In Proverbs 28:13 we read, “He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.”
I believe that we could entitle that verse of Scripture “God’s Law for Dispensing Mercy.”
Our consideration of this verse of holy Scripture will be good news and instructive news to those hearing this broadcast who feel that they need mercy in the presence of a holy God. To anyone who is so blinded by the devil that he thinks that he would like to appear before the living God on terms of strict justice-I have very little to say to that person. If you have been so blinded to the sinfulness of your own heart that you think you can approach the mighty God of the Bible, the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ, on the basis of your own worth and get simply what you deserve from God, I have very little to say to you, except that you are blinded by your own pride.
But to those who, by the wonderful grace of God and through the Scriptures, feel their need of approaching the living God on some other ground than strict justice, to you who feel the need of mercy, this wonderful word of God in Proverbs 28:13 tells us how God is pleased to bestow that mercy upon us. For the Scriptures tell us that God is a God of infinite mercy ( Ps. 103), His mercy is from everlasting to everlasting. He is a God who is merciful and gracious.
Mercy is God’s pity for His sin-miserable children, chosen in Jesus Christ, and His desire to lift them out of that misery. God, in His infinite misery to the lost, hell-bound, sin-enslaved sons of Adam, has elected in Jesus Christ a people who will be saved, and He is moved to lift them out of their misery in Jesus Christ. That is God’s mercy.
Not everyone receives God’s mercy. For the Scriptures tell us that some are the objects of His wrath, that there are vessels prepared of God ( Rom. 9) for mercy and that there are others who are prepared of God to be vessels of destruction. For God is not arbitrary in dispensing His mercy. He is purely sovereign. The word “sovereign” means that God is the living God who does according to His own eternal will. He is merciful ( Rom. 9) to whom He will be merciful. And whom He will, He hardeneth.
But God confers that mercy upon the chosen vessels of mercy not in an arbitrary manner. He has a law for the dispensing of mercy upon His children-a law which states that He grants mercy only in the way of the confession and forsaking of sin. That is the law in Proverbs 28:13: “He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.” Here is God’s law granting mercy. Do you feel the need for mercy in approaching God? God grants that mercy in the way of the confession of sin.
Let us look at this law.
The first thing we notice about this law is that it is an absolute law. There is not a man or woman who will ever obtain mercy from God any other way than described in this text. “He that covereth his sins shall not prosper.” There is no flexibility. There are no loopholes. There are no exceptions. He that covereth his sins-over such a person is pronounced the inflexible law: he shall not prosper.
But, thanks be to God, whoso confesses and forsaketh them, because of God’s grace working in his heart, shall have mercy. God causes His people to experience mercy in the way of confession. It is an absolute law. When God uses the word “shall,” and “shall not,” His word is sure. Whoso covereth his sin shall not prosper. Whoso confesseth them shall have mercy. It is absolute.
In that way, you shall have mercy.
There are two principles here. God’s law of dispensing mercy will never be experienced except in the way of confession of sin. And, we must not cover our sins.
Let us discuss what it means to “cover our sins.” Although it is completely out of fashion to talk about sin today; although many would rather talk about maladjustments, problems caused by the environment, and personality disorder and weakness; we must talk about sin. For sin, the Bible would have us understand, is the great reality of human life so far as we are concerned. And God will never grant you to know His mercy in the way of covering sin.
What is sin? Let us hear the Bible’s definition of the word “sin.” In I John 3:4 we read that sin is the transgression of the law. When our text says, “He that covereth his sins,” it is speaking, first of all, of those deeds, those thoughts, those attitudes, those ambitions which run contrary to God’s holy law, those thoughts and deeds which step beyond the boundaries or fall short of the standard set forth in the ten words spoken from Mt. Sinai. Sin is the transgression of the law of God, the Ten Commandments.
Not only those grosser forms of transgression, such as murder, adultery, and theft, but the more refined transgressions of the law. Thou shalt have no other gods before Me (the first commandment). That means, not the god of fashion, not the god of sports, not the god of prestige, not the god of popularity. You may not bow down and worship them. “Thou shalt have no other gods before Me!” And the ninth commandment (Thou shalt not bear false witness) takes into its scope every story that I heard and passed along which was not true or, if it was true, was spoken and heard not in defense of the neighbor’s name, but to the wounding of the reputation of my neighbor. And the substance of that law, moving away from its individual precepts, as to its summary, is this: Love the Lord thy God and thy neighbor as thyself. Every moment of my life in which I lived with anything less than supreme love after the living God, I have lived in violation of the law.
You see, before the law of God, there is no one who is justified before God’s eyes. One of the great purposes of the Ten Commandments is to show to the believer his sin and his need of forgiveness in the blood of Christ. So, when our text says, “He that covereth his sin,” it is talking about sin as being the transgression of the law of God.
Secondly, I John 5:17 says that all unrighteousness is sin. All that is not perfectly in keeping with the righteous requirements of God, all that God says is not right, is sin. God has told us what is right. God has told me what is right in my relationship, for instance, to the government. We read in I Peter 2 that we must obey every ordinance of man, for the Lord’s sake. When I trifle with the ordinances of the government, whether that be tax regulations (when I try to cut corners with “Uncle Sam), or whether that be speed regulations and I live and drive in indifference to the speed limits, or whether it be that I bulk at the ordinances of human government which have been instituted by God-then I am not doing what God says is right. And that is sin.
God has told me what is right in the home. God has said, “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for it” ( Eph. 5). The Word of God has said (I Pet. 3), “Husbands, dwell with your wives according to knowledge.” The only thing that is right for a husband is to set Christ as his example and to lead a wife in a holy, wise, self-denying love of Christ. When I fail to do that, it is sin.
All unrighteousness is sin. Every bitter word, every act of irritation, every gesture of frustration towards your wife is sin.
What is right for a wife? The word of God has spoken, in Ephesians 5: “Wives, be subject to your own husbands in everything.” Do you reverence your husband as God’s appointed head over you? All unrighteousness is sin.
Children, what is right for your relationship to your parents? The Word of God says in Ephesians 6, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.” Do you honor your father and mother? Do you talk back? Do you put the whole house into an uproar because you will not do as they ask you? Do you honor them when they bring you to church and make you sit there? Or do you cause them grief by your inattentiveness and unnecessary distractions? If you are not honoring your parents, all unrighteousness is sin.
Thirdly, we read in Romans 14:23, “whatsoever is not of faith is sin.” Every deed which you perform, every word that you utter, every thought that you entertain, every place that you frequent, about which you had questions of conscience telling you that it is wrong and yet you performed that deed, spoke that word, thought that thought, and went to that place-what is that? The Bible says that whatsoever is not of faith is sin.
When you were on the telephone yesterday and Mr. So and so’s name was brought up and you were about to say something and your conscience checked you so that you thought, “No, that’s not right. I shouldn’t speak that way,” but you said it anyway-that was sin! You could not say that in the confidence that it was pleasing to God. But you said it anyway. Whatsoever is not of faith is sin.
Last week you sat in front of the TV and, after the news, a program came on and you had a question. The question was this: “Is it right for me as a Christian to spend my time watching this-a program which is so explicit in sin and in sexual innuendo and in profanity that it is absolutely embarrassing (I trust that it is embarrassing to you), is it right to allow my children and my young people to watch the moral slop, the sexually-crazed, shameless world pouring right out into my living room from the TV? Is that right?” But then, it was so much more convenient just to sit there and watch the murder and to be tantalized by the adultery, and to laugh over the greed and carnality. Whatsoever is not of faith is sin. I did not say that. God says so!
Young people, last time you were on a date … young man, you wanted to take liberties; young lady, you were bothered in your conscience before God, yet you allowed it. What is that? It is sin. You had to excuse what you wanted to do with the question, “Well, what is wrong with it? Everybody else is doing it.” So you drank, you used drugs.
Hear the Word of God: Whatsoever is not of faith is sin. Whether it be a transgression of the law, or whether it be something that my faith in God does not allow me to do with myself, when my conscience was saying, No, no! it’s not right. Yet we did it. What is that? Sin!
Then I read in the Scriptures, James 4:17, “to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.”
Oh, the inescapable searchlight of the Word of God – omission of known duty is sin. To him that knoweth to do good and doeth it not, to him it is sin. God is talking about those duties which fall within the possibility of performance. The only thing that keeps you from doing them is an indisposition to do the will of God. You walked past your Bible last night, or this morning, as it sat on the night stand. You knew that you ought to read the Scriptures, for God says, “Search the Scriptures.” You knew that God calls you to seek His face over an open Bible. But it was so much easier to watch the 11:00 news and go to bed. It was so much easier to curl up with the newspaper. Do you, and I, ever know what we ought to do, what God calls us to do in thankfulness, but we do not do it? We know more than what we practice?
What is that? To him who knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin. Do not call it anything other than what God calls it. He calls it sin.
You see, this word sin in Proverbs 28:13 means “to miss the mark.” Whenever I in my life aim at anything other than the glory of God, then I miss the mark. When I aim at myself, when I violate His law, when faith tells me “No,” and I do it anyway, when I omit to do what God tells me what I should do, it is sin. Is there anyone foolish enough to think that we can appear before God without mercy? Who is there that has not sinned? If it were only on the basis of two hours in this very day, then, under the searchlight of God’s Word who knows my heart and the secrets within, you and I could only plead for mercy.
Now, whosoever covereth his sin shall not prosper. How does the human heart cover sin? There are two possibilities. There is the covering made by God in His grace. That is the blood of Jesus Christ. Then God calls us to confess and forsake that sin. But then there is also the vain covering for sin not woven in the fabric of the cross of Christ in the blood of sin, but those coverings woven with our own deception. Whosoever covers his sins in his own deceptions shall not prosper. But whoso confesses and forsaketh them shall have mercy.
This is as far as we can go with this verse today. Next week we will continue to discuss this verse of holy Scripture and explore the ways whereby we foolishly try to cover our sins. Then I hope to show you from the word of God how we must confess and forsake those sins and the experience, oh the wonderful experience, of receiving the mercy of God to repentant sinners.
Let us pray.
Father, bring Thy word now unto our hearts. Seal it and cause us, O Lord, to know that there is but one way, the way of mercy. For we cannot appear before Thee saying that we have not sinned. But, having confessed our sins, we might also know that He is faithful and just to forgive our sins in the blood of Jesus Christ. Amen.