When Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden, their first instinct was to hide. Their reaction is fascinating considering sin was a new phenomenon and they had no conditioning that linked it with shame. Nevertheless, after eating fruit from the forbidden tree, the couple realized their nakedness – of which they had been previously unashamed – and covered themselves with fig leaves. Later they heard God walking in the garden and hid among the trees. Not fooled by the duo’s disappearance, God confronted them, and Adam responded by admitting he heard God in the garden, was afraid because of his nakedness, and took cover.
We’ve been doing the same thing ever since. A child breaks a lamp and immediately tries to hide it. A teenager gets a speeding ticket and plots to pay it off without telling her parents. An adult struggles with pride or fear or jealousy or bitterness but is unwilling to admit it to his peers.
King David depicted the toll it takes to conceal sin when he wrote, “When I kept silent, my bones wasted away” (Psalm 32:3). His subsequent statement, “I did not cover my iniquity”, suggests that he learned to prefer acknowledgement of sin over concealment (32:5). Based on what we read in the rest of the Psalm, though, the instinct to cover sin is right, but there’s only one form of sufficient covering.
After listing the devastating consequences of their sin, “God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skin and clothed them”, indicating that an animal was killed to provide them with covering (Genesis 3:21). The death of an animal in the garden was the first of innumerable sacrifices throughout Old Testament history, emphasizing Scripture’s teaching that “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins” (Hebrews 9:22). Sufficient covering for sin always requires a death and, unless the guilty individual is going to bear the penalty himself, it has to come from the outside.
King David’s son Solomon echoed his father’s words when he wrote, “Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy” (Proverbs 28:13). Owning up to our sin is often the last thing any of us wants to do – thus the self-covering. But exposing our sin rather than hiding it is exactly what ushers in our pardon. That’s the thing about mercy – we can’t embrace it if we’re not convinced we need it. If we step out from behind the trees, though, our need is undeniable. The question is: do we believe the One who calls us out of hiding will meet us with mercy?
Only a few verses prior to saying he didn’t cover his iniquity, King David declared, “Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered” (Psalm 32:1). Was his sin covered or was it not? Lest we misunderstand, his sin was most definitely covered, but not of his own doing. There’s no substitute for the covering God alone provides. Adam and Eve couldn’t do it in the garden, King David couldn’t do it when confronted about his adultery, and we can’t do it either. A note in the ESV Study Bible clarifies the difference: “When God ‘covers’ sin, he graciously blots it out; when man ‘covers’ his sin, he is sinfully hiding it.” This forces us to ask ourselves if we’d rather cover up our own sin and waste away on the inside while living in perpetual fear of being found out, or confess our sin and watch God hurl it into the depths of the sea (Micah 7:19)?
Because an unblemished Lamb has already been sacrificed on our behalf, we have the guarantee that our God “will abundantly pardon” (Isaiah 55:7). As the author of Hebrews so eloquently put it, “How much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to the serve the living God…So Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him…We have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all…But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God” (Hebrews 9:14, 28; 10:10, 12).
The One who bore our sins is seated at God’s right hand as a constant reminder that our debt has been paid in full. Because of Him, when we come out of hiding, our God adorns us, not temporarily with garments of skin, but eternally with garments of salvation (Isaiah 61:10).