Deliverance is for a peculiar people. A people chosen by the Lord. Prepared by him. Called by him and bought with the blood of his Son Jesus Christ.
In this verse we find a beautiful climax of the promise given in the first five verses of this chapter. It was the promise of deliverance for Israel in the captivity. In the broader sense it is a promise for the church in both Old and New Testament. Hence, the prophet has often been called the Evangelical prophet.
Israel in the captivity was chastised for their sins and the captivity was instrumental for their repentance. They had learned to know the cause of the Lord’s hot displeasure. And it was this knowledge of sin that brought about their confession of sin.
The word spoken by the prophet points to God s almighty power. The comparison is drawn between Him and the idols of the surrounding nations. Is not, so the prophet asks, the idol a false god? Those who made it, burn it and warm themselves and the image turns into ashes. That is holy sarcasm. The ashes cannot deliver. The end of the idol reveals the lie. And the prophet turns in this mockery of the idols to the hopeful promise given by Jehovah. That promise refers to a glorious future wherein they shall be at ease and have peace.
However, knowing the cause of their captivity the question might easily arise, can we depend upon this word of comfort? Sin is such a terrible thing, because the Lord reveals His hot displeasure. And their sins testified against them. Their sins were the cause of their captivity and in the captivity they knew right well they experienced that hot displeasure of Jehovah their God. In the preceding verse their question is answered. Remember, O Jacob, thou are my servant. My servant whom I have formed. I took thee from the midst of men to be mine. And because thou art mine now and forever, I shall not forget thee. The lovingkindness of the Lord cannot change and cannot even be changed, though Israel’s sin made it necessary to reveal His hot displeasure. Even sin cannot separate God from His people.
Nevertheless, sin must be atoned for in order that the lovingkindness may be experienced. Deliverance is only possible by means of redemption. And of the deliverance, on the basis of redemption, the prophet speaks.
What must Israel be delivered from, what were their circumstances? As was said, Israel was captive in a strange land. Not by accident, but by the hand of the Lord; the enemy was sent by the Lord. It meant to be far away from city and country and from their temple. They were separated from the service of Jehovah as ordained by Him. For His service as to the how and the where precepts were most specifically given in their laws. Therefore, their worship of Jehovah was possible only when they returned to the land of their inheritance.
And the cause of it was well known. Frequently, the cause is explained as a matter of their shortcomings. Just as it is the case today, so it was with Israel in Babylon. The worldling will call sin weakness, thereby making light of sin. But sin remains sin in the eyes of the Lord. Sin is to depart from God and live a life contrary to His will as expressed in His Word. Sin is rebellion. It means to raise the fist against Him. And sin is to miss the mark, to aim at other things and to fall short of the glory of God.
Here, their sin consisted in turning to other gods. To depart from the covenant ways and precepts and to find delight in the service of the idols. To be like the world and to lose their identity. And the idol-worship stood between them and their covenant God. Darkness, spiritual darkness enveloped them and how well did the enemies of God and His people take advantage of their precarious condition. Did they not mock them? (Ps. 137). And that cause and the guilt must be removed. No, not simply forgotten, because sin cannot be forgotten. We must forgive and forget, so it is said, but this cannot be true of sin. To forget may seem possible for men, although even amongst men it is not forgotten, but it is never true of God. No, but sin must be atoned. Without the payment for sin God cannot have fellowship with men. And on the other hand, man cannot enjoy the forgiveness of sins unless the sin committed is taken away and paid for.
The only way to return to their land and temple had to come about by means of deliverance. Remember, Babylon and the promised land differ, but first of all only in name. In reality there is no difference. By that we mean, that the return was of importance only when it was a token of forgiveness of sin and corruption and thus, to serve him in their own land that they may share God’s favor.
The same is true of the Church today.
By nature the Church is in bondage. She is in the power of the enemy, sin and death. A rebellious people warring against God, living the life of the world. Her aim is to live according to the dictates of the sinful heart and mind, transgressing the commandments of the Lord. Hence, she lives in captivity, estranged from her lawful husband, like the others. Therefore, she is always in need of the deliverance. She cannot deliver herself. She knows sin cannot be forgotten. Sin is one’s account on the wrong side of the ledger.
Bondage must be taken away and that through the grace of God. Thus it is also plain, that bondage is not merely to be beset with a few weaknesses. It does not refer to a change in circumstances. But it means the taking away of sin. The darkness of heart and mind must make room for the light of God’s forgiving grace. Our transgression must be forgiven and our rebellion must come to an end and we must no longer depart from the precepts of our God. And that must be done continually. From day to day. In order that we may confess “I am delivered of all my sins.”
This is beautifully expressed in the metaphors used in the text.
“I have blotted out, as a thick cloud, thy transgressions, and, as a cloud, thy sins: return unto me; for I have redeemed thee.”
To blot out suggests the idea that something is written. Something written about us in such a manner that it cannot be erased. Try who will, it is not possible to make that which is written undone. Constantly the Lord takes note of what we have written. Even to the extent that He Himself gathers these writings and preserves them in a book that is always before His face. Such is true of sin. Sin is written by us over all our works. Sin in our corrupt thinking as well as in our willing and desires. Sin is also in man’s actions. How true it is that we forget. We are not able, nor do we care, to remember our sins. We forget. The prayer ought to be, make our sins known unto us, that we may confess them. But while we forget, the Lord remembers them. Our sins are written by us and forgotten, the Lord takes notice of them. It has been said that nothing of time, of whatever happened, is ever lost. History continues, history to us is a thing of the past, but before the Lord history and with it all things are always present. Tremendous thought, is it not? How often are the facts twisted and is history corrupted. Shamelessly people set themselves against their better knowledge and rather write the lie instead of writing the truth. But O, the comfort, to know the Lord keeps the history of men before Him as it actually occurred. Sinful ways may be employed to make of the truth the lie, but in reality man will never succeed, for even today the truth is known and it shall once be revealed in the day of our Lord.
The same blotting out may well refer to a ledger.
It refers to a debt made that was entered into the ledger. The debt was made. And nothing is easier than to forget about it. The more one is indebted the quicker he will forget when the debts made cannot be paid. But whether or not the debtor forgets, the fact remains that the books when opened will show the correct amount that must be paid. Open the book and the proof is there. Thus it must be applied to sin.
Man tries to forget and he succeeds quite well and to his own satisfaction. But the Lord remembers. At the end of time all shall be revealed and every one shall be called to settle his debts made in this life. And the judge shall mete out the just punishment in harmony with the sins as they were committed.
And remember this text does not speak of sins as such, but of thy sins. The meaning of this word is, to miss the mark. There was an aim in the life of the sinner, but that aim was not directed at God to serves Him, nor to do His will. His Law was not the rule for life. Hence, the sinner blundered against himself, his God, the purpose of creation and of his existence. Hence, he is guilty now and eternally.
However, the comforting word is spoken by the prophet. I have blotted out, as a thick cloud, thy transgressions, and, as a cloud, thy sins. Both words used for cloud mean the one and the same thing. A thick cloud refers to the black clouds of thunder, expressing the idea of judgment. The same words sometime mean, mist. Both cause darkness. When the clouds gather, darkness spreads over the earth. Not because the sun is not shining, but because the clouds place themselves between the sun and the earth. Or, as is the case with mist, the clouds float so close to the earth that man is not able to see the sun. The meaning is, that thus our sins stand between us and the Lord. True it is, the Lord is always near His people, but they are often far away from Him, reason why they do not experience His lovingkindness. And when His people do not experience His presence, they become afraid and fear. They have no peace and joy, but they walk in darkness and tremble. The question is raised, “Has the Lord forgotten us?”
I have blotted out, that is, I have erased from the ledger that terrible account of sin. Not one will I, your God, remember anymore. He does not behold sin in Jacob nor iniquity in Israel. He does not remember them anymore as their sins.
As a mist and a thick cloud. They disappear from the rising sun. The grace of Jehovah breaks through, the Lord will no longer pursue them with His displeasure. The darkness shall make room for the light of His face. Listen, Israel, to the Word of the Lord. That Word is “I have not forgotten thee.” Thou art mine from eternity to eternity. That is the blessed comfort for the captives.
Is it possible? Can they now depend on His word?
“For I have redeemed thee.”
To redeem means first of all, to have bought. It implies that which is bought belongs rightfully to one. No one may lay his hands on it. The Lord ransomed His people. He paid the price for them.
To redeem means in the second place, to set free.
The enemy exercised the right of the conqueror over them and demanded Israel’s service. He could demand all they possessed. But when the Lord sets
free and delivers, the enemy has no longer any claim.
Thus with Israel. It was given into the hands of the King of Babylon. It found itself in bondage and became the property of the heathen on account of their sin. But they were redeemed. The ransom for sin is given. The Old Testament believer, living by faith in the hope of the fulfillment of the promise of Jehovah, was delivered from all eternity, in the blood of Jesus Christ.
The blood of Jesus Christ alone delivers, redeems and blots out the sin of God’s people. For by the blood of the Savior they are cleansed from all the filth and corruption of sin. For in that blood, God gave the price to ransom His own. And God, the Lord Jehovah, always beholds His people in the Son of His eternal love.
That is Jacob’s, Israel’s and Jeshurun’s glory and power.
“Sion’s room en sterkte.”
No, not redeemed by self or by the arm of the flesh. But through the blood of Jesus Christ alone. Jehovah’s Servant and His cross. For, the cross of Jesus Christ is the great means in the hand of the Lord for the redemption of His people, the chosen Israel.
I have redeemed.
I have blotted out.
I have set free.
I have forgiven.
I, the Lord, have done it all for Jacob, Jeshurun, Israel, My servant, My chosen one.
Fear not, I am your God in and through the Son of My eternal love and out of Sovereign grace I have made you My people.
Thus we understand the call to repentance, that is, to live in a new and godly life, dedicated to the Lord.
Return unto me. That is the call always to Israel. Not simply you may, but you must return. It means first of all, to turn away from all other gods and from the service of sin, the devil and the flesh. Israel must turn away from their idols and from Babylon. They must turn from their former desires and lusts of the flesh. And they must turn from their worldly-mindedness. In one word, they must return from sin and darkness.
Turn unto me means, turn to a new obedience as the fruit of your redemption. We find here in these words the direct contrast of what Israel deserved. The Lord could have cast away His people. Yet, His tender mercies are forever. Hence, Israel must reciprocate by a holy life.
Turn!! That is also the command to the Church of today. Congregational preaching, and that after all is necessary to build the Church, consists of the call to God’s people to turn from darkness, from sin and corruption, to the living God, Not so, that the mere cry to repentance without anything else is conversion preaching. No, but the preaching of the Word itself serves that purpose. Rightly understood, all so-called “evangelical” preaching is placing the Word of God in the background and does not build the congregation, but will finally develop in the preaching of modernism.
Unto Me!! Of course, because I have blotted out. Not I shall, but I have. The sin of God’s people is taken away. Flee then from sin and from all that is of sin.
The result shall be, the disappearing of the clouds of darkness. Salvation is experienced alone in the way of conversion. That salvation consists in the knowledge “God is near to me and is a loving Father.” But only in the way of fleeing from sin. It lies in the nature of the case that God cannot have fellowship with us in any other way. He hates sin and darkness, for He is Light and darkness is not in Him.
In turning to Him the light and the life shall be yours and pleasures for evermore.