Your own wickedness shall correct you, and your backslidings shall reprove you…
I. PRECAUTIONARY OBSERVATIONS.
1. Sin, in its own nature, is inexpressibly bad. Not only the negation of all that is good, but the absolute plenitude of all that is evil. It is wrong raising itself against the order, purity, and happiness of the universe. The originating, exclusive, and prolific source of all human woe.
2. If in any circumstances sin appear in a beginning, and good and happiness in the end, the latter will not be, in any sense, the proper conduct of the former. Good comes of evil through causes exterior to evil, independent of evil, hostile to evil, and which turn evil to good account against evil. Imagine a man sleeping in a wood. A serpent strikes its fangs into one of his limbs. The man is stung into consciousness, and starts up from his slumber just in time to escape the pounce of a hungry tiger, whose eyes are glaring in the thicket. The serpent had no intention of saving him. It attacked him for itself; but the sudden anguish of the bleeding wound was the occasion of rescue from the two-fold destruction. So, often, man "dead in trespasses and sins" is maddened into activity by the remorse of wickedness, and ultimately rushes away from the adjacent coils of Satan and the gaping jaws of hell.
3. To turn evil to good account is one of the sovereign prerogatives of God. It is only through Divine interference and interworking that sin fails, at any time, to effect "evil, only evil, and that continually." This is one of the express laws of the Divine conduct in the Bible. Joseph and his brethren. David and Shimei. Preaching Christ out of envy, etc.
II. WHAT ATTITUDE GOD ACTUALLY ASSUMES AND MAINTAINS TOWARDS SIN.
1. God has surrounded sin by limits and restrictions. The moral sentiments of men — the moral restraints of society — the moral utterances of revealed religion — the moral corrections of the invincible laws of the material economy — have conspired to bind sin hand and foot, in its most monstrous and demoniacal forms.
2. Sin is permitted, but anticipated; defiled, but used; unscathed, but bridled and harnessed, till the reluctant monster shall be firmly yoked to the car of the mighty victor and swell the final triumph.
(1) God uses sin to punish sin. When God employed the passion and ambition of hostile monarchs to chastise the apostate Israelites, or when God directed warring kings, raging with the lust of empire, to relieve His afflicted and repentant people — in either case the Jews recognised the operation of an inter-working and over-ruling providence, and recorded the principles which we are explaining.
(2) God uses sin to defeat sin. Very often when two persons, two coteries, two nations, it may be, are struggling to obtain a false object, and both the parties or communities are equally profligate in the means which they employ to secure success, the plans of the unprincipled tricksters clash; all are overwhelmed with defeat and disgrace together, and the field is left free for right quietly to triumph. In the history of every kingdom and hierarchy, political and priestly despotism may be seen committing suicide by outdoing its ordinary amount of enormity.
(3) God uses sin to reprove sin. God does not turn sins into whips exclusively, by the pains and disappointments of iniquity, merely to scourge the sinner. The element of moral reproof is uniformly associated with the anguish of punishment. We ask not here how sin can at all become the means of moral instruction; we only state the fact. Without seeking the remote or proximate cause of such a phenomenon, it is sufficient for our present purpose to say that one act, or a few acts of sin, and the immediate consequences are often, to a man apparently established in irreligion, the occasion of godly sorrow for the sins of his whole life.
(4) God uses sin to promote goodness. The odiousness of sin, when visible in the conduct of the ungodly, is ever felt by Christians to be promotive of piety. It undoubtedly increases their gratitude when they are reminded, by contrast, of the obvious and revolting abominations from which they have been rescued. The daffy sinfulness, too, of which the best are conscious, which they frankly acknowledge, however unaffectedly deplore, becomes a source of sincere and growing humiliation. The transgressions, also, of the past are never remembered without grief; and the spirit is chastened into meekness at the recollection of even bygone and forgiven iniquities. And, beyond this, what salutary spiritual consequences are derived from a conscious proneness to sin in the future! To what self-renunciation does it conduct! what acts of self-consignment to God does it prompt! and how much possible sin does it annihilate!
(5) God uses sin to display the matchless glory of His Divine perfections.
Parallel VersesKJV: Thine own wickedness shall correct thee, and thy backslidings shall reprove thee: know therefore and see that it is an evil thing and bitter, that thou hast forsaken the LORD thy God, and that my fear is not in thee, saith the Lord GOD of hosts.
WEB: "Your own wickedness shall correct you, and your backsliding shall reprove you. Know therefore and see that it is an evil thing and a bitter, that you have forsaken Yahweh your God, and that my fear is not in you," says the Lord, Yahweh of Armies.