Psalm 51 is thought to have been written by David in connection with his sin with Bathsheba. You might recall that he had committed adultery with Bathsheba, and he had her husband (Uriah) killed to cover up his deed. In Psalm 51, David was expressing his remorse for what he had done. Humbly, with great sorrow and torment, he asked God to forgive him. In the course of asking for God's forgiveness he said, “Against You, You only, have I sinned, And done this evil in Your sight “
Earlier (II Sam. 12:13), when David was confronted by Nathan regarding his sins, he said, "I have sinned against the Lord." But, in Psalm 51 he adds, "I have sinned against the Lord only." How could this be? How could any sin be against another person more than adultery and murder?
Certainly, David had not forgotten that he had sinned against Uriah and Bathsheba. But, David seemed to be expressing a very important principle that all sin is primarily against God.
Recall the story of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5. They sold some land and then lied saying they were giving all of the money from the sale to the Lord. Peter rebuked Ananias saying (v. 4), "...thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God." Actually, Ananias had lied to men, but primarily (in particular or especially) he had lied to God. All sin is primarily against God.
In Genesis 39 we can read of Potiphar's wife trying to seduce Joseph to commit adultery. Joseph recognized this would be an affront to his master who had been so good to him. Note verse 9 where he said, "There is no one greater in this house than I, nor has he kept back anything from me but you, because you are his wife. How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?" He would be committing wrong against his master, but he knew primarily he would be committing a sin against God.
Today, true repentance comes from a realization that any sin we commit, no matter if another person is sinned against, is primarily a sin against God.
Why is sin so bad? Several reasons could be cited. But primarily, it is due to the fact that when we sin, we sin against God.
By Mike Johnson
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