently. There was the possibility of hope, remorse, forgiveness, and salvation.
Zacchaeus, enters into the presence of the accepting love of Jesus, for Jesus is willing to visit his home and eat and have table fellowship with such a notorious sinner. The loving and gracious presence of Jesus is transforming. We see the fruits of authentic confession, the acts of a changed life when Zacchaeus says, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.” Four times is the full repayment under the law for theft (2 Samuel 12:6).
Jesus acknowledges a changed life, saying, ““Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”
Max Lucado writes, and I agree, “The heart of the human problem is the problem of the human heart. Each one of us entered the world with a sin nature. God entered the world to take it away…The…name Jesus traces its origin to the Hebrew word,…which means ‘Yahweh saves.'”
Jesus solves the problem of the human heart when we confess our sins and when we confess our need for his saving love, grace, and presence. Allow Jesus to take away any problems of the heart this day. Jesus still saves.