Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return to the LORD, and he will have mercy on him…
Few more gracious words than these can be found in Scripture: they are of those which the world would not willingly let die; whole libraries could be better spared from human literature than this single verse. We may express the thoughts it offers to us by four simple propositions.
I. SIN MEANS SEPARATION - the separation of the soul from its Creator. The distance we can calculate in miles or in degrees is nothing to that which divides one spirit from another; it is nothing to that which separates the erring, guilty soul of man from the Holy Spirit of the living God. We may be in the same room with another of our race or even of our family, and yet feel further apart than if many leagues of ocean came between us. We are always near to him who is everywhere, and yet our ingratitude, our unworthiness, our guilt, may compel us to feel terribly far off from him.
II. REPENTANCE MEANS RETURN - the abandonment by the sinful soul of its evil way, and its return to the righteous God whom it has forsaken. It signifies much more than a change of creed and of profession; or than a passing emotion of sorrow, however violent the feeling may be; or than an alteration in outward habit. It signifies:
1. The aversion of the heart from the thought and love of evil. "Let the unrighteous man forsake his [evil] thoughts."
2. The consequent change of the habit of life. "Let the wicked forsake his way."
3. The return of the soul to God. The man who has neglected, forsaken, disregarded, and disobeyed God, coming back in penitent thought and with the language of confession on his lips to the Father from whom he has wandered.
III. THE WAY BACK IS OPEN. Can the sinner be forgiven? Is the way clear? Are there not insuperable obstacles in the way - grievous transgressions of Law, accumulated guilt, darkening and deepening iniquity? How can all this be removed from the path of reconciliation? The answer is m the gospel statement: "Through this Man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins." "He is the Propitiation for... the sins of the whole world."
IV. THE WELCOME HOME IS SURE. There is an assurance, here as elsewhere, which is "doubly sure." The mercy of God is not only enough for our necessities, it is far more than enough. It is not only a lake, it is a deep and wide sea; it is not merely a hill, it is an overtowering mountain; there are not only riches, there are exceeding riches, unsearchable riches of grace; on the repentant and believing sinner God will not only have mercy, he will abundantly pardon him; the returning prodigal will not merely be taken in when he arrives; the Father will run to meet him. and lavish upon him all possible proofs of his parental love. - C.
Parallel VersesKJV: Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.