Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit. For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,” and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. Psalm 32:1-5
I immediately thought of these verses when I read the story about the Ohio man who confesses via video to drunk driving and to hitting and killing a man. Below is his confession:
This is a powerful video. It is also a great demonstration of the crushing nature of the Law, not the law of the land, but God’s eternal Law. I am not claiming that Matthew Cordle is a Christian. I have no idea. But I do know that Paul says in Romans that every single human being has a natural knowledge of God’s Law. It is written on our hearts. In other words, every human being is born with a sense of right and wrong. And we humans spend our entire time trying to deal with God’s Law or as the late theologian Gerhard Forde puts it, we spend our entire lives trying to “get God off our backs.”
You see, God’s Law crushes us. It enslaves us. It tells us over and over again that we are not good enough. God’s Law demands perfection. And we fall short of those demands. So we try to deal with the Law in different ways.
1. We get angry with God because of his impossible demands, and so we do our best to simply ignore the Law that is written on our hearts. We rebel against the Law, and we do our best to ignore it when it rises up in our conscience to accuse us. We become our own Lawmakers.
2. We try to justify ourselves. We point out the areas where we are following the Law and try to sweep under the rug those times that we fall short. We point out other people who we think our worse Lawbreakers than we are. We attempt to present our best selves to other people and to God.
3. We despair. This is the intended effect of the Law. This is what happened to King David in Psalm 32 and to Matthew Cordle. Guilt overwhelmed them until they could not keep silent about their transgressions any longer. David described it as his bones wasting away all day long. He felt God’s hand heavy upon him. Matthew Cordle certainly felt the heavy hand of the Law upon him too. He didn’t want to lie about it or cover it up. He couldn’t ignore it any longer. It was crushing him. So he confessed his sin and is apparently willing to accept his punishment.
“I can’t erase what I’ve done,” Cordle says. And in our human justice system, Cordle will pay the price for his crime, as he should. But I hope that somebody has an opportunity to share with Matthew Cordle that his sin can be erased. I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,” and you forgave the iniquity of my sin.
Matthew Cordle can try to right his wrong by accepting his punishment here on earth. He can reconcile with his conscience. But the only way to achieve peace with God is to confess his sins to Him. But if we confess our sins, God is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
The only way to “get God off your back” is to confess your sins and turn to Jesus. On the cross, Jesus took all your sins and the sins of the whole world upon his back. He took your eternal punishment. Through Jesus’ blood shed on the cross, your sins are erased. You can have peace with God because Jesus died in your place.
I noticed that the YouTube user that uploaded Matthew Cordle’s confession goes by the name “becauseisaidiwould.” Matthew Cordle even holds up a piece of paper with that tagline on it. I don’t know anything about this tagline. I assume it encourages people to follow through on their words which is, of course, a good idea. But people, as I have already pointed out, are not perfect and often go back on their word.
But God does not. No matter what he says, we can trust. How do you know God will forgive your sins? Because he said he would. How do you know that he will grant you eternal life? Because he said he would. God always keeps his word and promises.
When you are crushed by the Law, do not ignore it. Do not angry with God. Do not try to justify yourself. Despair of yourself, confess your sins and receive healing and forgiveness through Jesus. He came and died for sinners like Matthew Cordle, like you, and like me. In Christ, you are declared, “Not guilty!”
The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. He will not always chide, nor will he keep his anger forever. He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. Psalm 103:8-12