“Against you, and you alone, have I sinned; I have done what is evil in your sight…” Psalm 51:4a,
In Psalm 51 David is seeking mercy for his sins of adultery, lying and murder. He had had an affair with Bathsheba, the wife of one of his soldiers, the result of which was an inconvenient pregnancy.
To cover up His indiscretion, David brought Bathsheba’s husband home from the war and got him drunk, thinking that Uriah would go home and sleep with his wife and then the pregnancy would not raise any suspicion.
But husband Uriah was much too loyal a soldier to enjoy this privilege while his fellow soldiers remained in harm’s way back at the front. He slept outside David’s palace and the plan was foiled.
Regardless, the king continued with the deception and ordered the husband back to the front lines where he was killed in battle. After his death, David took Bathsheba as his wife.
A long List of Sins
There are many wrongs committed during this period in David’s life. For one, he was neglecting his duties as king by staying home from the war (In those days, kings led their troops into battle). In addition, because he was king, Bathsheba had little say about whether she would come when summoned to his quarters. And he certainly wronged Uriah by cheating on him with Bathsheba, an act which culminated in Uriah’s death. He most assuredly needed to ask forgiveness from those he had caused such grief. That much is apparent from even a cursory read of the scriptures.
Yet, in Psalm 51 we see the unadulterated truth about “sin.” When we do such things as David did against others, we need their forgiveness for our inappropriate behavior, but the sin that is committed is against God—and God alone.
David’s pleas to God in this Psalm are heart-wrenching. “Blot out the stain of my sins. Wash me clean from guilt. Purify my sin. I recognize my rebellion; it haunts me day and night.” These are just a few of his laments regarding his behavior against God. David recognizes the truth that He needs the forgiveness for his sins—from God.
Mixed in with David’s lamentations is a picture of who God is. He is merciful, with unfailing love and great compassion. His judgment is just. This all points again to the fact that when we sin it is only against God and not mere mortals. We wrong them, hurt them in untold ways, and they can forgive our actions, but not our sin. Only God can forgive sin.
It seems when we wrong others we spend more time worrying about their forgiveness than we do in acknowledging our sin against God. Certainly, we need to ask others for their forgiveness and our reconciliation with them, but we must recognize whom we have sinned against. We must be willing to do whatever is necessary to restore our relationship with our sovereign Lord. We might sin less often if we would keep in the front of our minds Who we are really sinning against.