From Self-deception to Relief

I once asked my sister, Luci, to name the emotion she considered the most powerful and enjoyable of all. She surprised me with her answer: relief. After thinking for a moment, I had to agree. Relief is everyone's favorite feeling!

David's song about forgiveness begins with a celebration of relief, which he found in God's forgiveness of his transgression.

Expression of Joy

How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven,
Whose sin is covered!
How blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute iniquity,
And in whose spirit there is no deceit! (32:1–2)

In these two verses David expresses overjoyed, unrestrained, exuberant gratitude for the Lord's mercy. The two sentences begin just like Psalm 1 (in Hebrew, that is): "Oh, the happiness many times over!" The idea is that of multiplied, numberless blessings. He is rejoicing over the removal of sins that once pinned him to the mat of guilt and shame.

If you look closely, you'll find four specific terms for wrongdoing in the first two verses. They describe the downward steps that lead a person to the same condition in which David lived before he finally confessed his wrongdoing.

1. "Transgression." The word is from the Hebrew term peshah, meaning "to rebel, revolt." It describes a willful act of disobedience.

2. "Sin." This word is from the most common Hebrew term for wrongdoing: khatah, which means "to miss the mark, to miss the way, go wrong." It has to do with deviating from the path which pleases God, whether willfully or by error.

3. "Iniquity." This term, from the Hebrew awōn, paints a dark picture of sin as "infraction, crooked behavior, perversion," suggesting it comes from a corrupted nature.

4. "Deceit." Remiah is the original Hebrew term meaning "treachery, deception [and in some cases—as here], self-deception."

It appears the songwriter traces the downward spiral of wrongdoing, using increasingly strong terms for sin. It is a notorious tailspin with which, sadly, most of us are familiar. First, we rebel or revolt against God's revealed will. Next, we miss the way He marked out for us—the path of righteousness. Then, guilt grabs us and we go through the inner torment of severe, uncomfortable feelings. Without relief, the daily grind of an unforgiven conscience can drive a person mad. If he or she doesn't find relief in forgiveness, the only alternative is self-delusion through denial, minimizing, blame-shifting, making excuses, even redefining evil to make it appear good.

As self-deception sets in, as it did in David when he refused to deal with his wrong, the sinner's character becomes twisted. Because it happens slowly, many try to tolerate sin's consequences—those inner churnings and grinding turmoil. If you have fallen into the torments of a guilty conscience through sin and you realize that self-deception is beginning to take over, I urge you to stop. Put a halt to your downward plunge and openly confess your wrong to your Lord. Do whatever is necessary, no matter how drastic, to prevent repeated failure. Read these next two statements from Scripture with great care:

He who conceals his transgressions will not prosper,
But he who confesses and forsakes them will find compassion. (Proverbs 28:13)

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)

Openly confessing our wrong to our Lord is the only cure for a guilty conscience and self-deception.

Charles R. Swindoll Tweet This

Adapted from Charles R. Swindoll, Living the Psalms: Encouragement for the Daily Grind (Brentwood, Tenn.: Worthy Publishing, a division of Worthy Media, Inc., 2012). Copyright © 2012 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. All rights are reserved. Used by permission.

God's Word for You