“Who can understand his errors? Cleanse me from secret faults. Keep back Your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me.” Psalm 19:12-13
So many times, we do not even see or understand that we have sinned. We don’t recognize our faults and don’t realize that we are unclean before our holy God and deserving of nothing but His eternal wrath and punishment.
When we read and study God’s Word, it reveals our sinfulness. The Holy Spirit, who authored the Scriptures, shows us what God desires of us and reveals to us that we do not measure up and have garnered the wages of our sinfulness — eternal death and damnation!
That is why David, in Psalm 19, says, “Who can understand his errors?” and prays that God would cleanse him from his secret faults — faults that he does not even see in himself and recognize.
This is also what we do in our general confession when we ask God to forgive us all our sins of thought, word and deed, both sins of omission and sins of commission. We ask God to forgive us all our sins for Jesus’ sake: those we know and recognize as sin and even those sins we do not know and feel in our hearts.
And, we are assured that God, for the sake of Christ’s atoning sacrifice on the cross, forgives our sins and cleanses us from all unrighteousness (cf. 1 John 1:7 – 2:2).
David continues his prayer: “Keep back Your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me.”
“What are presumptuous sins?” we might ask. These are those sins we know are wrong and contrary to God’s commandments and, yet, we willfully choose to go ahead and do them, presuming that God will deal with us in mercy and not condemn us for our wickedness.
John Bunyan (author of Pilgrim’s Progress) once referred to sin as “the dare of God’s justice, the rape of His mercy, the jeer of His patience, the slight of His power, and the contempt of His love.” And this is a fitting description of presumptuous sins. Those who commit them treat the blood of Christ, shed for the sins of all upon the cross, as a common and worthless thing to be used as a license to indulge in the sinful desires of our flesh (cf. Heb. 10:26-31). Presumptuous sins are, indeed, the “rape of His mercy” in Christ Jesus!
And, of course, the Scriptures warn against them, telling us that, if we go on sinning wilfully after we have learned of Christ, we should not expect to receive pardon and forgiveness through Christ’s sacrifice (Heb. 10:26-27; 2 Pet. 2:18-22). Paul wrote to the Corinthian believers: “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Cor. 6:9-11). To the believers in Ephesus, he wrote: “For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with them” (Eph. 5:5-7). To the churches of Galatia, he wrote: “Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Gal. 5:19-21).
That is why David pays that the Lord would hold him back from following his own lusts and committing presumptuous sins. He recognized that His sinful flesh longed to plunge forward into sin and He needed God to hold him back from such sin and eternal ruin.
David adds, “Let them not have dominion over me.”
David knew well the dangers of presumptuous sin. Going against his knowledge of God’s commandments, he lusted after Bathsheba and committed adultery with her. Then, he tried to hide and cover up his sin and ended up murdering Bathsheba’s husband Uriah to do it. And, had God not sent Nathan the prophet to rebuke David and call him to repentance, he would have been lost forever! (Read 2 Samuel 11-12.)
Sin is deceitful and, once we give in to its desire, we easily become entangled and enslaved by it. We know it’s wrong to drink to excess or take mind-altering drugs but, once we give in, we find ourselves giving in again and again until we cannot stop. We know that sexual immorality, pornography and adultery are wrong but, once we give in just a little, we become addicted and enslaved. We know it is wrong to be dishonest in our dealings with others but one deception leads to another and another. We know we should take the time to hear God’s Word and worship and serve Him but, once we start neglecting to do so, it becomes easier and easier.
The apostle Paul wrote: “What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not! Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness?” (Rom. 6:15-16).
Thus, we pray with David, “Who can understand his errors? Cleanse me from secret faults. Keep back Your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me.”
We ask God to graciously forgive all our sins — both those we know and those which are unknown to us — for the sake of Christ’s atoning sacrifice on the cross, and God pardons our sins for Jesus’ sake. And we pray that God would keep us back from following our sinful desires into presumptuous sins which so easily entangle and ensnare us and lead us away from Christ Jesus our Savior to our eternal ruin!
O gracious and merciful God, we have sinned in our thoughts, desires, words and actions. Some of our sins we know and recognize and others are known only to You. Forgive all our sins for Jesus’ sake. Cleanse our hearts and souls and make us acceptable in Your sight through the shed blood of Christ Jesus. Keep us back from presumptuous sins and do not let them gain the upper hand and rule over us. Amen.
[Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.]