In Proverbs 28:13 we read: “He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.”
Those who listened to the broadcast last week will remember that we entitled this verse of Scripture: God’s Law for Dispensing Mercy. At that time we looked carefully into the Scriptures to arrive at a true definition of the word sin. From the Scriptures we saw that sin was the transgression of the Ten Commandments; that all unrighteousness is sin; that whatever is not of faith in Jesus Christ is sin; and that, when we know to do the good and do it not, this too is sin. We came to the conclusion that, of themselves, all men and women are sinners before God.
But this verse of Scripture points us to the way whereby we might have mercy with the living God. That way is that we do not cover our sins, for then we shall not prosper. But that way is that we should confess and forsake those sins with the assurance from God Himself that we shall have mercy.
What does it mean for one to cover his own sins? Obviously, the Scripture is not referring there to the true covering for sin which is found in the blood of Jesus Christ. It is referring to a covering that we would make for ourselves, which we would weave out of the fabric of our own imaginations.
There are a number of such fabrics or false coverings for sin. Let me mention a few of them to you.
There is, first of all, the covering which may be called silence. We cover our sins sometimes with a cloak of silence. David, in the Scriptures, the great king over Israel, committed the sin of adultery with Bathsheba and murder of her husband, Uriah. David lived for an entire year in gross hypocrisy. After he was wounded by the Spirit’s message through the prophet Nathan, which David penned in the words of Psalm 32, he said this: “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. When I kept silence….” David attempted to cover his sin of adultery and murder with the blanket of silence. For a whole year he was silent before God – a year when David did not groan in sorrow before God. He did have tears, but they were all tears of self-pity. A year of silence, when no piercing cry was heard from his heart to God that “I have sinned against Thee, against Thee only.” How does one cover his own sins? He can do that simply by silence, by ignoring them, by trying to forget them, thinking that somehow they are going to go away if he does not pay attention to them.
There is a place on God’s earth, perhaps a bedroom or closet or an open field, which can witness that we have sinned. But there is also a place on God’s earth which can witness that we have not kept silence before God over our sins but have cried them out and confessed them to God. Have you attempted to pull the blanket of silence over your sins, silence before God, silence before those against whom you have sinned? By the conviction of the Holy Spirit of Christ, have you poured it out before God in sincerity, and with a broken heart cried, “Oh, God, be merciful to me, the sinner”? This should not be just a mouthing or rattling off of a few words … “forgive my sins” … and then immediately going on and resuming your life of sin. This should be a sincere confession of heart before God.
Whoso covereth his sins with silence shall not prosper, says the Word of God. You may say, “I have my bills paid.” Maybe so. But there is no open heaven when you pray if you have kept silence over your sin. I would rather be a pauper sitting with boils, as did Job, and have an open heaven when I pray than to sit in an ivory palace with David for a whole year and have a brassy heaven when I pray.
There is another way of covering one’s sin in a false way. That is the way of rationalization. That happens when we look at what is black and, because we crave it sinfully, our eyes play tricks with us. It becomes white and so we say, “It’s all right. We can have it. We can do that. We can possess it.” The human heart is deceptive and covers sin by calling it virtue, by rationalization. Think of king Saul in I Samuel 15. God had told him that he was to slay everything the Amalekites had, but he spared the best of the sheep and the oxen and the king Agag. Then he convinced himself that he was right, so that when Samuel the prophet came to him Saul greeted Samuel with the words: “Blessed be God, Samuel. I have done what the Lord told me.” And Samuel said, “What meaneth the bleating of the sheep in my ears?”
What had Saul done? He rationalized. He knew the command. There could be no mistake. Destroy everything. But the longer he looked at what he wanted, the more he got black to appear white and good. “Why kill the animals? God loves sacrifice. I can sacrifice those animals to God. A few sheep won’t hurt. I’ll just take the best ones.” Until he saw his disobedience to be right.
Man rationalizes in his heart. Men live in fornication, in adultery. They live together as man and woman outside the bond of marriage. Sexual promiscuity is practiced and rationalized. It is said, “Well, we are in a different age. We are in love. We are going to get married eventually, so why wait?” The Bible says “fornication, if not forsaken, leads to hell.” But we can look at it so long that it is no longer a sin. And we begin to justify ourselves. God says, “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. Do not have involvement (romantic involvement) with those who do not confess the name of Jesus Christ.” But we say, “Well, it’s not going to hurt to rub elbows with the world a little bit.”
We cover our sins with rationalization. Then, too, we shall not find mercy with God.
Still more. We can cover our sins by shifting the responsibility. Here is something that is ingrained in our heart. We have 20/20 vision on others. But we are blind to what is behind our own nose. The word “sin” is spelled, simply, “S” “I” “N.” The most important letter is the middle one: I. Yet it is the one letter that we never see. We always say “others.” “Others made me do this, I am not responsible.” That was our first parents, Adam and Eve. They sinned. And God, in chapter 3 of Genesis, came to them with a very simple question: “Adam, have you eaten of the tree that I told you not to eat from? Have you disobeyed me? That is all I want to know. Did you do what I told you not to do?” Straight-forward question. The answer? It was not “Yes.” It was this: “The woman Thou gavest me, she gave me to eat and I did eat.” Adam said, well not exactly. The woman had her part and she would not have had her part unless you gave her to me. So did I sin? Did I do this? Well, at best, I’m third in line here. The woman is second, and Thou, God, art first.
Beloved in the Lord Jesus Christ, God says that whoever covers his sin by blame-shifting shall not prosper. How we can do this! Children do this. “Did you disobey?” Perhaps as a child you say, “He did, she did, it’s not my fault.” We had a temper tantrum. Did you get on your knees and say, “O God, the works of the flesh are manifest in these: anger, wrath, and malice. Lord, forgive my sins. They are the product of my own sinful flesh”? Or did you get on your knees and say, “Lord, why don’t you do something about my wife who gets me so angry? Why don’t you make my kids different because they make me mad? Why don’t you change my brother who is so hard to live with? If only everyone else were sweeter, then I wouldn’t act so irritably and sinfully.” Stop it, says God, Stop it! Tell God that our anger, hatred, lies, bitterness are our own responsibility and the product of our own sinful flesh. That is what our sins are. Do not shift the responsibility to the way that you were raised or to your personality or simply to say, “Well, that’s just the way I am. I’ve got a temper.” Are you going to tell God that? He says to you that your sins are the product of your own depraved nature and that you are the guilty one!
He that covereth his sins before God by silence, by rationalization, and by shifting the blame shall not prosper. Shall not prosper now and shall never know the sweetness of God’s face. Shall not hear the joy of forgiveness and shall not know the delights reserved for the people of God.
But how shall we obtain that mercy? The child of God knows that there is but one way to the experience of the free mercy of God. “But whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.” The way that God is pleased to have His children taste and see the wonderful mercy of God is to cause us to forsake and to confess our sins. If we come before God and say, “Lord, forgive my sins; wash away my transgressions; create in me a clean heart and renew a right spirit within me,” in that way alone the Lord will reveal His mercy. And in no other way! We must both confess and forsake. Not only confess, that is, name those sins, and name those sins out of a sincere sorrow of heart that we have sinned against God, but we must also forsake those sins. Confession to God is not like a drunkard before the elders of the church, confessing his drunkenness, knowing that the bottle is still in the car or under the sofa on which he sits, knowing that the next drink is coming when the elders leave. It is not falling into the same sin time and time again and saying, “Lord, I’m sorry”- but deep back in my heart I still want to hold unto my sin. That is hypocrisy.
We read in the Scriptures in II Timothy 2:19, “Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity.” The word is “flee” youthful lusts, “flee” fornication, “forsake” your evil way, lose it. That means that true confession is afraid to be alone for one minute – no, thirty seconds – no, five seconds – with the past sin because of its fear over that past sin. Put yourself far away from your temptation. Do not pretend that your sin can be put into a cage like a bird and you can take the sin out to play with it and then put it back into the cage. You cannot do that! No good will come that way. No good will come if you go to God whimpering in self-pity about your sins until you, by His grace, are so sick of your sin that you quit.
God will not meet us in hypocrisy, for God is holy. We must not pray, “O God, forgive me of my gossip, saying those things on the telephone,” and then setting ourselves up for the next time when we are going to do it. Stop talking on the phone if you cannot control it. If you cannot master the phone, tear it off the wall. And tell those people who want to gossip with you, “I’m sorry. God has spoken to me and I want victory bad enough even to risk offending you. I want only to talk of the things that edify, period.”
We pray, “Lord, forgive me of my lust.” Then we sit down before the uncleanness of the TV or find a dark, lonely spot on Friday night for a date. Then stop praying to God. Stop! Start forsaking. Get up and get out. Flee your sins.
Whosoever confesseth and forsaketh his sin shall have mercy, a mercy which is rooted in the eternal nature of God. For, when God passed by Moses in the cleft of the rock in Exodus, he said, “The Lord, the Lord God, gracious and merciful.” The Lord shall have mercy. God’s mercy is His eternal compassion towards the objects of His election, in which He sees them in their misery, and in which He wills to bless them with His own self. Mercy has its power in the cross of Calvary, for there the mercy for sinners was seen in the giving of His Son to suffer the punishment that our sins deserved. Mercy is the cause of our forgiveness, for it gained forgiveness. In mercy, God says, “I will remember thy sins no more. For I have given My Son, Jesus Christ, to stand in your place, and actually to bear the penalty that your sins deserved so that you no longer bear that penalty. Now I account you as righteous. And if you ask why I have done this, it was out of mercy – mercy alone.” That mercy, for us to taste it, for us to experience and enjoy it, is found in the way of confessing and forsaking our sins.
That is what David meant when he prayed in Psalm 51. He first confessed his sins. He says, “I have sinned against Thee. Against Thee only have I sinned, and have done this evil in Thy sight.” Then he goes on to pray, “Restore unto me the joy of Thy salvation. Give me to taste Thy mercy, Lord. Restore me and cause me to taste Thy mercy, to have the assurance that Thou hast been merciful and hast forgiven me all of my sins.” It was mercy, mercy alone which put away our sins.
Why did God forgive us our sins and pardon them in the cross of Jesus Christ? Why does God not deal with us according to what those sins deserve? Why, instead, does He take us to Himself in Jesus Christ? The answer is: mercy. Because He is a God of infinite mercy. Ultimately it is a mercy that cannot be explained. But it can be experienced. It is worked in our hearts in the way of the confession of our sins: “I have sinned.”
Ah, when the child of God, by the Holy Spirit within him, turns to God confessing and forsaking sin, he shall have mercy. You have sinned. Before the holy God and the searchlight of His Word which shines in your heart you must see that you are the chiefest of sinners. Then, by the grace of God, you must look to the crucified Lord Jesus Christ. And believe that, for no merit of yours, God has given Jesus Christ to put away your sins in His own death upon Calvary’s tree. No child of God who confesses and forsakes his sin shall fail to receive mercy.
Would you learn, then, the law of peace with God-a life of serenity and calm in your own soul? Listen: God speaks. “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thought. And let him return unto the Lord. And he will have mercy. And to our God, for He will abundantly pardon.”
God bless His Word to our hearts.
Let us pray.
Father, we have spoken of the reality of sin. We have been exposed by Thy Word to the foolish ways in which we often seek to cover our own sins. We have been pointed to the only way that we shall experience the wonderful mercy of God which is able to put away our sins: the way of confessing and forsaking those sins.
We thank Thee for Thy mercy which is powerful and sure. We thank Thee for the mercy of God which has given Jesus Christ to be Lord and Savior of Thy children.
Now, work in us in this week that we may indeed forsake our sins, confess them, and experience the wonderful mercy of God. In Jesus’ name do we pray. Amen.