Covered or Just Covered Up Back to all sermons

Date: November 7, 2014

Speaker: Pastor Cameron Arensen

Category: Baptism

Scripture: Psalm 32:1–32:11

Tags: forgiveness, sin, confession, atonement

Synopsis: For this Communion Service, we look at Psalm 32 and the difference between sin that is Covered or Just Covered Up.

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What is the worst thing you have ever done?

That is not a fun question to consider or answer, is it? Let me reassure you, I am not going to ask you to write anything down. And I am not going to ask you to share your answer with the person sitting next to you. Just think to yourself; what is the worst thing you have ever done? Or maybe it’s some massive failure to do something you should have done.

Now, I am assuming you have some incident or action in mind. Let me ask you this question: Is that “worst thing you’ve ever done”, whatever it is, covered or just covered up?

As you consider the answer to that question, let me read the Scripture reading I have chosen for this morning. It is found in Psalm 32:

Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven,
whose sin is covered.
2 Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity,
and in whose spirit there is no deceit.
3 For 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 dried up as by the heat of summer.
5 I acknowledged my sin to you,
and I did not cover my iniquity;
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,”
and you forgave the iniquity of my sin.
6 Therefore let everyone who is godly
offer prayer to you at a time when you may be found;
surely in the rush of great waters,
they shall not reach him.
7 You are a hiding place for me;
you preserve me from trouble;
you surround me with shouts of deliverance.
8 I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
I will counsel you with my eye upon you.
9 Be not like a horse or a mule, without understanding,
which must be curbed with bit and bridle,
or it will not stay near you.
10 Many are the sorrows of the wicked,
but steadfast love surrounds the one who trusts in the Lord.
11 Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, O righteous,
and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!

Covered, or just covered up? I am going to apply a Biblical term to the “worst thing you’ve ever done.” Let’s call it “sin”. There are actually three different Hebrew words used in this psalm to express the idea of sin. Each one is used several different times.

The first one is translated as “transgression” in verse 1. The basic concept behind this word is rebellion. It speaks of rejecting God’s authority and thus creating a breach in one’s relationship with God. It is the attitude (and actions stemming from that attitude) which says to God: “You are not my boss. I do not have to do what you tell me to do.”

The second word is translated here as “sin.” It is actually the most common of the Old Testament words for sin. The root word means to miss the way or to miss the mark. For example, in Judges 20:16 it used literally to describe some warriors from the tribe of Benjamin who were left handed and who were so accurate in their use of their slings that they never missed the mark. In this word, sin is viewed as falling short of God’s standards and of failing to live up to what God requires.

There is a third word used in this psalm. It is translated “iniquity” in verse 2. The root means to bend, to twist or to distort. To deviate. Thus, sin is depicted as a crookedness in our character or our actions; a deviation from God’s standards. I once took a class in university that was entitled: Deviant Behavior. It was a depressing class, as we discussed the almost infinite variety of ways people find to deviate from society’s norms. Only in the Biblical use of the term, it is not society that sets the standards, but God himself.

Now, I am going to assume that when I asked my opening question, what came into your mind is described by one of these words or concepts: an act of rebellion against God’s authority, a failure or a missing of the mark of what God requires, or a bending or twisting or deviation in your character or actions which is at odds with God’s character and standard.

So, is it covered, or just covered up? You might ask: “What is the difference?” Isn’t it just a play on words? I will admit that I have interjected a nuance of English idiom to make my point this morning. By simply adding the little preposition “up” to the word cover, we change the meaning. I will also admit that this nuance is not included in the original text. The word translated “covered” in the second line of the psalm, and the word translated “covered” in verse 5 are the same.

The difference lies not in the action itself, but in who is doing the covering. Covering up sin is what you and I do when we try to hide our sins. We pretend we didn’t do it. We lie. We make excuses. We try to find other people to blame. It is our effort to sweep our sin and its consequences under the rug and act as if it didn’t happen.

We are told in the inscription that Psalm 32 was written by King David. We are not told when or why he wrote this psalm, but I know as I read it, my mind goes immediately to David’s sin with Bathsheba. I think most of you are familiar with the story. David committed adultery with the wife of one of his soldiers. It was done in secret. He didn’t think anyone would ever have to know about it. But then he gets the message that Bathsheba is pregnant. So David engages in an elaborate scheme to “cover up” his sin. When everything else fails, he ultimately arranges to have Uriah killed in battle and takes Bathsheba as his wife, so that no one will suspect what really happened. David “covered up” his sin. And the sin remained covered for over 9 months.
But the question I want to ask is: What was going on inside of David during those months? What goes on inside of us when we try to cover up our sins?

Let’s look at the description in verses 3-4:

3 For 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 dried up as by the heat of summer.

Have you ever felt that way? The key to these verses is the opening phrase: “when I kept silent.” Let me tell you very clearly and plainly this morning, on the authority of God’s word; covering up sin doesn’t work. Sin that is just covered up and hidden from sight always exacts a price as David expresses in these haunting verse. “My strength was dried up as by the heat of summer.” That is a metaphor that resonates clearly for us here in Abu Dhabi.

What I want to offer you today – what this Psalm offers is another way; another choice. David describes it in verse 5:

I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity;
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,”

What happens when we end the cover up and confess our sins to God? David actually describes it in three different ways. First of all, our sins are forgiven. This is found in the final phrase of verse 5: and you forgave the iniquity of my sin.

It is also found in the opening phrase of the psalm. Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven.

This Hebrew word for forgiveness means literally to lift up and carry away. To remove. David elaborates in Psalm 103:12: As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. They are gone. Forgiven.

The second way David describe the results of his confession is that our sins are covered. Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. As I said before, it is the same Hebrew word. But here is the difference. When you and I cover up our own sins, they don’t stay covered. They are still there. They fester. They keep us awake at night. And they have a way of re-emerging into the full light of day. But when God covers sin, they stay covered. They are permanently hidden.

Thirdly the Lord does not count our sins against us. This third phrase is found in verse 2: Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity.

This is a book-keeping concept. God does not take our sin into account. He removes it from the record, from the debit column in the record of our lives. These are all things that God says he will do for us when we confess our sins to him.

I want to apply this passage this morning to two different categories of people.

First, I want to talk to the person who has never trusted in Jesus Christ as personal Savior. You are still relying on your own goodness to get you into heaven. You are still claiming: “I am a good person.” I would suggest that you can only maintain that claim to be a good person if you can continue to keep your sins covered up. Just think for a moment. What if all your secrets were suddenly exposed and revealed? What if you were required to stand up and announce to all of us the “worst thing you’ve ever done”? Would you still be able to stand with your head high and declare: “I am a good person?” Because that is exactly what God says is going to happen. God is going to judge all men according to their secrets according to Paul in Romans 2:16. That which you have covered up will be uncovered.

There is a better way. You must confess your sins to God and cry out to him for salvation. The New Testament teaches that Jesus, the Messiah, the Son of God, died on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins. And that if we will acknowledge our sins and accept Jesus’ sacrifice for our sins, he will forgive us and cover our sins permanently with his blood. Your sins will no longer be covered up. They will be covered by the blood of Christ. I urge you to make that decision today. End the cover up and seek the covering.

I would also like to say a word to those of you who are believers. You have trusted in Jesus Christ as your Savior. But even as a child of God, you have fallen into sin. Maybe this week. Maybe it’s a sin of long ago. Remember, David had walked with God for many years when he fell into his sin with Bathsheba. Rather than confess his sin, he tried to cover it up. He lost the joy of his fellowship with God. He felt the heaviness of God’s hand upon him. Maybe that is where you are. Aren’t you tired of the cover up? Isn’t it time to come clean? To acknowledge your sin to God. To seek his forgiveness and to once again know the joy of walking in fellowship with him? If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

So let us go back to the question I raised at the beginning of the message: the worst thing you’ve ever done. Is it covered? Or just covered up? I trust you now understand the difference. I pray that you are able to say with David from the bottom of your heart:

Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.

Discussion Questions

  1. Read Psalm 32 together.
  2. This psalm used three different words for sin. Transgression meaning rebellion; Sin meaning to miss the mark; Iniquity meaning crooked or twisted. Discuss how these three words add to our understanding of what sin is and why it is so offensive to God.
  3. What is your understanding of the difference between sin being “covered” and being “covered up”? How is this illustrated in the story of David and Bathsheba?
  4. How does the doctrine of the atonement add New Testament understanding to this psalm?
  5. How does the doctrine of the atonement relate to the importance of confessing our sins as taught in 1 John 1:9?
  6. How does the second half of this psalm (verses 6-11) relate to the first half (verses 1-5)?