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…
This verse leaves nothing unsaid that needs to be said to the inquiring soul. In simple and orderly declaration, it lays before us the whole fact of human responsibility and Divine promise concerning man's salvation. We shall best understand our text by seeing its relation to the context. This chapter is a perfect prophetic message in itself. Intimately related to that which has preceded it, vitally connected with that which is to follow, it may yet be taken as one direct utterance of the prophet of God to people living under certain conditions of life. The chapter presents a remarkable and-striking contrast. The conditions described in the first part are utterly different from those described in the last. The figures made use of are different. Mark the condition of life to which the prophet was addressing himself. "Every one that thirsteth," "he that hath no money," "ye spend money for that which is not bread," "your labour for that which satisfieth not," "a people who are thirsty, and hungry, and hard-working, and never satisfied. Towards the close of the chapter, different conditions are described: — "Ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace" (vers. 12, 13). You see the contrast. In the one case you have the desert, in the other the garden; in the one, hot, restless, dissatisfied life; in the other, joy, peace, singing. In each the language is figurative, but figurative of a very positive condition of life. But how can I get from the desert into the garden? Half-way through this chapter, by a coincidence of arrangement, in the central verse, is the gateway through which a man may leave the desert and get into the garden. "Let the wicked forsake his way," etc. In this verse I have the perfect laying out of the plan of salvation. In an analysis of the verse I discover the philosophy of salvation, and in the structure of the verse I find the simple programme of salvation. There are two parts to this verse.
I. SOMETHING FOR MAN TO DO. Here are three things the prophet declares to be necessary. They are not three, but one; each merges into the other, and it is only as the final one is obeyed that the former ones are obeyed; and yet let us take them in their sequence.
1. "Let the wicked forsake his way."
2. "The unrighteous man his thoughts.
3. "Let him return unto the Lord." As a matter of fact, the prophet here is beginning in the outer reaches of life, passing to the inner circle, until he comes to the central fact of man's nature. We will begin in this outer court. The Hebrew word translated "way" at this point means a beaten track, the way along which a man habitually walks; and it is used figuratively in Hebrew writings of the general set and direction of a man's life, and the prophet says that the first thing a man has to do if he is to come back into the garden is to leave his way, the outward set, and direction of his life. Then he comes to another word, "Let the unrighteous man forsake his thoughts," and the Hebrew word here means literally a web, figuratively a plan, a conception, an ideal. So that the prophet now has come to something deeper than the outward set of a man's life. He is to give that up by giving up his inward conception of life. And how is a man to give up his outward way and the inward conception, and why is a man to give up his outward way, and his inward conception? He is to give it up by returning, to the Lord, and he is to give it up because it is not the Lord's way and the Lord's thought. Notice what immediately follows this seventh verse. In the Authorized Version, at ver. 8, there is a paragraph mark that we need to dispense with. The paragraph mark is put in to indicate the fact that the prophet there begins a new subject. As a matter of fact, he does nothing of the sort; he goes right on with the same subject. Here we are touching the fundamental question of sin. When the prophet calls a man to forsake his way, it is not that he asks him to give up drinking, or thieving, or lying, or impurity. "All we like sheep have .gone astray; we. have turned, every one to his own way." That is the essence of sin. The essential trouble is not that a man drinks, or swears; it is that he has elected to go his own way, instead of God's way. The underlying root sin of humanity is rebellion against the government of God. That sin may manifest itself in vulgar forms, against which we sign pledges; or it may manifest itself in the cultured and refined paganism that attempts to live without prayer and without worship. I will tell you, in the name of God, what is the trouble in your life! It is godless, that is the trouble. I will tell you why you are in the desert. You have turned your back upon God. I will tell you why you are never satisfied with water or bread. It is because you have left the place of intimate and first-hand relationship to God. Do you want to get from the desert, back to God? Forsake your way; take His. Give up your thought; take His. "But," says some man in his pride, "why should I give up my way, and take God's way? And why should I give up my thought, and take God's thought?" Go right on, and see what the prophet says (ver. 8). God's thought for you is the thought of Heaven. Yours is the thought of earth. God thinks infinitely more of you than you think of yourself. Yours is a degraded estimate of your own life. Will you say, "Yes, that true, I will return to the Lord." Then I know immediately your face is set toward God's high conception, toward God's great highway, the next consciousness will be that of your sin, the wasted years will come sweeping back upon you like an avalanche. If, indeed, thou art at this wicket gate, and thy face is set back toward, God then hear the evangel, "He will" have mercy. He will abundantly pardon.
II. SOMETHING THAT GOD WILL DO. You are to do what He tells you, and He will do what He promises. You arc to obey; that is repentance. You are to trust Him; that is faith. That is the whole programme of salvation.
(G. C. Morgan, D. D.)
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.