Today's reading is the famous story of David and Bathsheba. David was at home while the army was on campaign. He saw Bathsheba bathing, sent for her, took her to his bed, and sent her home. Just another conquest. However, she became pregnant, so the sin had to be covered another way.
David sent for Uriah, her husband, thinking to get him to lie with his wife, so the child to come might be thought Uriah's. But that didn't work, so he then plotted to be certain that Uriah was killed in battle. That did work. David sent for Bathsheba after the period of mourning and made her his wife.
The Lord sent Nathan, the prophet, to open David's eyes to his sin. It worked. And in response, David wrote Psalm 51. In it he says to the Lord "Against you, and you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight."
Wait a minute! Didn't he sin against Uriah when he had Joab set Uriah in a place to be killed? Didn't he sin against Bathsheba when he sent for her? After all, what woman can say no to the king?
When we transgress God's laws, God is the offended party. We may transgress against others and offend them in the process, but when it comes to forgiveness, there are some sins only God can forgive.
Murder is a sin that only God can forgive completely. For the rest of us, we can learn to let go of vengeance and renounce anger and resentment. But for a forgiveness to be complete, God must say that the sin is excused.
That happens only when the sinner repents and comes to God for forgiveness. When we say we forgive someone, it generally means that we have decided not to exact payment for the sin. We have decided not to harbor anger and resentment. We have let go of the "right" to be avenged or repaid.
The life that was taken belongs to God. It is His prerogative to excuse the offense. But He only does that when the murderer repents and asks for forgiveness. That is the only way to restore the fellowship between God and the sinner. Only God knows the sinner's heart. We dare not arrogate to our selves any privilege that belongs to the Lord.
David rightly says "against thee, and thee only, have I sinned." Every sin must be made right with God first. If it can be made right with man as well, so much the better. But God is the one with whom we must make our peace.
Help us to understand that true forgiveness is the restoration of the relationship between You and the sinner. Give us the wisdom to forego retribution and to renounce anger and resentment. Most of all, keep us aligned with Your will and steadfast to Your statutes.
In Jesus' most precious name.