Is God justified in forgiving the sinner?
After all, is not the sinner unrighteous and therefore worthy of being condemned (see Deut. 25:1)? The story of the woman of Tekoa can illustrate the answer. Pretending to be a widow as instructed by Joab, this woman went to King David, seeking his judgment. Joab contrived a story that he asked her to tell David: about her two sons, one having killed the other. Israelite law demanded the death of the murderer (Num. 35:31), even though he was the only male left in the family. The woman pleaded with David (who functioned as judge) to let the guilty son go free.
Then, interestingly enough, she declared: “ ‘Let the iniquity be on me and on my father’s house, and the king and his throne be guilt- less’ ” (2 Sam. 14:9, NKJV). Both the woman and David understood that if the king would decide to let the murderer go free, then the king himself would acquire the guilt of the murderer, and his throne of justice (that is, his reputation as judge) would be in jeopardy. The judge was morally responsible for what he decided. That is why the woman offered to take over this guilt herself.
Similarly, God takes over the guilt of sinners in order to declare them righteous. For us to be forgiven, God Himself must bear our punishment. This is the legal reason Christ had to die if we were to be saved.