The Great Cover-Up – Psalm 32

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Psalm 32:1-11

INTRODUCTION: Today is November 22, which is the date John F. Kennedy was shot in Dallas back in 1963. I don’t know if you are into conspiracy theories, but if so you are in good company on this one. Recent polling indicates that 60% of Americans believe there was some kind of conspiracy involved, and many believe it is the greatest cover-up of all time. The reason I mention it is because today we are going to be looking at a different kind of cover-up, what is truly the greatest cover-up of all – God’s covering up your sins through the death of his Son, Jesus Christ. (Read Psalm 32:1-5 and pray.)

Have you ever tried to hide something? It’s getting close to Christmas, and I used to be one of the all-time great hider of Christmas presents. Sometimes I hid them so well, that Rosi and I couldn’t even find them. One year we were cleaning out a closet and I found a bunch of old Christmas presents our kids never got because I had forgotten they were there. I used to tell the kids, “Don’t go looking for your Christmas presents, because if you find them, we have to bring them back!” I know, I was a mean parent.

Have you ever tried to hide something from God? All I can say is, if you have, you had better be pretty good! One thing we do try to hide from God, though, is our sins. We do something wrong, and then just like Adam and Eve we naturally try to hide. We know in our hearts that God is holy, God is good, God is just, and so we try to hide ourselves and our sins from God. But the truth of the matter is, it’s a losing proposition. You cannot hide your sin from God. In fact you can’t hide anything from him.

I’ve entitled today’s message “The Great Cover-Up.” And I love this Psalm because it talks about covering up sin. It talks about the right way to cover up sin, and it also talks about the wrong way. It talks about how we try to hide our sins from God and how God offers to hide our sins from us. The Psalm presents you with an intriguing choice – will you attempt to cover up your own sins, or will you let God cover up your sins for you?

1) The Psalm begins by talking about the blessings you experience when God covers your sin. 2) It then goes on to talk about the burdens you bear when you cover your sin. 3) And then finally it talks about the benefits you receive when you take cover in God. So let’s look at the Psalm together.

I. The blessings you experience when God covers your sin (1-2)

First of all, the blessings you experience when God covers your sin. Look at verses 1 and 2: “Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the LORD does not count against him and in whose spirit is no deceit.” (Psalm 32:1-2) Here David proclaims the blessedness of those persons who let God cover their sins for them. The word “blessed” refers to a state of happiness. It is a desirable state, one we all aspire to deep in our hearts. David describes this blessedness in two ways. When you let God cover your sins, you will experience the twin blessings of a clean record and a clean heart.

   A. The blessing of a clean record (1)

First of all, the blessing of a clean record. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have a clean record? Wouldn’t it be great to be free from your past? All of us make mistakes in life, but sometimes those mistakes follow us around and cling to us, weighing us down and holding us back. Maybe you have a criminal record which holds you back from employment. Maybe you have a bad driving record which pushes your insurance premiums sky high, or a poor credit record which holds you back financially. Perhaps you’re a student at school and you’ve made some mistakes and now you just can’t shake your reputation. Wouldn’t it be great to have someone just walk in and wipe the whole slate clean? Give you that fresh start, and let you begin all over again? God offers to do that for you with your sins.

David says, “Blessed are those whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered.” That word for “forgiven” literally means “lifted up and carried away.” It’s as though God picks up all your sins and carries them far away from you. The word for “covered” means “concealed, hidden from sight.” And so the first word, “forgiven,” has to so with your sins being taken far away from you, and the second word, “covered,” has to do with the record of your sins being blotted out, covered over, hidden from view. You might wonder, how can God do that? How can God simply take up your sins, carry them away, and blot them out completely? How can God cover your sins in this way?

The answer is Jesus. God sent his Son to die on the cross for our sins. Jesus Christ took up our sins for us, and he carried them far away. He bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins. The blood of Christ covers our sin. And through faith in Christ you may know the blessing of a clean record in God’s eyes.

   B. The blessing of a clean heart (2)

Secondly, David speaks of the blessing of a clean heart. There are not many people walking around with clean hearts today. Most of our hearts weigh heavily against us. Our consciences condemn us. We feel dirty and stained inside. Oh what a blessing it would be to have a clean heart! Verse two in our Psalm says this: “Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord does not count against him and in whose spirit is no deceit.” This speaks of a person with a clean heart before God. God does not count this person’s sin against him, and this person’s heart is open and honest before the Lord.

What a beautiful picture! This is what happens when you fully lay out your heart before God. There is no more deceit, no more hiding, no more games of cover-up. You open up your heart making yourself completely vulnerable towards God – and God says, “I bring no charge against you. I lay no sin to your account. You are forgiven. You are free.”

A clean record and a clean heart go together. When you put your faith in Christ, God forgives your sin and he cleanses your heart. “Blessed is the man whose sins are covered; blessed is the man whose sin the Lord does not count against him and in whose spirit is no deceit.”

II. The burdens you bear when you cover your sin (3-5)

In verses 1 and 2 David speaks of the blessings you experience when God covers your sin. Now in verses 3-5 he goes on to talk about the burdens you bear when you cover your sin. And he does this by way of testimony. David gets personal with us here, and he shares his own experience of trying to cover up sin.

We don’t know when this all took place. Some believe David is referring back to the aftermath of the whole incident with Bathsheba. But listen to David’s words in verses 3-5: “When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. 4 For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer. Selah. 5 Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the LORD’ – and you forgave the guilt of my sin.”

   A. The waste of silence (3)

You see, David was carrying around the burden of trying to cover up his own sin. He speaks first of a time when he kept silent before the Lord. This was not the quiet, submissive, silence of someone waiting before the Lord – that can be a good kind of silence! Rather, this was the silence of someone withholding confession of sin to God.

There are a number of reasons why you might hold back confession of sin. Certainly pride can be a factor. Sometimes you just don’t want to admit that you’re wrong. At other times you might withhold confession out of a sense of despair. You may be so overcome with guilt for your wrong that you don’t believe God can possibly forgive you. I don’t know which David’s case was. But either way he was holding out on God. He was no longer on speaking terms with his heavenly Father.

Notice how David calls this period of silence a wasteful time. “My bones wasted away, I groaned all day long.” Unconfessed sin has a crippling effect on your life. It will waste away your energy physically and spiritually. It will completely drag you down.

How about you? Have you ever held out on God? Have you ever refused to admit that you were wrong? Have you ever despaired of God’s forgiveness? If so, you know what David is talking about. And David says. “What a waste! What a shame!” Are you on speaking terms with God right now? If not, don’t waste any more time. Talk to him. Open up your heart to him. Allow God to forgive you and cleanse you from your sin.

   B. The weariness of guilt (4)

David not only talks about the wasting effect of silence, but also the weariness of guilt. In verse 4 he says: “Lord, day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer. Selah.” David was tired and weary. He was tapped out. He felt the constant weight of God’s hand upon him.

The image of God’s hand here refers to God’s convicting and disciplining hand. God convicts us of sin, and if we refuse to deal with it, then he disciplines us for our own good. David was feeling conviction from God, and he was dealing with discipline from God. David knew he was wrong. He knew he had to come clean. But he was refusing to deal with it.

God’s hand can get pretty heavy. And the longer you withhold confession from him, the heavier it gets. You see, God loves you too much to let you continue in your sin. He convicts you by his Spirit; he reminds you of his love; he disciplines you when he must; he draws you back to himself. If you respond quickly, the process results in joy. But when you resist God’s Spirit, you are miserable. And David was miserable here. Wasting away in silence, weary from guilt, David still refused to confess his sin to God.

   C. The wonder of confession (5)

And then finally in verse five David comes to a breaking point. You may have noticed that word “Selah” that keeps popping up in this Psalm. We’re not exactly sure what it means, but it shows up often in the Psalms and when it does it seems to signify a pause, a hold, a brief silence in the poem before proceeding. Here David uses it to good effect, pausing for a moment before moving into his actual confession of sin, and thus highlighting the wonder and the relief of his confession.

We read in verse five: “Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the LORD’ – and you forgave the guilt of my sin.” David moved from the waste of silence and the weariness of guilt to the wonder of confession. David finally opened up, he confessed his sin to God and . . . oh the sweet relief of forgiveness!

People say that confession is good for the soul, but it’s nothing compared to forgiveness. David finally stopped playing cover-up and asked God to cover up his sin for him. And when he did, how good it felt to be forgiven. As it says in the book of James: “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.” (James 5:16)

There is no joy in trying to cover up our own sins. First of all we can’t do it. We’re not able. I remember reading about a contractor who was visiting a company and was about to make a bid for a certain project. The executive he was speaking with excused himself from the room for a few minutes and while he was gone the contractor noticed that on the desk right there in front of him was the competitor’s bid sheet. The only problem was that the actual bid amount was covered by this large can on the desk. The contractor thought about it for a moment, and then he took the bait. He lifted the can to see the competing bid. And when he lifted the can hundreds of these tiny silver beads began pouring out from the open bottom of the can, and he watched in dismay as the beads cascaded all over the desk and floor. And then the executive returned to the room. That contractor was busted! He was found out. You see, you or I can no more cover up our own sins than that contractor could hope to get all the ball bearings back in the can before the executive returned. So first of all, we can’t cover up our own sins. It is beyond our power or ability.

And then secondly, we shouldn’t try to cover up our own sin. It is only right to confess your sin to God. Proverbs 28:13 says: “He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy.” (Proverbs 28:13) We need a Savior. We need Jesus Christ. Only Jesus can cover up your sin and make you right with God.

III. The benefits you receive when you take cover in God (6-11)

1) We have talked about the blessings you experience when God covers your sin. 2) We have talked about the burdens you bear when you cover your sin. But now the rest of the Psalm talks about a different kind of covering. 3) It talks about the benefits you receive when you take cover in God. David tells us about two benefits here: when you take cover in God, you are surrounded by his protective care and you are surrounded by his unfailing love.

   A. Surrounded by his protective care (6-7)

First of all, you are surrounded by God’s protective care. In verses 6-7 we read: “Therefore let everyone who is godly pray to you while you may be found; surely when the mighty waters rise, they will not reach him. You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance.”

David moves here from testimony to exhortation. He has just shared his testimony about how he finally came to confess his sin to God and what a blessing it was finally to know God’s forgiveness. Now he exhorts us to do the same.

Notice the exhortation is directed towards the godly. The Hebrew word is “hasid.” It refers to the saints, the holy ones, those people belonging to God. The godly are those who confess their sin and cry out to God for deliverance.

David says, “Let the godly pray to God while He may be found.” Now that’s an interesting phrase: “while God may be found.” It implies that there is also a time when God may not be found. I believe it is simply an exhortation to pray now. It’s another way of saying: “Today is the day of salvation,” and that none of us has a claim on tomorrow. Are you experiencing God’s conviction right now? Then respond, right now. Confess right now. Who is to say whether you will experience God’s conviction tomorrow? Cry out to God now, while he may still be found.

And when you call out in faith to God, not only will God cover up your sins, but God will cover you. He will surround you with his protective care. When the waters rise they will not reach you, for you have taken cover in God. He is your hiding place, and he will protect you from trouble. He will surround you with songs of deliverance. David says, “Call to God while you may” – before the time of trouble comes and before the time of conviction goes away. When you take cover in God, you are surrounded by his protective care.

   B. Surrounded by his unfailing love (8-11)

And then secondly, you are surrounded by his unfailing love. Look at verses 8-10: “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you. Do not be like the horse or the mule, which have no understanding but must be controlled by bit and bridle or they will not come to you. Many are the woes of the wicked, but the LORD’s unfailing love surrounds the man who trusts in him.” (Psalm 32:8-10)

When you make God your hiding place, God surrounds you with his unfailing love. He promises to teach you, to counsel you, to watch over your way. He says: “Don’t be stubborn like the horse or the mule. They need a bit and a bridle. I don’t want to discipline you like that. Soften your heart, be quick to confess, ready to repent, willing to return.” Trust in the Lord, and he will surround you with his unfailing love. What a wonderful promise. When you take cover in God, he is your hiding place, and he surrounds you with his protection and love. Praise God!

And then David finishes the Psalm with verse 11: “Rejoice in the LORD and be glad, you righteous; sing, all you who are upright in heart!” (Psalm 32:11) The righteous are those with a clean record. The upright in heart are those with a clean heart. And so David comes full circle in the Psalm. When you allow God to cover your sin, you experience the blessings of a clean record and a clean heart. When you try to cover your own sins, you experience the wastefulness of silence and the weariness of guilt. When you take cover in God, are surrounded by his protective care and his unfailing love.

CONCLUSION: So the question I have for you this morning as we close is this: Who is covering your sin? Have you asked God to cover your sin in Christ? Then David encourages you to rejoice, to be glad and sing! Or have you been playing the silence game with God, trying to cover up your own sins and holding back on confession? Then God invites you to pray while he may be found. When you confess your sins, you move from “under God’s hand” of discipline, to “in his hands,” surrounded by his protection and love.

Forgiveness of sins is found in Jesus Christ alone. Take cover in God, and trust in his Son. Blessed is the man or woman whose sins are covered by Jesus Christ.

© Ray Fowler

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