David's Joy over Forgiveness
J. R. Miller, 1912
"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."
Human biographers usually pass over matters that are not beautiful. They tell of the things that are attractive and honorable—but say little of faults and blemishes. One of the remarkable features of the Bible in writing biographies, is that it does not hide good men's faults nor conceal their sins. One reason is, that it would warn us against even the best men's mistakes.
On the Alps, places where men have fallen, are marked for the warning of other tourists who may come that way. So we are told of the sins and falls of godly men—that we may not repeat their mistakes. Another reason is to show us the greatness of the divine mercy that can forgive such sins and then restore the sinner to noble and useful life. As terrible as David's sin was—the story of his fall and restoration has been a blessing to millions.
"Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered." This is a most suggestive beatitude. If we had been writing it, we would have said, "Blessed is he who never has sinned." But if it read thus, it would have no comfort for anyone in this world, for there are no sinless people here. Holy angels might have enjoyed its comfort—but no others could. We may be very thankful that the beatitude runs as it does, "Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered." This brings the blessing within the reach of everyone of us.
It is the first in all the long list of Blesseds, for no blessing can come to any soul—until it has been forgiven of its sins. The gate of forgiveness is the first gate we must pass through, before we can receive any of the other blessings of God's love. Unforgiven sin lies across our path—as a mountain which no one can cross over. No other favor or gift or prosperity is of any avail—while our sins remain uncancelled. But with forgiveness, come all the blessings of life and glory.
The word "covered" seems a strange word to use about anyone's life. There is one way of covering sin which can bring no peace, no blessing. We must not try to cover our own sin, so as to hide it from God. That is what David had been doing with his sins which at last he brought to God, and he tells us a little farther on in the Psalm how little blessing he found in that way. Says the wise man: "He who covers his sins shall not prosper. But whoever confesses and forsakes them shall have mercy." Sins which we cover ourselves, even most successfully, as it appears, are not forgiven. They are like slumbering fires in the volcano, ready to burst out any moment in all their terribleness. But when God covers our sins—they are put away out of sight forever—out of our sight, out of the world's sight, out of God's sight. The Lord says He will remember our sins against us no more forever. So the covering is complete and final—when it is God's.
"When I kept silence, my bones wasted away, through my groaning all the day long." Sometimes we ought to be silent to God. This is the wise thing to do when sore trials are upon us, and we do not know what to do. "I was silent; I would not open my mouth, for You are the one who has done this!" There is a great blessing in such silence to God. It brings peace, joy, comfort. It means a submission to God's will—in time of suffering. But here is a silence to God, which does not bring blessing—silence about our sins. Unconfessed sins cause only bitterness and sorrow.
David's language here tells the sad story of the days when he kept silent about his guilt, when he tried to hide it, when he made no confession, was not penitent. It was almost a year. He went on with his work, keeping up the external show of royal honor, probably even engaging outwardly in the worship of God. But he could not put away the consciousness of his sins. This memory stayed on his mind and saddened every joy, embittered every sweet, and shadowed the face of God. His very body suffered, and his heart kept crying out continually. It will never do just to keep quiet about our sins and try to hide them and forget them. We should never keep silent to God, even a moment about any sin we have committed. We should tell Him at once—the evil thing we have done.
"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!" The moment David confessed his sins, back on the very echo of his liturgy of penitence, came the blessed assurance of pardon. "I have sinned" — "The Lord has also put away your sin." "I will confess" — "You forgave."
So we learn the only way to get forgiven of our sins—we must put them out of our heart—into the hands of God, by sincere and humble confession, and by true repentance. Then they will trouble us no more forever.
Some people try to hide away from God when they have sinned—but this also is a vain effort. Adam and Eve tried this, hiding in the garden after their transgression, when they heard the footsteps of God approaching. But God called them and brought them out before His face to confess their sin. The only safe flight for the sinner from sin and from God—is to God. In the divine mercy and beneath the cross of Christ—there is secure and eternal refuge. "You are my hiding place."
The Book of Revelation pictures men, in the day of judgment, calling upon the rocks and the hills to fall upon them—and hide them from the wrath of the Lamb. But the cry is in vain. In their despair many men and women resort to suicide, ending their lives in the effort to get away from their sins. Thus they only rush the more quickly and with added sin on their souls—into the presence of the Judge they so much dread! But God is the real hiding place from sin. His mercy is an eternal refuge. When He covers sins—they are covered forever. "There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus." No pursuer or avenger ever can pass the door of that refuge, to drag the forgiven one out. Christ has died for him—and he is free forever.
"You are my hiding place; You will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance." God is also a hiding place, a refuge from trouble. "God had one Son without sin; but He has none without sorrow." But there is a hiding place to which sorrowing ones can flee, and where they will find comfort that shall give them peace. "In the world you have tribulation. In Me you may have peace," says the Master. The sorrow may not be shut out—but the divine peace comes into the heart and calms it.
God is also a hiding place from danger. In the wildest terrors and alarms we can run to Him, and lying down in His bosom, be safe. The danger may burst upon us—but we shall be safe; though we may suffer in our person or in our estate, our inner life shall be unhurt.
"I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you." Forgiveness is not the whole of Christian life. The forgiven one enters God's school, and comes under His instruction. We are to go on increasing in knowledge. We have God Himself for our teacher. God is always setting lessons for us. The lessons are not always easy; sometimes they are very hard. God teaches us many of our best songs—in the gloom of sick rooms, or in some experience of sorrow. Life is full of lessons. Every day, new ones are set for us, and we should be good pupils, ready learners.
"Do not be like the horse or the mule, which have no understanding but must be controlled by bit and bridle." Then, God also guides us in the way we should go. If we would have His guidance, however, we must be ready to follow, to do all He bids us to do. We must not be like the horse or mule, which have to be compelled by bit and bridle. Our submission should be willing and glad.
"Rejoice in the LORD and be glad, you righteous; sing, all you who are upright in heart!" JOY is a Christian duty. God wants His children all to be happy. Do they never have troubles? Yes, many of them. It is those whom the Lord loves—that He chastens. It is the fruitful branches—that the gardener prunes. Still God wants His believing ones to rejoice and be glad. No duty is enjoined in the Scriptures with greater frequency, than that of joy. We must learn to rejoice even in pain and sorrow.
We must notice, however, what kind of joy it is that we are so earnestly urged to have. It is not the world's joy, "Rejoice in the LORD." The gladness has its source and fountain in God. It is God's own gladness, communicated by the Divine Spirit. There is a gladness which is found in sin, which comes from evil-doing; but the gladness of the child of God—is found in obedience to God and in holy living. Those whose gladness depends only on earthly things, have no assurance of its continuance, for all earthly things are transitory.
Flowers make us glad—but tomorrow they have faded. When it is the love of Christ that gives us gladness—our joy is sure, for His joy is everlasting. So we need to give good heed to the grounds of our gladness. To be glad in the Lord, comes from putting our trust in Him, in accepting His salvation, His grace, in believing in His love—and then in doing day by day our simple duty, leaving to Him all care, all providing, all protecting, and never allowing a fear or a shadow of anxiety to cross our minds.