13 He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy. 14 Blessed is the man who always fears the LORD, but he who hardens his heart falls into trouble. Proverbs 28:13-14 NIV)
Oh, the stories we could tell of how our sin has found us out! Each and every one of us has personal stories of how we did something that was wrong: we lied, we stole some thing, we were unfaithful to our husband or wife, we cheated on a test, we told our parents we were going one place when in actuality we were going somewhere else, or… The list could go on and on with examples of the things that we have done and thought we would get away with it, but we didn’t. We found out the truth of Numbers 32:23 where we read,
23 and you may be sure that your sin will find you out. (Numbers 32:23 NIV)
There are no qualifiers in this verse. It doesn’t matter how smart you may be “your sins will find you out.” It doesn’t matter how well connected you are in the community or how many powerful friends you may have at your disposal, “your sins will find you out.” It doesn’t matter how much money you’ve got in your bank account, “your sins will find you out.” It doesn’t matter how slick or smooth you think you may be, “your sins will find you out.” God has a way of bringing to light the things that we do in secret. Our sins will find us out. If you are one of those folks who think you are smarter than everybody else, you’ve convinced yourself that you can get away with it, then I pray that this very morning the Lord will open your eyes to your folly and show you the truth. I have been praying this prayer for all of us as I have been studying this section of Proverbs. I pray that the Lord will convict us of our sin to the point of confession so that we can avoid absolute catastrophe. Let me give you an example of what I’m talking about.
Dr. John Hamilton was a prominent doctor here in Oklahoma City. He had a beautiful wife, lived in a lovely home, and he had lots of money. By all appearances he had the world by the tail, but what people didn’t see was a marriage that was coming apart at the seams.
In December of 2000, Dr. Hamilton and his wife Susan had a falling out. Both had previous marriages and Susan knew that John had been funneling money to his son from another marriage. Susan felt like John’s son was irresponsible and needed to learn to stand on his own two feet. John agreed and said that he wouldn’t give him any more money. Not too long after he agreed to stop Susan found out that John was secretly still giving his son money. Susan told John that if he ever lied to her again she would leave him.
The trust was gone in the marriage so Susan lived with her eyes wide open. In early February of 2001 Susan saw John’s cell phone bill. There were lots of calls to a number she didn’t recognize and it stirred her curiosity. Susan called the number and found out that it belonged to a woman who was a stripper. When she confronted John with what she had found he told her that the woman was a patient of his and he was trying to help her. Susan knew he was lying and John knew he was losing his wife.
Things around the Hamilton house went from bad to worse until finally the situation erupted on Valentine’s Day of 2001. The news reports were that someone had broken into the Hamilton home and killed Susan, brutally killed her with a blunt object. John was heart-broken. He held his wife’s lifeless body in his arms and vowed to find the killer. As it turned out Dr. Hamilton was arrested for the murder of his wife.
When the trial came around Dr. Hamilton hired the best experts around to defend his case. Our former District Attorney, Wes Lane, served as the prosecuting attorney at the trial. Dr. Hamilton’s experts were convincing, they were thorough, and it looked like anything but a closed case. In the wrap up section of the trial Wes Lane asked Dr. Hamilton’s “blood stain analysis expert” a question. He asked, “Did we miss anything?” Wes knew the man was hired by Dr. Hamilton, but he also knew the man was honest and would tell the truth. The expert said, “Yes.” Wes couldn’t believe it. He asked, “What would that be?” The man said, “There was a stain on the cuff that was missed.” Wes asked, “What would that stain show?” The man said, “The pattern and velocity of the spatter show convincing evidence.” Wes said, “Are you saying that the pattern and velocity are consistent with his beating his wife with a blunt instrument?” He said, Dr. Hamilton’s own expert said, “Yes.” There was a gasp in the courtroom.
Dr. Hamilton was convicted of first degree murder and is now serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole. He will never practice medicine again. His wife is dead. He has lost everything. Your sins will find you out.
I was thinking about Dr. Hamilton’s situation this past week as I was studying Proverbs 28:13-14. Play this out with me. Let’s rewind this tragic story to the time when Dr. Hamilton was secretly giving money to his son and was found out. How would things be different today if Dr. Hamilton would have confessed his sin when his wife confronted him about lying to her about giving his son the money? What if he would have said, “You’re right. Honey, I’m sorry. The kid just knows how to work me and I gave in to him. I’m sorry I broke my promise.” How would his life and Susan’s life be different today?
Let’s turn from John and Susan Hamilton’s lives and take a look at each of our lives in light of Proverbs 28:13-14. I want us to read the Scripture together again and then we’ll dig a little deeper to try and understand how this verse applies to our lives.
13 He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy. 14 Blessed is the man who always fears the LORD, but he who hardens his heart falls into trouble. Proverbs 28:13-14 NIV)
In verses 13-14 we find two different comparisons: The person who conceals his sin is compared with the person who confesses and renounces his sin. In verse 14, we have a comparison of the person who trembles in reverence before God and the person who hardens his heart toward God. Let’s take a look at some key words in verse 13.
First I want us to notice the word, “conceal.” The Hebrew word means, “to hide, to cover up, or conceal.” There are a myriad of ways that we try to shield or hide our sin–they don’t work. Charles Haddon Spurgeon wrote in his sermon, “Two Coverings and Two Consequences.”
Do you not know that Providence is a wonderful detective? There are hounds upon the track of every thief, and murderer, and liar, upon every sinner of every kind. Each sin leaves a trail. The dogs of judgment will be sure to scent it out, and find their prey. There is no disentangling yourselves from the meshes of guilt; no possibility of evading the penalty of transgression. Very wonderful have been the ways in which persons who have committed crimes have been brought to judgment. (Charles Haddon Spurgeon, Two Coverings and Two Consequences, February 24, 1916.)
“Providence is a wonderful detective.” I love that sentence! It is so true. God has His ways of uncovering those things that we do and try to hide or cover up. There were things that I did when I was a kid growing up at home that I just knew I would never be found out. I was thorough in covering my tracks. Most of the time, before I had even finished covering my tracks, my dad would confront me with what I had done. How did that happen? I still haven’t figured it out, but now I am grateful that I was found out because my dad taught me to live by the rules or there would be consequences, painful consequences.
God has His ways, Providence is a wonderful detective. I heard a story this past week about a prominent attorney in town who was having an affair a few years ago. He decided that he didn’t want his affair to interrupt his family life so he set his mistress up in a house where he could visit her. He went to a furniture store in town to buy furniture for the house. He made sure that they would deliver the furniture to his mistress’ address. When the men went to deliver the furniture they lost the delivery ticket. They called the office and told them their problem. No problem, the folks in the office just looked up his credit card information on their computer and the furniture was delivered to his wife’s house. This man is very smart, highly intelligent on the IQ scale, but God has His ways of uncovering our sin.
Solomon says that those who try and conceal their sin will never prosper. The Hebrew word for “prosper” means, “to advance, prosper, make progress, succeed, be profitable, or cause to prosper.” The person who tries to hide their sin will not make any progress. Something interesting about this word in Hebrew is that it is an “imperfect verb” which tells us that this statement is looking toward the future. The person who tries to hide their ungodly ways is heading towards a grim future.
Another interesting note is that this verb is in the “hiphil” tense, which tells us that it is a causative verb. Someone or some thing is causing this to happen. Now don’t get bogged down in verb tenses and miss out on the lesson of this teaching. The lesson is that God will not bless this kind of life. God will not cause the person who hides his sin to prosper in life. Let me give you some examples of what I am talking about when I say God causes us to prosper or He prevents us from prospering in life.
In Genesis 39:2-4 we see how God prospered Joseph when he found himself sold as a slave in a foreign country. Read along with me.
2 The LORD was with Joseph and he prospered, and he lived in the house of his Egyptian master. 3 When his master saw that the LORD was with him and that the LORD gave him success in everything he did, 4 Joseph found favor in his eyes and became his attendant. Potiphar put him in charge of his household, and he entrusted to his care everything he owned. (Genesis 39:2-4 NIV)
In Joshua 1:7-9 we read the instructions God gave to Joshua after he took over Moses’ leadership of the Hebrews. Listen carefully to God’s promise to Joshua, if Joshua will follow God’s will.
7 Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. 8 Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. 9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go. (Joshua 1:7-9 NIV)
God said that Joshua would prosper if he would keep God’s word and His will always before him. Now, let me clarify something for you because I don’t want anyone leaving here with the idea that God’s Word is teaching us the modern-day equivalent of the “health, wealth, and prosperity” Gospel. Joshua knew many troubles as he led the children of Israel, but in all of those troubles God was with him. Joshua’s troubles brought about his trust and dependence on God, not his demise, because he walked with God. So it will be with us if we will confess our sin and seek God’s will instead of our own.
Just as God caused Joseph and Joshua to prosper in their lives, there were times that God stood as a road block to prosperity in the lives of His people. Let me give you one example. When Moses sent the spies out to survey the Promised Land, the land that God said He would give to His people, they came back with the report. Only Caleb and Joshua gave a positive report, the other ten men who went along with them came back and said, “There are already people living in the land and they are huge. There is no way that we can whip them! We will be destroyed!” This angered God. We read in Numbers 14 what happened next.
36 So the men Moses had sent to explore the land, who returned and made the whole community grumble against him by spreading a bad report about it, 37 these men responsible for spreading the bad report about the land were struck down and died of a plague before the LORD. 38 Of the men who went to explore the land, only Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephunneh survived. 39 When Moses reported this to all the Israelites, they mourned bitterly. 40 Early the next morning they went up toward the high hill country. “We have sinned,” they said. “We will go up to the place the LORD promised.” 41 But Moses said, “Why are you disobeying the LORD’S command? This will not succeed! 42 Do not go up, because the LORD is not with you. You will be defeated by your enemies, 43 for the Amalekites and Canaanites will face you there. Because you have turned away from the LORD, he will not be with you and you will fall by the sword.” (Numbers 14:36-43 NIV)
The key to our continued growth in life is our willingness to own up to our sin, our confession to God that we’ve messed up. When we mess up we need to fess up. We need to agree with God that we’ve messed up and sinned against Him. The Hebrew word for “confess” in verse 13 is “yaw-daw’” and the word has many different meanings. Here the word means, “to confess, or agree with God.” The most powerful example of the word is found in Psalm 32. The Psalm was written by King David and it gives us great insight into the lesson we are learning today about our need to confess rather than conceal our sin. Read along with me.
1 Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. 2 Blessed is the man whose sin the LORD does not count against him and in whose spirit is no deceit. 3 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.” Selah (Psalm 32:1-5 NIV)
Did you hear what happened to David when he concealed his sin? His life came to a screeching halt. There was no joy evident in his life. There was no hope for the future for David. He says “his bones wasted away, he groaned all day long, and his strength was sapped.” David didn’t make any progress; he was unable to grow as a person. Why? Because he refused to confess his sin. He hid his sin and it brought about dire consequences in David’s life.
In Proverbs 28:13 we read that if we will confess and renounce our sin that we will find mercy. We are not simply to shrug our shoulders and say, “I’m sorry” and then go back to our old ways of doing things. We are to confess, agree with God, that we have gone against God’s ways, we’ve broken His law, and then turn away from our sin. To renounce our sin means that we leave it, we don’t continue to practice it until we caught next time. The word used here, “aw-zab’” means, “to leave, loose, or to depart from.” Earlier in Proverbs we read where Solomon said that wisdom would save us from those who depart, or leave, the ways of God. Turn to Proverbs 2 and let’s read together beginning in verse 12.
12 Wisdom will save you from the ways of wicked men, from men whose words are perverse, 13 who leave the straight paths to walk in dark ways, 14 who delight in doing wrong and rejoice in the perverseness of evil, 15 whose paths are crooked and who are devious in their ways. (Proverbs 2:12-15 NIV)
Those who left the straight paths are example for us. We are to leave our sin and get back on the straight path.
I have to admit to you that it is difficult for us to believe that anything good can come from confessing our sin and dealing with the consequences. The consequences that we will have to pay at the hands of people can be severe, but if we will come clean before the presence of God then we will receive mercy.
Confessing our sin flies in the face of everything we are taught to do in our society today. Our society teaches that we need to cover up our sin, we need to hide our sin or we will suffer because of what we have done. God’s Word teaches us that if we will confess our sin we will find mercy, not condemnation. The Hebrew word for mercy is a beautiful word, it is the word, “racham” and it means, “to love, love deeply, have mercy, be compassionate, have tender affection.” The word for mercy is so tender, so intimate, and loving that it is sometimes translated “womb” in the English Bible. Let me give you some examples of the beauty of this powerful little word.
In Genesis we read about Jacob and his two wives, Rachel and Leah. Jacob loved Rachel, but the only reason he was married to Leah was so he could also be married to Rachel. Jacob wouldn’t honor Leah, but in Genesis 29:31 we read about God’s love for Leah. Read along with me.
31 When the LORD saw that Leah was not loved, he opened her womb, but Rachel was barren. (Genesis 29:31 NIV)
What’s really interesting about this verse is that it is one of those verses I told you about where the word is translated, “womb.” God saw that Leah wasn’t loved by her husband, but God loved her so much that He allowed her to bear children. What a beautiful picture of God’s mercy and love.
In my favorite Psalm we find another example of the usage of the word for “mercy.” Read along with me from Psalm 103:13-14.
13 As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him; 14 for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust. (Psalm 103:13-14 NIV)
Here the Psalmist compares the mercy, or compassion, of God with the compassion a daddy feels for his children. There is not anything that I wouldn’t do for my children. My heart is tender for my kids because they are my children. Before each of them were born, Connie and I would lay hands on her stomach and pray for them. In the years since their birth Connie and I have continued to pray for each of our kids. My heart is also tender for my kids because they are young. They are young and lacking in experience. There are many things about this harsh world that they don’t know and I want to shield them from those who would try and hurt them. When they hurt I hurt all the more. Let me tell you, the compassion and love I feel for my three children doesn’t even compare to the compassion the Father has for each of us.
Let me give you one final example of the kind of mercy that God demonstrates to sinners who will come clean with their sin. Turn to Isaiah 49:13-15 with me and let’s read together.
13 Shout for joy, O heavens; rejoice, O earth; burst into song, O mountains! For the LORD comforts his people and will have compassion on his afflicted ones. 14 But Zion said, “The LORD has forsaken me, the Lord has forgotten me.” 15 “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!” (Isaiah 49:13-15 NIV)
The Israelites felt like God had forgotten them. They had gone through some tough times and wondered, “Where are You God.” God answered His people with a question: “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne?” God paints a picture of the most tender and intimate reality we know–a mother nursing her child. If that isn’t a picture of love and devotion then I don’t what is! God says, “Can a momma forget?” We know that the answer to the question is, “Not often, but yes some mothers do forget and forsake their kids.” God knows this reality and yet He says, “Though she may forget, I will not forget you!”
That is the kind of love God has for you and me. That is the tenderness He feels for us when we come before Him in honesty and say, “Lord, I’ve sinned against You. Please forgive me.” Before God will forgive our sins, He must first uncover our sin. Charles Spurgeon wrote,
Before God covers a man’s sins he unveils them. Did you ever see your sins unveiled? Did it ever seem as if the Lord put his hand upon you, and said, “Look, look at them”? Have you been led to see your sins as you never saw them before? Have you felt their aggravations drive you to despair? As you have looked at them, He makes you aware that he sees how sinful they are, and he makes you feel how vile and leprous they are. His justice withers your pride; his judgment appalls your heart. You are humbled in the very dust, and made to cry out, each man trembling for his own soul–”God be merciful to me, a sinner!”
We are so accustomed to seeing the media expose people in our society who have messed up. They not only expose them, but then they crucify them. You need to know that this is not God’s way of dealing with our sin. God will expose us, He will uncover our sin in one way or another, but He does so to lead us to repentance so that we might be restored. The media, and many people in our society, love to see others take the fall, they love to see people destroyed, but God does not desire our destruction, He desires our restoration.
In Ezekiel, the prophet was instructed to speak to God’s people about their sin. Turn to Ezekiel 33 with me and you can read what God’s desire is for His people.
10 “Son of man, say to the house of Israel, This is what you are saying: ‘Our offenses and sins weigh us down, and we are wasting away because of them. How then can we live?’ 11 Say to them, “As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, O house of Israel?” (Ezekiel 33:10-11 NIV)
What will you and I do this morning? Will we continue to conceal those hidden secrets that we hope nobody will ever find out about or will we come before God’s glorious throne of grace so that we might receive mercy? God has already prepared for your coming: He gave His son Jesus to die on the cross so that your sin and my sin might be forgiven. Won’t you come to the Lord in confession and honesty this morning and receive the mercy of Almighty God?
Britton Christian Church
922 NW 91st
OKC, OK. 73114
January 15, 2013