“Blessed is he. . .whose sins are covered”
After far too much traveling in the last couple of years, I have come to the conclusion that motel rooms are not designed for people my age; they are decorated with entirely too many mirrors. Wherever you look, full length panels of reflective glass offer you entirely unbidden views of your own sad and sagging mortality.
One of the reasons English comedies are so much funnier than American sitcoms is that English audiences, it seems, don’t demand physical perfection. English comedies regularly feature unhandsome people; but American television offers a persistent diet of perfect shapes, both male and female, so many, in fact, that one begins to believe that such pulchritude is the norm. Given all that gorgeous flesh, suddenly seeing your self bare naked on a six-foot wall is an epiphany of horrific proportions. A few weeks ago I came home and told my wife I would never eat again.
I suppose I shouldn’t be equating sin with the body. Someone told me recently of a new study which maintains that John Calvin’s despairing views of the sins of the flesh was attributable, in part, to the revulsion he felt about the debilitating hemorrhoids he fought through most of his adult life. If that’s true, it’s something I wish I didn’t know.
But there is a link here in this verse from Psalm 32, at least in my mind. The exuberance of the line bursts from the realization that something hideous, revolting, and humiliatingly repulsive is taken care of, covered up, covered over, put out of sight, and better, out of mind and even out of soul. That something isn’t nakedness, but it’s close.
Sin, of course, isn’t so much an act as it is a condition, like dandruff or flat feet. It’s something we never stop fighting. There’s no truth, says the Apostle Paul, in those who claim they have no sin.
But the blissful joy of the opening lines of Psalm 32—or so it seems to me—is not the blessed realization that our sinful condition is gone, but instead our blessed assurance that God’s forgiveness has covered up, like White Out, something really, really evil, something we did, something we committed. That sin—our greed, our neglect, our thievery, our hate, our drunkenness, our adultery, our pathetic pride, our green-eyed jealousy—that sin in all its pathetic naked horror, the one we can’t forget, the one that haunts us day and night, the one that makes us sick unto death, that sin is what’s covered. It’s not at all visible. It’s buried. It’s gone. By the miracle of grace, it honestly never happened.
David’s sin is legendary, the unsavory mess created when he couldn’t keep his royal hands off someone else’s spouse, and how—so humanly—he sought to “cover” that sin by the sleazy murder of her beloved.
All of that is gone, he says. It’s absolutely and eternally history.
The triumphant joy of the first line of this psalm is the fundamental melody of the Good News. Your sin—what you did when you thought no one was looking, or what you did brazenly when the whole world was—that sin is covered, it’s ground into nothingness, it’s vanished. The revolting nakedness of what we’ve done with these warm hands will never be seen again, no matter how tall the mirrors.
What’s left in its place is beauty, the beauty of grace.
That’s the story here. Praise the Lord.