Covering or Confessing Sin?
Robert Wurtz II
In the morning it happened that David wrote a letter to Joab and sent it by the hand of Uriah. And he wrote in the letter, saying, “Set Uriah in the forefront of the hottest battle, and retreat from him, that he may be struck down and die.” So it was, while Joab besieged the city, that he assigned Uriah to a place where he knew there were valiant men. Then the men of the city came out and fought with Joab. And some of the people of the servants of David fell; and Uriah the Hittite died also” (2 Samuel 11:14–17 NKJV).
Our passage is the sobering account of one man’s quest to destroy the evidence of his terrible sin. In time, King David would hear the words (as it were) from the mouth of God, “Thou Art the Man” (2 Samuel 12:7). Yet leading up to this Divine intervention, were a series of sins that stagger the sensibilities of most anyone who reads them. What could King David have done to make him murder one of his valiant men? What would have happened if he had gotten by with it? These two questions are the focus of this entry.
Among the Hebrews, as in other Oriental nations, adultery was the act whereby any married man was exposed to the risk of having a spurious offspring imposed upon him. Therefore, an adulterer was any man who had illicit intercourse with a married or betrothed woman; and an adulteress was a betrothed or married woman who had intercourse with any other man than her husband. Intercourse between a married man and an unmarried woman was simply fornication — a great sin, but not, like adultery, involving the contingency of polluting a descent, turning aside an inheritance, or imposing upon a man charge which did not belong to him. Adultery was thus considered a great social wrong, against which society protected itself by much severer penalties than attended an unchaste act not involving the same contingencies. (McClintock and Strong on “Adultery” in Jewish antiquity, ca. 1870)
Unlike many people today, David understood the seriousness of the sin of adultery, tempting him to add to his sin by “covering his tracks.” This is an English idiom meaning to hide evidence of bad actions or behaviors. He tried everything to hide and finally destroy the evidence that he committed adultery with Bathsheeba. He even tried the old “tell him it’s his,” attempting to impose spurious offspring upon Uriah.
It is staggering to ponder the extent to which a man or woman will go to appear blameless when they sin and how quickly they will destroy a close friend to save face. Undoubtedly, David and Bathsheeba conspired together to pull the deception off. They wanted Uriah to believe that David’s baby was Uriah’s, and when that failed, David callously put Uriah’s death warrant in his own hands to deliver to Joab. Worst of all, David had despised God with his actions (2 Samuel 12:10). As we will discover, if David had succeeded in covering his sin, it would have ruined his ministry, his testimony and at last, it would have destroyed him.
David would never fool some people, no matter what. Understand that several people knew he had sinned because they were eyewitnesses. He inquired of Bathsheeba and later sent messengers (plural) who fetched her to the palace. They all knew David was up to no good and could have testified in that regard (2 Samuel 11:3-4). Rumors would have spread like wildfire. The objective of David’s scheme was to keep any accusers from proving he had sinned, and thus, he could go on unblemished in most of the peoples’ eyes.
To the ones who knew better, they would have viewed David as an adulterer, liar, and hypocrite. He could explain away all the evidence and make his accusers look like jealous enemies, but that would have totally destroyed him in their eyes. He could have fooled the majority and settled with living the rest of his life with a bad conscience and cloud of suspicion over him. But God revealed David’s sin and saved him from the fate of always being remembered as a pretender by the ones who knew the truth.
Hardened in Sin
It is hard to do what David and Bathsheeba tried to do to Uriah in modern times because of DNA testing. But it is far easier to cover tracks in other ways. Modern technologies allow people to commit sin and then shift the blame elsewhere. Most people know they are being tracked electronically in all kinds of ways. Our phone records, internet records are being recorded. Having a clean record doesn’t mean that a person is innocent (so to speak). It could mean they are good at covering their tracks.
In years past (and sometimes today), people looking to “fly under the radar” kept a secret phone to make calls, send text messages, or even photos privately. When inquiring minds reviewed the phone records of their regular phone, the illicit calls, texts, and data transmissions were absent (as intended). Why? Because they didn’t use that phone for such things, they used their secret phone. Drug dealers use the same strategy and refer to their secret phones as “burner phones.” They are just cheap pre-paid phones that are very hard to trace. More recently, people do the same thing with an encrypted phone app.
“He who covers his sins will not prosper, But whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy.” (Proverbs 28:13 NKJV)
It is hard to express in words how dangerous it is to have a means of sinning with impunity. The first part of our passage states, “He who covers his sins will not prosper…” God is not going to bless sin. There are two specific areas of concern:
First, a person might go on sinning and become so hardened in their sin that it eventually destroys them. The conscience will smite at first but become seared over time. If they feared getting caught, they might repent. But, unfortunately, some people feel so secure in the concealment of their sin that they pretend they aren’t sinning at all. They think their tracks are covered, so they behave boldly and innocently as if they have no sin at all.
Secondly, when a scandal is revealed it polarizes people into “guilty” and “not guilty” camps. This division destroys friendships and relationships because the guilty party refuses to acknowledge their sin. Moreover, a person who is hiding scandal may disown or try to destroy everyone who knows the truth. If David killed Uriah, what do you think he would eventually do to the witnesses who fetched Bathsheeba? The “not guilty” camp sides with them and more relationships are destroyed.
We have the remedy in the second half of our Proverb, “… But whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy.” (Proverbs 28:13 NKJV) The implication of this verse is that confession and forsaking are necessary for mercy. So long as a person keeps “playing the game,” they are only fooling themselves and setting themselves up for total destruction.
To “confess” is to acknowledge that the sin happened (past tense) or that it’s happening (present tense). This justifies God rather than the person. This agrees with 1 John 1: 9, “If we confess our sin He is faithful and just to forgive us of our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Here confess simply means to “say the same thing after.” God calls it sin and we should do likewise.
To “forsake” means to leave or abandon something. We could say it means to renounce it. This involves a change of mind that results in a change in behavior. How do we know that David truly repented? He didn’t keep committing adultery and trying to hide it.
David found mercy when he confessed and forsook his sin. He suffered terrible consequences in this life within his own family, but his relationship with God was restored. Understand that God put away David’s sin the moment that he confessed and forsook it (2 Samuel 2:13), but the baby died and the sword never departed from his house (2 Samuel 12:10). God is no respecter of persons, and He will show the same mercy to all who stop covering and confess and forsake their sins. There will be consequences, but nothing like what will happen if we continue sinning and covering our tracks.