“He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.”
This proverb contrasts what happens when we deal with sins foolishly, with what happens when we deal with them wisely. The two different ways of dealing with sin can be summarised in the words ‘covering’ and ‘confessing.’
The Foolish Covering of Sins
The first part of the proverb says, “He that covereth his sins shall not prosper.” If you have an open wound on your arm that is red, swollen and infected, how should you treat it? Should you cover it up with a plaster so that no one can see it, and then hope that the wound will get healed by itself? If you do that, the infection will only get worse – pus will accumulate inside the wound, and it may soon become gangrenous. Your arm would then have to be amputated. This illustrates what happens when a person covers his sins.
When people sin, they attempt to cover it in different ways: Some will deny it. They pretend that it never happened, hoping that it will just go away. Others will defend their sinful act, and say, “I couldn’t help it. Anyone would have done the same thing I did.” The trend today is to say that their sins were committed under great mental stress or severe depression, which deserves sympathy rather than rebuke.
There are some who seek to reduce the sinfulness of their sin by calling it by a different name. For example, adultery is called ‘having an affair’; slander is called ‘gossip’; and gambling is called ‘gaming.’ Some people would say, “Well, the sin I committed is not as bad as the sins that others have committed. In fact, some good may come out of it.”
Very often people deflect the blame to someone else, and say, “That person made me do it” or “the Devil made me do it.” But the worst are those who blame God for their sins. This is what Adam did when God confronted him with his sin. He said, “The woman whom Thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat.” (Genesis 3:12)
All these ways of covering sin have one thing in common – they are all self-protective measures. We think that they can preserve our pride or reputation from being hurt or damaged. But all they do is to make things a lot worse for us.
For instance, when King David’s sin of adultery made Bathsheba pregnant, he quickly tried to cover it up. He ordered Bathsheba’s husband to return home immediately, hoping that he would enjoy a night in bed with her so that when the baby is born, he would think it was his own child. But Uriah felt that this would be unfair to his comrades on the battlefield, and so he refused to enjoy the comforts of his bed, and he slept outside his house.
David was so desperate to keep his reputation intact that he had Uriah killed in battle, so that he could quickly marry Bathsheba, and the child’s birth would then appear to be a result of their marriage. Thus we see that David’s attempt to cover up his adultery led him to commit a worse sin – murder! Covering up our sins makes us sink lower and lower into depravity. Please remember this before you make any attempt to cover up your sin: “He that covereth his sins shall not prosper.”
All attempts to cover up our sins are also futile because nothing can ever be kept covered from the eyes of God. David eventually had to admit his guilt when God sent Nathan to expose it. But even before that happened, God gave David no peace. Listen to his own description in Psalm 32 of the inward turmoil he suffered (vv.3-4): When I kept silence, my bones waxed old through my roaring all the day long. For day and night Thy hand was heavy upon me: my moisture is turned into the drought of summer. Here David tells how he felt so restless, so weak and depressed because of the guilt of his sin.
What happened when he finally confessed his transgressions to the Lord? “I acknowledged my sin unto Thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the LORD; and Thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin.” (v.5) God forgave him – What great relief and joy this brought to him!
That is why David began this psalm by saying, “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man unto whom the LORD imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile!” The drought of summer was dispelled from his soul as cool refreshing streams of God’s love began to flow freely again. God’s heavy hand was lifted up from David, as that same hand now lifted him up to offer praise and thanks to God! His youthfulness was restored, as the guilt of his sin was removed. What a great and wonderful change David experienced here.
The Wise Confessing of Sins
This brings us now to look at the wise way to deal with our sins: Confessing them. It is only when we confess our sin that we can experience the wonderful relief and comfort of knowing that God has really forgiven us our sins. God has given us His promise in 1 John 1:9 – “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
Whenever you commit any sin you must confess it to God immediately, and say, “I did it and what I did was wrong. I am fully to blame for it and no one else. O Lord, I am so sorry that I have sinned against Thee and caused Thee so much pain. Please have mercy on me and forgive me.” When you do that, you can rest assured that God will comfort you and restore to you all the peace and joy that you had lost. As God says in Jeremiah 31:13 – “…for I will turn their mourning into joy, and will comfort them, and make them rejoice from their sorrow.”
Here we must define was constitutes a true confession of one’s sin. Not every confession is a true confession. Therefore not every confession will bring the blessedness of being forgiven. The basic element in the confession of sin is agreement. There must be a full agreement with God about your sin. As long as the slightest disagreement exists, and you keep trying to justify what you have done, you are not looking at your sin the way that God looks at it. God looks at your sin with deep sorrow. Do you feel the same sorrow that God feels for the sins you confess?
There are times when a person is confronted with his sin, and he feels sorry about it, but his sorrow does not mean that he agrees with God about his sin. He feels sorry only because he was caught and his sin was exposed and now he has to bear the shame of being punished for it. This kind of sorrow leads only to resentment and bitterness. It does not lead to the blessedness of being forgiven.
Godly sorrow is not so much mourning about the shame that one has to bear for sin, but the damage and hurt that one has caused to God and to others. When we truly confess our sins, we will sense the horror of the sins we have committed. Then we will truly forsake the sins we confess.
It would be a terrible thing for a person to confess his sin only to commit it again and again. Confession by itself is of no use until it causes a person to forsake the sin he has committed. That is why the proverb says, “…but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.”
If you have an open wound on your arm that is red, swollen, and infected the best thing to do is to expose the wound, drain out all the pus, wash it thoroughly with clean water and apply an antiseptic cream on it. This may be painful, but it can save your arm from amputation.
The Cleansing Power of Sins
God has provided something better to wash away our sins: The precious blood that Christ shed on the Cross of Calvary. Let us use it every day to deal with the sins we commit in thought, word, or deed. And always remember this: Covering your sins is foolish, but confessing them and claiming the cleansing power of Christ’s blood is wise.
Reflect: Have we truly confessed our sins to God and have determined to grow closer and more intimate with Christ in this new year? Let us constantly remind ourselves to forsake the worldly pleasures but rather hold steadfastly on our Anchor.