"I, even I, am He that blots out your transgressions for My own sake, and will not remember your sins."--Isaiah 43:25
The Holy Spirit in the plenitude of His love seems never to weary in multiplying statements to console, enliven, and strengthen the children of faith. His abundant evidence of the completeness of forgiveness is proof. We are not left to the partial light of slender rays of hope--to constructive arguments from obscure premises--to a fabric of conclusion resting on unstable foundations. We are not sent to extract soul-ease from weak and ambiguous terms. Much is so strongly and so exuberantly said, that the beaming cup of instruction on this point can scarcely hold more. The pastures of this truth are green and spacious and refreshing--the river of this comfort flows on in broad and deep channels. Whoever are wise will largely use this full provision. Let them listen to the cry, "Eat, O friends, drink--yes, drink abundantly, O beloved." They will not grieve the Spirit by refusing to be cheered, when He so strives to cheer.
Let minds now revert to a precious statement on the completeness of forgiveness. Casual reference has already been made to it; but it stands out in proportions so grand and noble that it demands enlarged attention. Let it be heard again--"I, even I, am He that blots out your transgressions for My own sake, and will not remember your sins."
Thought here contemplates--(1) the Speaker, "I"; (2) the repetition, "I, even I"; (3) the completeness "that blots out your transgressions, and will not remember your sins"; (4) the moving cause, "for my own sake."
I. The SPEAKER. Whose voice thus proclaims obliteration of transgressions? "Hear, O you heavens, and give ear, O earth;" hear, you sons of men, and all who breathe the breath of life. A silver trumpet thus introduces the word--"Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel." "I am the Lord, your Holy One, the Creator of Israel, your King." Jehovah speaks from His high throne--our God announces this complete remission. If other lips had thus addressed offenders, the word might have been empty, worthless, vain, and even worse--it might have relieved no doubts--healed no wounds--diffused no peace. Sin is terrible, because it is an offence against God. The offended One alone, can remit its penalties. There is sound intelligence in the question, "Who can forgive sins but God alone?" "To the Lord our God," and to the Lord our God alone, "belong mercies and forgivenesses." It is rich mercy that the sole Dispenser of forgiveness here speaks. He whose hands alone contain the gift, opens them wide to scatter the blessing; He who only holds the key, unlocks His treasure-house of pardon.
II. The REPETITION. "I, even I, am He." The Person who forgives, twice shows Himself. This reduplication cannot be without strong cause--weighty motive must impel the Speaker; for there are no superfluous words from divine lips. It is at once apparent that our God, in the riches of His grace, desires thus to awaken attention, to rivet thought, to banish apprehension, to deepen confidence, to inscribe the truth deeper on the heart, to engrave it vividly and indelibly. Hence the timidity of doubt assumes the aspect of impiety--incredulity becomes insult. Here not only simple repetition appears; it appears with super-added emphasis--"I, even I." I, whom so many provocations have outraged; I, on whom your every movement has heaped affront; I, to whose happiness your salvation is not needful; I, whose justice would gain everlasting glory from your endless punishment--"I, even I, am He that blots out your transgressions."
This important view is powerfully established by the context. Let it be heard in illustration of forgiving grace.
The preceding verses exhibit Jehovah arrayed in robes of majesty. As Creator He claims service from the creatures of His hands; He demands the due revenue of adoration--"This people have I formed for myself--they shall show forth my praise." The scene then changes; and He confronts them with appalling charges. In these, as in a mirror, the vileness of the human heart is seen. Worship is not rendered; prayer is withheld; communion is shunned and avoided.
"But you have not called upon Me, O Israel." Here is the sin of utter disregard--proud indifference cares not to seek communion. Here is the haughty language--Who is the Lord that I should seek Him? When such disregard prevails, service will be regarded as intolerable burden--it will be felt as an oppressive yoke. Hence the next words utter the reproach--"But you have been weary of Me, O Israel." Dreadful indeed is the state of alienation, when the worship of the Most High is shunned as irksome drudgery! It follows, "You have not brought Me the lambs of your burnt offering, neither have you honored Me with your sacrifices." The picture of irreligion darkens in frightfulness--all appointed ordinances are neglected; all due observance is withheld.
God then condescends to reason with these children of impiety. He shows that His demands imposed no burden--on the contrary, they were light and easily discharged. "I have not caused you to serve with an offering, nor wearied you with incense." But though requirements gave neither cost nor difficulty, they were contemned, and parsimonious neglect evinced. "You have bought Me no sweet cane with money; neither have you filled Me with the fat of your sacrifices." The reproach is next adduced, that not only honor, reverence, service, worship, were withheld; indignities were also heaped on God, and masses of sins were piled upon Him. He is weighed down--He is crushed--He is buried beneath the grievous load. "You have made Me to serve with your sins--you have wearied Me with your iniquities."
Such is the picture of man's hardness, ingratitude, and contempt of God. Much might most justly have been expected--provocation is the only return. Can a poor worm of earth thus venture to scorn Jehovah--to wrong Him--to tread Him beneath insulting feet? But it is so. The charge is unanswerable. What can the consequence be? Will patience cease to forbear? Will wrath arise? Will indignation blaze? Will fury stride forth? Will heaven's thunder peal, and lightnings tear, and the gaping earth devour? Will plague and pestilence do their worst? Will the broom of destruction sweep such offenders into the abyss of ruin?
The sentence follows. "I, even I, am He that blots out your transgressions for My own sake, and will not remember your sins." What exquisite pathos--what melting tenderness--what marvelous grace! How godlike--how unlike the utterance of man! Can eye behold and not overflow with tears? Can heart hear and not melt? Such is our God--such is our Gospel. Can we marvel that it triumphs and wins souls! Thus the Gospel is the proclamation of free, complete forgiveness; and thus it goes forth, conquering and to conquer. "I, even I; am He that blots out your transgressions for My own sake, and will not remember your sins."
III. Thus the focal luster of the word is reached--the completeness of forgiveness. God ordains forgiveness absolute, unbounded, unrestricted, unlimited, unfenced by boundaries, unconfined by barriers. He erects a lofty throne, on which this grace supremely reigns. This lesson is inculcated by the often repeated term, "He blots out." The Spirit again and again draws attention to the significant expression. David, out of penitential depths, pleads with God for entire remission of his guilt. This is his chosen phrase "Have mercy upon me, O God, according to Your loving-kindness--according to the multitude of Your tender mercies blot out my transgressions." Again "Hide Your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities." Agonizing for complete forgiveness, his wrestling cry adopts the term "blot out."
It is true that the word has different shades of meaning, according to its context; but its main and general significance is neither vague, nor obscure, nor indistinct. It generally places sins in the most formidable light as registered and recorded debts. It displays them as written in the pages of a book of reckoning, rigidly--exactly--without extenuation; and then leads to the fact that they are completely erased--obliterated; expunged. Not merely crossed-out, for then they might be read again, and subsequent demand be made; but so eradicated that no trace can be discerned. The reckoning page no longer holds a single charge--no letter recording a claim remains. This general message is beyond dispute--one confirmation will suffice. Moses prays, "Yet now, if You will, forgive their sin; and if not, blot me, I ask You, out of the book which You have written." And the Lord said unto Moses, "Whoever has sinned against Me, him will I blot out of My book." Hence blotting out imports obliteration from the pages of a book. The term thus expresses complete erasure from condemning records.
To stamp reality on the picture of complete forgiveness, to fill to the brim the cup of grateful joy, let thought go forth to meet the Great White Throne. Behold, the books are opened; the register of sins disclosed. Where can condemning entries be found? Doubtless, innumerable charges had been noted; no violation of the Law had been overlooked. Expectation now looks for accusations to be certified; for sentence to be pronounced; for condemnation to be inflicted; for the mandate of execution to issue. But where is the charge? No statement of sins appears--omniscience finds them not. The accuser is baffled, foiled, and silenced. Proof fails. No evidence remains on which to base his charges.
But where are the sins? Without controversy they were perpetrated and recorded. They are "blotted out." By whom? Whose hand can reach and touch that book? I, says the Almighty God--"I, even I, have blotted out your transgressions for My own sake." I have sprinkled the page with obliterating blood; I have cleansed it with the purifying merit of a most precious death. Thus all indictments vanish. Thus justly, righteously, gloriously is the believer absolved--thus he is completely, utterly, everlastingly pardoned. "There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus." (Romans 8:1.)
Can believers desire more? Are they not more than satisfied? Is not the heart swelling and breaking with adoration? Will they not renew the song--"Who is a God like unto You, who pardons iniquity, and passes by the transgression of the remnant of His heritage?" Will they not exultingly reiterate, "All manner of sin shall be forgiven unto the children of men"?
But while called to such exuberant delight, gloom may occasionally cloud the brow. The believer may realize that all his sins are pardoned, and erased from accusing documents; that condemnation cannot touch him; that reconciliation is his purchased treasure; that smiles of favor beam around him; that heaven's bliss and glory shall be his everlasting portion. But the vexing thought may intrude, that God's memory will continually recall his many and his mighty sins. He tremulously may reason, If I cannot forget, will not God remember too? Amid all tokens of divine love, will not my mind revert to former scenes, and be downcast? I shall see, or think I see, amid heaven's smiles, a reminder of my sinful course on earth.
Let such thought be cast into oblivion's lowest depths. It is unscriptural--it is derogatory to the glorious Gospel of free grace. Mark how the word contradicts it--"I will not remember your sins." This forgetfulness is a bright article of the Covenant of Grace. It is there clearly announced--"I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more." (Jer. 31:34.)
Let none say, How can this be? Let it not be objected, such mental process is contrary to all experience--it is alien to the properties of retentive thought. Let it be remembered that we are now dealing with God--His ways are not our ways. It is impious to limit Him to human incapacity--what is impossible to the creature is possible to Him. The question is--Has He thus spoken? If so, it must be true, and will be realized to the full extent. The immutable word is, "I, even I, am He that blots out your transgressions for My own sake, and will not remember your sins." No reverting look will ever recall the believer's guilt--the smile of bright, eternal forgiveness cannot be clouded. Forgiveness is complete.
IV. The moving cause may not be overlooked. The Holy Spirit again gives it prominence. God's glory is the ultimate design of forgiveness. Man reaps eternal benefit; but the spring from which the blessing flows is high in heaven. Man and man's deeds are universal provocation--in him there is no moving merit. If God did not originate forgiveness for the glory of His name, no sin could have been blotted out. But God's glory is His final end; therefore He blots out transgressions "for His own sake."
Thus He maintains a glorious name. Thus heaven shall re-echo with His praise, and eternity prolong, the grateful hallelujah. Thus all His attributes shall be displayed in one blaze of light. Mercy, tenderness, love and patience; shall not be eclipsed by justice, holiness, and truth. One portion of perfections shall not gain priority; but all shall sit harmoniously on one throne. Therefore, for His own sake, He opens a door for this complete forgiveness to go forth.
Who will not now pray with David, "For Your name's sake, O Lord, pardon my iniquity, for it is great." And with Daniel, "O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive; O Lord, hearken and do; defer not, for Your own sake, O my God." (Dan. 9:19.)