Although rather plain, the word ‘cover’ communicates a rich variety of meaning. Its basic idea is simply to hide or conceal. But depending on the type, purpose, object, or means of concealment, ‘cover’ can mean to hide temporarily (mask) or hide permanently (obliterate); to hide from sight, hearing, knowledge, creditors, enemies, or memory; and so can be in order to clothe, adorn, beautify, smother, destroy, shield, guard, protect, and even pay.
With regard to God, His glory covers the heavens (Hab. 3:3). He covers Himself with light as with a garment (Ps. 104:2). He covers the heavens with clouds and prepares rain for the earth (Ps. 147:8). He covers the pastures with flocks and the valleys with corn (Ps. 65:13). He shall fill the earth with the knowledge of His glory as the waters cover the sea (Hab. 2:14).
In judgment, God covered the mountains under the whole heaven with the great flood (Gen. 7:19). With frogs and locusts, He covered the whole land of Egypt (Ex. 8:6; 10:15). With the Red Sea, He covered all the chariots, horsemen, hosts, and Pharaoh of Egypt (Ex. 14:28). The entire camp of murmuring Israel He covered with quail (Ex. 16:13). Sinners He covers with anger and shame (Lam. 3:43; Obad. 1:10). The living He covers with the shadow of death (Ps. 44:19). The dead He covers with worms (Job 21:26).
The ungodly cover their hatred with deceit, cover their mouth with violence, and cover their violence with a garment (Prov. 10:11; 26:26; Mal. 2:16). But in life, the Lord covers them with shame, reproach, and dishonor (Ps. 71:13; 89:45). And in death, He covers their name with darkness (Eccl. 6:4). In the day of judgment, they shall say to the hills, “Cover us” (Hos. 10:8; Luke 23:30). But in that day, even the earth shall no more cover her slain, everything covered shall be revealed and everything hid shall be made known (Is. 26:21; Luke. 12:2).
With regard to us, the Lord covers us even in our mother’s womb (Ps. 139:13). He covers us in the shadow of His hand and says, “Thou art my people” (Is. 51:16). He covers us with robes of righteousness as a bridegroom adorns himself with ornaments and a bride with her jewels (Is. 61:10). He covers our head in the day of battle (Ps. 140:7). He covers us with His feathers so that under His wings we trust (Ps. 91:4).
Most blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven; whose sins the Lord covers (Ps. 32:1; Rom. 4:7). He that covers his own sins shall not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them shall have mercy (Prov. 28:13). Mercy through Christ our Mediator. With His innocence and perfect holiness, He covers in the sight of God our sins wherein we are conceived and brought forth, and covers all our remaining infirmities as well (Heidelberg Catechism, Q&A 36, 81). Faith relies and rests upon the obedience of Christ crucified alone, which becomes ours when we believe in Him. And this is sufficient to cover all our iniquities, giving us confidence in approaching God without fear, terror, and dread, and without following the example of our first father, Adam, who trembling, attempted to cover himself with fig leaves (Belgic Confession, Art. 23). And in the day of His coming, Christ will destroy the covering cast over all peoples and nations, for He will swallow up death in victory (Is. 25:8).
Long ago, the Lord promised that although darkness shall cover the earth and gross darkness the people, “He shall arise upon thee and his glory shall be seen upon thee” (Is. 60:2). We, upon whom this light of God’s love has now shined, cannot and may not cover it up with a bushel (Luke 8:16). So when shamed (insulted), the wise man will cover it, while the fool is quickly angry (Prov. 12:16). When told the transgression of others, the man who loves God’s church will cover it, while the schismatic repeats it (Prov. 17:9). And although we must be sober and watchful in prayer for the end of all things is at hand, we are told that above all things, we must have fervent love among ourselves, for love covers the multitude of sins (I Pet. 4:8-9).