It is possible to concede sin but not confess it. Or, to put it another way, a man may acknowledge what he did without acknowledging that it was his fault that he did it.
In the second year of Saul’s reign as Israel’s king, he and his small army went to Gilgal to fight the Philistines. Saul was supposed to wait there for Samuel seven days, the appointed time for Samuel to come and offer sacrifices. But Samuel was late and the trembling troops were starting to scatter. So Saul offered burnt offerings and peace offerings himself. Samuel showed up “as soon as he had finished.”
Samuel said, “What have you done?” And Saul said, “When I saw that the people were scattering from me, and that you did not come within the days appointed, and that the Philistines had mustered at Michmash, I said, ‘Now the Philistines will come down against me at Gilgal, and I have not sought the favor of the LORD.’ So I forced myself, and offered the burnt offering.” (1 Samuel 13:11–12)
Saul admitted his conduct but not his culpability. In fact, it was Samuel’s fault for running behind. And really, if you think about it, it was God’s fault. God is the one who required the sacrifices. God made Saul king and put Israel in this fight. Saul had no choice but to disobey.
“Samuel said to Saul, ‘You have done foolishly. You have not kept the command of the LORD your God, with which he commanded you.’” (1 Samuel 13:13) So now “the LORD has sought out a man after his own heart” (verse 14).
Saul is not the first man to spill the beans onto someone else’s lap. He owned up to behavior but not the blame, just like Adam did in the Eden. “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I ate” (Genesis 3:12).
When we confess our sins to God, we should confess all the way down to our hearts where the conduct came from. The other person, the time of day, the lack of sleep, the urgency of the demand, the sovereignty of God, not one of these “force” us to disobey. We wanted to do that all by ourselves.