Sinning Against God
by Nathaniel T. Jeanson, Ph.D.
“Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight.” (Psalm 51:4)
Today’s verse is remarkable in light of the events that preceded it. David penned these words after committing adultery with Bathsheba and then murdering Uriah. As king of Israel, his private sins affected not only his immediate victims, but also, indirectly, the entire nation. The New Testament makes it clear that people can be sinned against (Matthew 18:15; Luke 17:3-4; 1 Corinthians 8:12), yet David confessed that his sins were only against God. How could this be?
The rest of the verse explains David’s confession: “That thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest.” Paul quoted this phrase in the New Testament to justify God’s final authority in every matter (Romans 3:4). David’s sins were only against God because God is the only Lawgiver.
This logic finds its basis in creation. Because God created the universe and everything in it, including humans, God owns the entire universe, including humans. Therefore, He determines how His property should be used. Adultery and murder are wrong because the Owner of human bodies has decreed that humans should not use them for adultery or murder. The fact of creation explains David’s confession.
God’s character and nature also explain David’s statement. God is the standard by which He measures us. He is “the habitation of justice” (Jeremiah 50:7). “God is love” (1 John 4:8). The Lord proclaimed Himself “merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty” (Exodus 34:6-7). All sins are against God because He owns us and because He embodies the standard that He sets for us. NTJ