Why Was David’s Sin Against God Only?–Psalm 51:4


On the surface, it seems that David’s confession in Psalm 51:4 seems a bit, well, in inaccurate and uncaring.  After all, didn’t David sin against Bathsheba (adultery)?  Wasn’t his sin against Bathsheba’s husband Uriah (murder)?  Yes, there were additional people against whom David sinned, but he is talking about the ultimate Person against whom he sinned.  In fact, he is following the lead of the prophet Nathan on this.  Look at 2nd Samuel 12.

Yahweh sent Nathan to David to convict him of his sin.  Nathan does so with a rather imaginative story that David could relate to (12:1-6). Following David’s indignant response to the injustice in the story, Nathan drives his point home with the emphatic phrase, “You are the man!” (12:7).

Nathan proceeded to recount Yahweh’s past work in David’s life, such as David being anointed as king, being delivered from Saul, and his kingship over Israel (12:7-8).  But Nathan is not yet done.

In 12:9 Nathan addresses one of David’s root sins: he despised (treating as insignificant or undervaluing) the commandment of Yahweh.  That despising of God’s revealed truth was demonstrated in two ways: murdering Uriah, and adultery with Uriah’s wife.

Follow carefully please. Yahweh had revealed in the ten commandments that Israel’s people were not to murder or commit adultery (Exodus 20:13-14; Deuteronomy 5:17-18).  It was David’s responsibility as Israel’s king to make his own personal copy of the Law (Deuteronomy 17:18-20).  This handwritten copy of God’s Word was to be read and obeyed consistently.

The five purposes for this copying and reading of God’s Word are noted in the text of 17:19-20.  First, this would help him learn to fear Yahweh his God.  Second, this would help him to be careful to keep/guard all the words of the law and statutes.  Third, this would help him to remain humble and not be lifted above his brothers.  Fourth, this would help him to not deviate from the commandment.  Fifth, this would help prolong his days in his kingdom.

By allowing the Word of God to rest lightly on his heart (12:9), David despised not only the Word but the God who gave the Word (12:10). To undervalue God’s Word is to undervalue God Himself.  This is part of what David F. Wells refers to as the weightlessness of God (see God in the Wasteland, 88-115). When God’s Word rests heavy on our hearts, we properly value it because we properly value Him.  We give Him the appropriate weight or glory due Him.

Thus, David’s sin was ultimately against God alone.  His sins against Bathsheba, Uriah, and others were symptoms of a much greater problem.

May God grant us His grace to value Him as we ought, so that we will value His Word aright.  Isn’t this what the psalmist said in Psalm 119:11, “In my heart I have treasured Your word so that I might not sin against You.”