Psalm 19:12-14 (NIV)
“Who can discern his errors? Forgive my hidden faults. Keep your servant also from willful sins; may they not rule over me. Then will I be blameless, innocent of great transgression. May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.”
In this Psalm, David makes a distinction between “hidden faults” and “willful sins”. “Hidden faults” are sins that require forgiveness (Forgive my hidden faults) but they are “hidden” in the sense that they are hidden from the awareness of the person committing them. An example of a “hidden fault” would be making a promise to someone and then honestly forgetting to fulfill that promise. A sin was definitely committed by not fulfilling the promise but it was not done knowingly or on purpose. The NCV translation translates “hidden faults” as “secret sins”. But that’s a poor translation since most people think of secret sins as sins that are committed knowingly in secret. A secret sin is not hidden from the person’s awareness but rather it’s purposely hidden from the awareness of other people.
The other type of sin that David identifies is “willful sin”. Willful sin is an action, attitude, desire or thought that you are totally aware of and you know it is not pleasing to God but you choose to engage in it anyway. It is this type of sin that David is most wary of.
Why? It is because willful sin is an invitation to enslavement. David prays in verse 13, “Keep your servant also from willful sins; may they not rule over me.” The ESV reads, “Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me.”
According to the Lord, willful sin is not simply a choice to disobey God but it’s a choice to make yourself a slave to some other god. Jesus says in John 8:34, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin.” And Romans 6:16 reads “you are slaves of the one whom you obey”. So, each time we willfully go against the Spirit’s conviction in our mind or heart, we put ourselves in deeper enslavement to sin (and the father of sin – Ephesians 2:1-3).
I don’t want to sound overly dramatic but we must be attentive and watchful over our ways. When we say things like, “I know God would want me to do this but…” or “I know this is wrong but…” or “I know thinking this way is wrong but…” What we are doing is giving into willful sin. What we are saying is, “I know what God wants of me but I am not going to do it.” When we do that, we willfully sin and give the sinful attitude, desire or way of thinking authority to rule over us, not only for that moment, but also for our future.