Romans Lesson 52 - The Cover-up
Churches all across America have problems. Frankly, the national pastime seems to be the cover-up of sin. Learn how people try to hide their sin and what they should do instead.
Over the last several months, our attention has been riveted to one exposure after another of prominent people and prominent corporations gone bad. Either indicted for or under suspicion of juggling the books, outright theft, kick-backs, money laundering, insider trading. And above all, incredible stories of complex and detailed cover-ups.
One recent story revolves around a well known woman who apparently sold her shares of stock in a company, just before the company’s financial troubles hit the press and the stock value plummeted. Just a few days ago she finally relented under legal pressure to comply by turning over her phone records and emails, only for the officials to discover that certain phone numbers and emails had been blacked out.
Frankly, the national past time seems to be the cover-up of sin.
So rampant is the infidelity and deception of married men and women toward their spouses and children, that a company called “The Alibi Agency” makes a profit from helping create an alibi for their clients. The Atlantic Monthly recently reported that this company will furnish you with the ticket stubs for the theater performance you said you were going to . . . they will print up fake invitations and programs to the social and business events that supposedly kept you away from home. And their advertising proudly promises, “We can tailor make an alibi to your specifications . . . our aim is your peace of mind.”
Citation: Cullen Murphy, “A Hand for the Head,” Atlantic Monthly (April 2000)
Part of the cover-up strategy is deny . . . deny . . . deny and then, when you’re finally caught, admit to only having made a mistake.
Like the Pulitzer prize winning author who was exposed recently, having spun a web of tales about his military career, his achievements on the battle field, his acts of heroism in combat. He told his students in the University where he taught that he led a division of men into combat and succeeded in their mission. The truth was, he was teaching history at the time at West Point. He even lied about the kind of high school athletic achievements he had accomplished.
When he was caught, he said, “Even the best life can include some mistakes.”
Deny . . . deny . . . deny and then, when you’re finally caught, admit to only having made a mistake.
According to one recent survey, some 60% of corporate professionals admitted anonymously to some sort of exaggeration on their resume.
And if caught, the average man would say, “Well, I made a wrong choice . . . or, I made a mistake . . .” No mention of words like, deceiving or lying.
Another aspect of the cover-up strategy is to deny . . . deny . . . deny . . . then when proven wrong, blame somebody else as being the bad person.
That strategy, Ladies and Gentlemen, started all the way back when the first man and the first woman to ever walk the face of the earth, sinned.
And when God came to hold them accountable and uncover their sin, Adam gave the very first excuse recorded in human history – “It’s the woman’s fault.” (Genesis 3:12)
But the tragedy wasn’t that Adam blamed his wife, the deeper tragedy was that Adam implied that God was ultimately to blame. Adam said, “The woman that you gave to be with me, gave me to eat.”
In other words, if you hadn’t given her to me, I wouldn’t have sinned.
Then the Lord looked at Eve and said, in effect, “Okay, let’s see if you can admit you’re a sinner.” And so He said to her, “Eve, what is this you have done?” And she blamed it on the serpent. And that line of defense is popular to this day which says, “The devil made me do it.”
Which also was an implicit accusation against God because God created the serpent . . . in fact, God created Satan who inhabited the serpent. So, ultimately it’s God’s fault.
We would never blame God for our sin would we? “Lord, if you hadn’t made me this way, I wouldn’t fail so much in that area.” “Lord, if you had only taken care of that issue or that need, I wouldn’t have had to take matters into my own hands.”
That’s really another way of saying, “Lord, it’s your fault!”
Deny, deny, deny, then blame someone else.
Cal Thomas wrote in World Magazine last week these words, “Isn’t anyone responsible for anything anymore? Apparently not . . we’re all victims now and anything bad is . . . somebody else’s fault.”
He cites several cases pending today, including the man who was ordered to cut down a diseased tree in his yard since it posed a hazard to power lines and traffic. So the man backed his van up to the tree, put a ladder on top of the van and began to cut down the tree . . . when some falling branches knocked him off his ladder and onto the ground where he hurt himself, he sued the city – it was their fault. [It wasn’t his fault he didn’t know any better . . . it was the cities fault].
Cal Thomas, “We’re All Victims Now,” World Magazine, August 10, 2002, p. 27
That case reminded me of one I read several years ago about a high school girl who tried out for the varsity football team. She was allowed to try out – the school officials were afraid to turn her down lest she sue the school district – and in the very first scrimmage she was hurt. She still sued the city’s school district for more than 1 million dollars and, along with her parents, claimed in that lawsuit that nobody had “warned her of the physical dangers inherent in the sport.” She didn’t know you could get hurt playing football.
Perhaps the most unbelievable case I’ve heard in a long time is the 56 year old New York man who is now in the process of suing several fast food chains for contributing to his weight gain which led to his heart attack. He claims that the fast food restaurants created an addiction. . .a craving that overpowered him. So he is suing McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, and Kentucky Fried Chicken for causing his heart attack by all that bad food. [By the way, never mind that all four fast food chains serve salad. Evidently, he became addicted to the bacon and Swiss double whopper and the biggee fries and the super sized Mountain Dew.] But it wasn’t his fault.
Deny . . . deny . . . deny . . . then 1st - admit to only the least amount or 2nd - find someone else to blame for your addictions, greed, deceptions, perversions and in general, sinful behavior.
Another way of covering up sin and is something we hear more than ever; it’s the person who is caught in a crime who says, “Yes, I did something bad, but I’m not a bad person.”
The Chicago Tribune a few months ago reported how a disgruntled man walked into a restaurant in Elgin, Illinois, with four guns and opened fire. He killed two and wounded 16 others. At his trial he was unrepentant. When his attorney asked him if he felt any remorse, he said, “As ironic as this sounds, I’m a passionate, giving person. I like to think I’m a pretty good person. I’m not one to hurt anyone that doesn’t provoke me.”
Citation: Lee Eclove, Lake Forest, Illinois; source: Chicago Tribune (11-20-2001)
Forget that he wounded and maimed people he didn’t even know.
I did something evil, but I’m not really an evil person.
There’s a fourth way to cover-up sinful behavior. It’s becoming the most popular of all. In the cover-up of sin, whenever you’re caught, simply say it isn’t sinful.
Deny . . . deny . . . deny . . . then say it really isn’t so bad after all.
In fact, you don’t even deny it . . . you applaud it. You endorse it. You say it’s the way to live. You wear sin and evil as a badge of honor.
The classic example is the homosexual community who holds their annual “gay pride” parades and their “gay pride” month.
Pride! Sexual perversion between men with men and women with women are not sinful – they are reasons to be proud.
This method redefines moral right and wrong in an attempt to overcome the guilt of sin and the pain of a guilty conscience.
Judith Brandt recently wrote a book sub-titled, “Your Guide to Infidelity and Extramarital Etiquette,” and gets rave reviews. She said in on interview, “If you are going about your business in a discreet way (in other words, if no one catches you in your infidelity) and you are continuing to take care of your wife and children (in other words, if you put food on the table and clothes on their backs and act like you really love them and care about them) then there is no reason to feel guilty.” In other words, you haven’t done anything wrong. You can actually be a discreet fornicator. You can use proper etiquette while you destroy someone else’s life along with your own. She went on to actually state in an interview that adultery can actually provide some short term benefits.
Cited in Preaching Today.com (An interview between Judith E. Brandt and the Chicago Tribune)
Paul has already described in Romans chapter 1 the atrocity of this kind of cover-up, in fact, he says it’s the worst kind of all. He says, in effect, that the gutter of depravity; the bottom of the sewer of sin, is when a person or a society at large not only commits sinful acts, but approves of that sin and applauds that sinful behavior in others.
He writes, “they not only do the same [these sinful acts], but they also give hearty approval to those who practice them.” (Romans 1:32)
He says, that’s the bottom rung of the ladder as you descend into the pit of depravity.
Listen to what Hoover, our 31st president, warned future generations of when said, 70 years ago, “[The strength of our nation] lies in public sensitivity to evil. Our greatest danger is not some invading army . . . our greatest danger . . . is a public tolerance of scandalous behavior.”
Cited in The TORCH Magazine (Summer 2002) p. 10
In other words, the greatest danger facing any culture is the cover-up of sin.
Covering up sin by saying it was just a bad choice; covering up sin by blaming it on someone else; covering up evil by saying that you’re really not an evil person, or, the worst cover-up of all, saying evil isn’t really evil.
The truth is, mankind has been involved in some sort of cover-up of sin, ever since sin entered human experience.
In an attempt to show the awful depravity of the human mind and heart – to reveal that salvation has to be the free gift of a gracious God, Paul has brought to us the illustration of Abraham. The great Patriarch of the Jewish people. A former pagan who was chosen by God – but a man who had a terrible time telling the truth.
Having illustrated the grace of a saving God in the life of the famous Patriarch, Paul will now illustrate the grace of a forgiving God in the life of the famous Monarch.
If Abraham was the beloved Patriarch . . . and he was. Then David was the beloved Monarch.
But as great and beloved as David was, he was an even greater sinner.
King David was a master in the game of cover-up.
For that reason, Paul will use David as an illustration, along with Abraham, that God justifies a man or woman apart from works. Notice what he writes in Romans 4:6. just as David also speaks of the blessing on the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works
In other words, the life David lived was so sinful at times, that it should be obvious to everybody that God justified David independently of the way he lived.
To the Jewish reader, Paul was opening up a wound by mentioning David in this context. The Jew, like everyone else, not only wanted to cover up his own sins, he especially wanted to cover-up the sins of his forefathers. Above all, the sins of David.
But the Bible is unrelenting in exposing the cover-up of sin.
In order for us to appreciate it the words of David, quoted centuries later by Paul, in Romans chapter 4, we have to go back in time to, perhaps, the most famous cover-up in Biblical history.
2 Samuel chapter 11 sets the stage. 1. Then it happened in the spring, at the time when kings go out to battle, that David sent Joab and his servants with him and all Israel, and they destroyed the sons of Ammon and besieged” - or surrounded the city of - “Rabbah. But David stayed at Jerusalem. 2. Now when evening came David arose from his bed and walked around on the roof of the king’s house, and from the roof he saw a woman bathing; and the woman was very beautiful in appearance. 3. So David sent and inquired about the woman. And one said, ‘Is this not Bathsheba the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?” God is making sure the servants tell David she’s a married woman. Now this should have stopped him cold. 4. And David sent messengers and took her, and when she came to him, he lay with her; and when she had purified herself from her uncleanness, she returned to her house.” One night, it’s over. The Bible doesn’t inform us if this meeting between David and Bathsheba digressed to some form of kingly coercion, or if he used bribery or some form of intimidation, if it was cruel rape. It simply says, “she came, and she went back home . . . implying that David now wants life to resume as normal.
Not so fast . . . verse 5, “the woman conceived; and she sent and told David, and said, ‘I am pregnant.’”
At this point, David has a choice . . . he can confess his sin and do whatever necessary to accept the consequences of his sin, or, he can try to cover it up.
He chooses the cover-up.
There are three steps in his cover-up.
Step number one was to bring Bathsheba’s husband home from the battlefield.
Make sure he spends the weekend at home with his wife so that her pregnancy could be attributed to him. Verse 6, “David sent to Joab (the General), saying, ‘Send me Uriah the Hittite.’ So Joab sent Uriah to David. When Uriah came to him, David asked concerning the welfare of Joab and the people and the state of the war. Then David said to Uriah, ‘Go down to your house, and wash your feet.’” – that’s the old testament way of saying, “Take the weekend off and relax.” - “And Uriah went out of the king’s house, and a present from the king was sent out after him. But Uriah slept at the door of the king’s house with all the servants of his lord, and did not go down to his house.” 10. “Now when they told David, saying, ‘Uriah did not go down to his house,’ David said to Uriah, ‘Have you not come from a journey? Why did you not go down to your house?’” Uriah here, by the way, delivers a rather courageous reminder to King David. In fact, some commentators believe that Uriah knew something was up . . . this was all a little too obvious . . . we can’t be sure. . . 11. “And Uriah said to David, ‘The ark and Israel and Judah are staying in temporary shelters, and my lord Joab and the servants of my lord are camping in the open field. Shall I then go to my house to eat and to drink and to lie with my wife? By your life and the life of your soul, I will not do this thing.’”
So David moves to step 2. verse 13, “Now David called him, and he ate and drank before him, and he made him drunk; and in the evening he went out to lie on his bed with his lord’s servants, but he” - still - “did not go down to his house.” Your read this passage and you can almost begin to feel David’s panic. This man just won’t go home to his wife. And if he doesn’t, it won’t be long before he knows that she has become pregnant and he is not the father . . . he’s been on the field for months now, and there are months yet to go and he’ll know it was someone else.
By the way, it is clear now to the reader that David has shared this scheme with Bathsheba and she evidently has become a part of the cover-up. Why not tell her husband what David did . . . why not tell the truth . . . she is now in the process of deceiving her husband.
So, the third step is to make sure Uriah never comes home. Verse 14, “Now it came about in the morning that David wrote a letter to Joab, and sent it by the hand of Uriah. And he had written in the letter, saying, ‘Place Uriah in the front line of the fiercest battle and withdraw from him, so that he may be struck down and die.’ Skip to verse 17. “And the men of the city went out and fought against Joab, and some of the people among David’s servants fell; and Uriah the Hittite also died.”
One of the unknown details in this tragic deception and now, murderous plot is the fact that Uriah was actually one of David’s most loyal soldiers. In fact, if you trace Uriah’s history you discover that he joined David when before David became the King. He banded together with David back at the caves of Adullam. Uriah was one of the first 36 men to come and join up with David. He has been with David out in the fields. He suffered with David when David could give him nothing in return but a promise of a future kingdom. He fought side by side with David. He walked into Jerusalem with his glorious king.
And now Uriah, this trusting friend, would be double-crossed and betrayed as a result of David’s cover-up.
Let me give you a principle here, covering up sin instead of confessing sin multiplies the devastation, once it is discovered.
The devastation in the husband’s life who didn’t know. A wife whose life is ripped to pieces upon discovering a husband’s secret life. Children whose trust in their father or mother is smashed to pieces. A magazine is uncovered, a phone number is discovered, and lives are, literally, ripped apart. Let’s call it what it is. It is sin and no one is to blame but the sinner. It leads to the destruction of lives.
There is no such thing as adulterous etiquette . . . there is no such thing as sinning discreetly. And seen in the life of David and Bathsheba, it is the betrayal of a man who loved them both.
Chuck Swindoll writes a story in one of his books I have in my library. It’s a tragic story of a couple who had been married for 25 years. They had three grown children who loved them dearly. They were blessed with financial resources so that they could finally begin dreaming about a lakeside retirement home. They finally went looking for it and a widower was selling his lake front home. They liked it a lot and they returned home to plan and to think. Then last fall, out of the blue, this mother and wife announced to her husband, she wanted a divorce. He went numb. Then angry, he said, “How could you be conceiving this plan? Here we are 25 years, we’re now looking for a retirement home. How could you be nursing this scheme?” She said she hadn’t been. This was a recent decision. He asked, “Who?” She said it was the owner of the lake front home. She had run into him, inadvertently, after looking at the home, several weeks after they had met to discuss the purchase of his home. They had had a quick lunch together. That had led to another lunch, and another . . . She said to her husband, now she was in love with this man and she wasn’t turning back. Not even their grown children, who hated the idea, could dissuade her. The day came for her to leave and the husband was walking through the kitchen on the way out to the garage and he stopped and he looked at her and he said, “I guess this is the last time.” And his voice sort of dissolved into sobs. She felt awkward, she hurriedly gathered her things and drove north to meet this man. Two weeks after moving in with him, he was seized with a heart attack, this new lover of hers, lingered for a few hours and then died. In two weeks so much of their lives was irretrievably destroyed. Trust destroyed . . . the future bleak . . . the prospects of grand-parenting now clouded with guilt . . . the potential of reconciliation now a story of unbearable sorrow and pain.
David isn’t through with his cover-up by the way. He takes another step in his deceptive scheme. And Bathsheba is as involved as he is. She’s as deep in this scheme as he is. Here’s David’s 4th and final step in his cover-up:
Verse 27, “When the time of mourning was over, David sent and brought her to his house and she became his wife”. Uriah’s grave hasn’t even grown grass yet . . can you imagine David as he stood at the memorial service of his faithful soldier . . . delivering a eulogy for his faithful friend Uriah.
If that isn’t bad enough, it seems like David is going to get away with MURDER. But God has been overlooked. Look at the last part of verse 27, “But the thing that David had done was evil in the sight of the Lord.” You see, ladies and gentlemen, in David’s cover-up, and in ours, we tend to forget the presence of God. We get involved in sin and we look this way and we look this way and we look this way but we forget to look this way.
Now, frankly, I’m not sure how secret David’s sin was. It’s been a year between chapter 11 and chapter 12. One author suggested that the palace gossips are talking . . . a few cynics are probably muttering around the kingdom, “David’s gotten away with sin.”
But during that year, a prophet of God, named Nathan, has been watching. He has been listening. He has been working on a story, by God’s own inspiration. And he comes to David, in the beginning of chapter 12, and for the sake of time, let me paraphrase for you. He tells David a story. He says, “David, there was this very wealthy man who had herds and flocks. He was prosperous. And there was this little poor man who had one little lamb. His children played with it. It ate the scraps from the table. They loved it. One day company came to this rich man’s home and he wanted to roast a lamb. He didn’t want to take one of his many . . . and he noticed this poor man and he went took the lamb from this man killed it, and served it to his guests.”
David virtually comes off his throne and shouts, “That man deserves to die!” It’s interesting that Jewish law only required restoration, not death! But David says, “That man must die.” What did he steal? A lamb. What did David steal? A wife.
And Nathan, perhaps, pausing long enough to let David’s words echo around the palace walls pointed his finger at David and said, “You are that man!”
Suddenly David is exposed! The cover-up is uncovered.
David is guilty of covetousness, adultery, lying and murder . . .
Paul will use David in Romans chapter 4 because David’s case is hopeless.
And so is all of humanity, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
Paul, in Romans 4 says, in effect, David is one of God’s greatest evidences that salvation is a free gift . . . it isn’t given to perfect people, it’s given to terrible sinners.
Sinners who stop covering up . . . and confess.
David will write a song we call Psalm 32 which Paul quotes from in Romans 4
Listen to what David says life was like during those days of deception and cover-up:
Psalm 32:3 When I kept silent about my sin, my body wasted away; through my groaning all day long. 4. For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; my vitality was drained away as with the fever heat of summer. 5. [Then] I acknowledged my sin to You, and my iniquity I did not hide; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord”; and You forgave the guilt of my sin.
Now, in Romans 4 verse 7 Paul pulls from that Psalm, David’s opening lines . . . poetry that speak of a
man who has ceased covering up sin, and fully confessing. “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds have
been forgiven, And whose sins have been covered (by the way, this word is a wonderful Old testament
truth – but the principle remains today . . . don’t ever expect God to cover for you what you will not
uncover for Him. - 8. “Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will not take into account.”
No more cover-up . . . instead, the liberation and joy that comes from full confession.
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