Seek you the LORD while he may be found, call you on him while he is near:…
If there be some who find it hard to believe that there is a God, there are others who find it equally hard to believe that He is good, so good that He can forgive all sins, even theirs. Look at these verses again, then, and mark their ruling intention. The prophet had been commissioned to carry a message to the captive Jews who sat by the waters of Babylon and wept when they remembered Zion. The message was that, heinous as their iniquity had been, their iniquity was pardoned. But sinful men, especially when they are suffering the bitter punishment of their sins, are apt to be hopeless men. As nothing is possible to doubt and despair, as above all the energy of active moral exertion is impossible, God sets Himself to remove the natural incredulity and hopelessness of the men He was about to save. That His mercy is incredible, He admits; but He affirms that it is only incredible in the sense of being incredibly larger and better than they imagine it to be. They might have found it impossible to forgive those who had sinned against them as they had sinned against Him. "But," pleads God, "My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways." It is a mercy which does not condone men's sins, but a mercy which saves them from their sins, which calls upon them and compels them to abandon their "wicked ways" and their "unrighteous thoughts." No mercy short of this would be true mercy. To make men happy in their sins is impossible, as impossible as to make them good in their sins. For sin is misery; sin is a bondage to an alien and malignant power which every free spirit must resent and abhor. And even if this ignoble miracle were possible, if a man could be made happy while violating the very law of his being, who that is capable of reflection, of virtue, of goodness, would care to have such a miracle wrought upon him? To be happy in sin he must cease to be himself, cease to be a man. The mercy of God, viewed as saving men from evil thoughts and ways — which is the only true mercy — is simply incredible: so the prophet affirms, so we profess to think and believe. But do we really believe it Do we act as if we did? Many hardly believe that they have sins which need a great act of Divine forgiveness. Many more do not know that, in order to forgive, God must punish their sins. When the punishment comes, they take it as proving that He has not forgiven them, as proving the severity, the anger of God, not His mercy. In our turn, indeed, we all doubt the mercy of God when we most need to believe in it, distrust it when we most need to cast ourselves upon it. Any profound consciousness of sin is apt to make that mercy incredible to us. In our cooler moments it may help us to remember that the very punishments that wait on sin, since they wait on it by a constant and. invariable law, are designed for our good. All natural and universal laws must subserve our welfare, if the world and human life be ruled by God; and, among others, the law which metes out to every man the due reward of his iniquities. In part we can even see how this law contributes to our welfare. It makes us terribly aware that we have sinned — a fact we are very slow to realize. We must expect to be convinced of the compassion of God, not so much by having the kindness of His laws demonstrated to us, as by listening to the men whom we believe to have had the largest experience of His ways and to enjoy the profoundest sympathy with HIS thoughts. Just as we come to know the righteous God by becoming righteous, so we may hope to learn more of Him from the men whose righteousness is far more eminent and conspicuous than our own. Just as we come to know the mercy of God by becoming merciful, so we may hope to acquaint ourselves more fully with Him by listening to men far more merciful and gracious than ourselves. Such a man, a teacher such as this, now stands before us in the prophet who penned these words.
(S. Cox, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: