The Right Way to Cover Your Sins

(Psalm 32)  David writes here about the blessing of having one’s sins covered. We need to understand that there is a right way and a wrong way to cover sins. The true covering of sins is something that only God can do (verses 3, 5). Notice the three ways we sin against God mentioned here: (1) transgression, which signifies passing over the boundary, doing what is prohibited; (2) sin, which indicates the missing of the mark, not doing what is commanded; and (3) iniquity, suggesting that which is turned out of its proper course, anything morally distorted or perverted (carries the idea of “guilt”). Man commits sin in all of these ways, and such sin stands between him and God (Isaiah 59:1–2). But no matter what form of sin one is caught in, the pardon of it is a blessed experience! This passage does not teach that God ignores or takes no notice of man’s sin. But when a man is truly penitent—and this is the key—then God grants him an official verdict of pardon. This is a forensic act, a judgment from God’s throne. The man is still a sinner, but God consents to pardon him.

The solution to properly covering one’s sins is found in repentance and confession (verses 3, 5). There are wrong ways to cover sin and unfortunately man frequently chooses these instead of God’s way. This is described by the wise man when he says, “He that covereth his transgressions shall not prosper; but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall obtain mercy” (Proverbs 28:13). Man often chooses to ignore his sin and refuses to confess it. David evidently had this problem at first, for in verse three he says, “I kept silence.” The inevitable result of such a course for any man is guilt. We cannot successfully “hide” or “cover up” our sin. It must be acknowledged and confessed. Only then will the terrible burden of guilt be removed (verse 3) and only then can we feel, and actually be, blessed (verse 1).

Men cannot bear to think themselves wrong, to feel that they are as mistake-prone and as awful as others.

David had a season of impenitence. It is hard to say, “I have sinned”—especially for one in the position of David who had an unblemished reputation in the eyes of the nation for many years. But he says in verse three that the result of his refusal to admit wrong was that his “bones wasted away.” There was a withering away of his strength because of the burden of guilt—and it penetrated to the core of his being. It caused him to groan in his heart. Why is it so hard for men to admit sin? What factors are at work in each of our lives that hinder the confession of sins? I want to suggest three:

1. Pride. Men cannot bear to think themselves wrong, to feel that they are as mistake-prone and as awful as others. Paul writes that men are “headstrong, puffed up” (2 Timothy 3:4). Many could easily “pray” with the Pharisee, “I thank thee, that I am not as the rest of men” (Luke 18:11). Such a person cannot begin to get close to God (James 4:6, 8–10).

2. Self-deception. Notice that David says that “guile” (insincerity) hinders men from a full confession (verse 2). Some do not have honesty of conscience. James says that some men are self-deceived (1:22). We must want to know the truth about ourselves.

3. Carelessness, indolence, insensibility. Some are merely careless; others’ senses are dulled by the things of the world. Their consciences have been “seared” (1 Timothy 4:2); they are “past feeling” (Ephesians 4:19); they are plagued with “fatness” (Isaiah 6:10).

The only way to properly cover sins that is consistent with man’s nature as God made him—is for him to confess it, and let God cover it, pardon it, and remember it no more. All of us need the contrite heart which says, “For I will declare mine iniquity; I will be sorry for my sin” (Psalm 38:18).

Lewis, B. (1985). The Psalms in Practice: The Right Way To Cover Your Sins. Christianity Magazine, 2(4), 25.

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