There is no more joyous person than one whose sins have been covered by God. Likewise, there is no more miserable person than one who tries to cover his sins from God’s sight. In Psalm 32, David shares his personal acquaintance with the shame of unconfessed sin and the wonder of having all those same sins forgiven.
Most of us know the story of David’s sin, but the valuable lessons we can glean from it mean we should never tire of hearing it. God called the ruddy shepherd boy to be king of Israel when nobody else saw it coming, not even the great prophet Samuel (1 Sam. 16). God said David was, “a man after his own heart” (1 Sam. 13:14). Hopes were bright for David and yet in time, those hopes were dashed through one dark night of sin. David let down his guard and grew a little too comfortable with his own power and position. Seeing a woman bathing, David gave his heart away to lust and the downward spiral began. From lust to adultery to lies to murder, David seemed to descend the dark stairwell of his sinful heart. With every step down, David saw depths of depravity he never thought possible. When Bathsheba informed him she was pregnant, David quickly began the cover up process. He was like a child frantically attempting to hide the broken pieces of the cookie jar he’d wrongly gotten from the shelf Dad said not to open.
But there God was lurking in the shadows, watching and waiting for David’s contrite confession, even as He tenderly began to expose David’s sin. God gave Bathsheba a fertile womb that night, but David tried to cover it up by calling Uriah home from battle and getting him drunk so he’d have sex with his wife. If Uriah lay with his wife, perhaps the sin would be successfully hidden. But God loved David too much to let him cover up his sin that long. God gave Uriah such noble character that he was “a better man drunk than David was sober”, and he wouldn’t enjoy sex with his wife while his comrades fought in battle. So the only viable option for a clean cover up now meant the death of Uriah. David’s sin was as his son Solomon called it, “the letting out of water” (Prov. 17:14)…the mess he tried to hide kept spreading beyond his control and getting away from him. The execution was ordered. Uriah carried it with his own hands. The report came back that Uriah was killed. The cover up was successful. David’s reputation had been spared. He was now free to marry Bathsheba and hopefully nobody would do the math once the baby was born. No one knew, thought David. The only problem was that God knew.
David soon discovered that life with unconfessed sin was far worse than life with a shattered reputation. Sin exposed would have brought far less agony for David than sin hidden. God had tenderly used Bathsheba’s pregnancy to expose David’s sin, but he fought that. Then God used Uriah’s noble character to expose David’s sin, but he fought that too. Now God used David’s guilty conscience to bring about a confession, but David even fought that. For perhaps all of Bathsheba’s pregnancy, David pretended all was well while the alarm of his conscience rang out like a smoke alarm that won’t turn off while smoke is present. He writes in Psalm 32:3-4, “For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer.” When David refused to confess after all these more gentle exposures, God sent the prophet Nathan. I believe it was David Platt who said, “If we cover our sin, God will uncover it. If we uncover our sin to God, He will cover it up.” God knew it was time for the big reveal. He loves his children too much to let them linger in unconfessed sin.
Nathan told the story of a man to whom God had given an abundance of wealth and possessions and another poor man who only had one little ewe lamb whom he treated as a child. The rich man had guests coming, so he stole the poor man’s only ewe lamb and slaughtered it to feed his guests. David’s rage was palpable at this rich man and demanded justice. Then, with his finger extended to the great king’s face, the bold prophet Nathan announced that David is the man from the story and that David is the one who deserves justice. Then something astounding happens in the story: confession. Instead of killing the prophet, the God-fearing David comes out from hiding. Upon David’s clear owning of his sin in confession, this same fiery prophet quickly remarks, “The LORD also has put away your sin; you shall not die” (2 Sam. 12:13). This declaration from the mouth of the LORD was a jaw-dropping change in affairs. Owning his sin in total confession brought from the Lord total cleansing. He moved from being the most miserable person to being the most joyful person. In Psalm 32:5, David described it this way: “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.” Notice how many times David used the personal pronoun “my” to describe his sin and how he gave various descriptions of the nature of his sins. This is true confession. Confession that shifts the blame (“I’m sorry you were hurt”) or downplays the extent (“My bad”/”It was an honest mistake”/”I didn’t mean to do it”), is not confession at all. David’s contrition led to his confession, which resulted in his cleansing. Faulty confession comes from lack of contrition and will never result in true cleansing. This is why he begins Psalm 32 with the words, “Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.” Paul picks up this verse in Acts 4 to show it teaches the beautiful doctrine of imputation, or as theologians call it, the great exchange. For those who truly confess their sins and come clean before God, He does two things: 1) He refuses to impute/count/reckon their sin to them and 2) He imputes/counts/reckons them His own righteousness by faith. The Gospel of Christ is the good news that God not only pays off all of our debts, bringing our bank account back to zero. The Gospel goes beyond this to actually credit us with all the riches of Christ’s righteousness. Justification by faith means not only that we are declared, “Not guilty,” but that we are declared, “Righteous!” There is only one vehicle that can move a person from rebel to righteous, from sinner to saint, from hell-bound to heaven-bound: conversion…and God is the One driving this vehicle. And what is conversion? A turning from delighting in sin and a turning to delighting in Christ. Repentance and faith. A contrite heart that confesses and owns personal sin while trusting the cleansing power of Christ.
Such true confession doesn’t mean the removal of all consequences, however. Nathan’s next Spirit-inspired words to David were, “nevertheless, because by this deed you have utterly scorned the LORD, the child who is born to you shall die” (2 Sam. 12:14). The child died and David’s sin was publicly known to all Israel and recorded in the Psalms for all future generations. His kingdom was never the same, but his account of confession and repentance in Psalms 32 and 51 have proven a help to millions of believers struggling with indwelling sin. May the words of David and Bathsheba’s next son Solomon ring in our ears: “Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy. Blessed is the one who fears the LORD always, but whoever hardens his heart will fall into calamity” (Prov. 28:13-14).
May we all learn from David the joy of confessing and forsaking our sins and the danger of hardening our hearts to them.
May we uncover our sins to our brothers and sisters in Christ, knowing such confession rescues us from our shame and restores to us the joy of our salvation.