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 is not a merely legal demand; it is a Gospel demand, found in the centre of a Gospel chapter in the writings of the most evangelical of all the prophets.
I. THE NECESSITY OF CONVERSION. " Right about face!" is the marching order for every sinner.
1. This will be at once evident when I ask, How would it be consistent with the holiness of God for Him to put aside our past sin, and then to allow us to go on sinning as we did before?
2. Neither is there a single case in fact, nor one emblem in parable, that would lead any man to hope that he could keep his sins, and yet be saved.
3. Besides, our common-sense tells us that it would be highly dangerous to society if men were to be pardoned, and yet were not to be renewed in character and lira.
4. Moreover, it would be a serious injury to the man himself, I have come to the conclusion that the very worst form of character is produced in the man who, for some reason or other, thinks himself to be a favourite of Heaven, and yet continues to indulge in sin.
II. THE NATURE OF THIS CONVERSION. How is it described here?
1. It deals with the life. "Let the wicked forsake his way." It is "his way" that he is to forsake; that is his natural way, the way in which he says he was brought up, the way that his natural affections, and propensities, and passions lead him. He must forsake this way, even though it is the way in which he has walked these thirty, forty, fifty, sixty, seventy, or even eighty years; he will have to get out of this way, however much he may delight in it. "I will tell you what I will do," says one; "I will still keep to my old way, but I will not travel quite so rapidly in it. I will not live such a fast life as I have done." I tell thee that thou must forsake that old way, of thine altogether if thou wouldst be saved. "That is pretty strong language, says some one. Do you think so? I shall have to use still stronger expressions presently, for the next point concerning the nature of this repentance is that —
2. It deals with the man's thoughts. In thought, is often the very essence of sin. A deed might in itself be colourless; but the motive for doing it — the thought at the back of it — puts the venom, and virus, and guilt into the deed. As that is the case, what sort of thoughts must the unrighteous man give up? He must give up a great many fine opinions of which he is very proud; his opinion about God, for instance. To the ungodly man it is often quite a treat to sit down, and think of what he calls the jolly days of his youth, when he sowed his wild oats. We must also forsake our thoughts in the sense of turning from all purposes of evil. That, indeed, is the main meaning of the Hebrew word used here: "Let the unrighteous man forsake his purposes." You say that you will do this or that, without any thought of whether God would have it so or not. Possibly it is your purpose, as you express it, "to have your fling." You have come up from the country, young man, you are pleased that you have got away from your mother's apron strings, and now you are going to have your own way. Forsake all such thoughts, I implore you.
3. The text further says, "and let him return unto the Lord,- so that this conversion deals with the sinner in his relation to God. He who would find mercy must return to God to obtain it.
(1) You must begin to think about God.
(2) Then you must yield to Him, give up your will to His will; and, doing that, you must pray to Him, cry to Him for mercy; and then you must trust Him. Especially, you must accept His way of salvation by faith in Jesus Christ.
III. THE GOSPEL OF THIS CONVERSION. Possibly somebody says, "You have been preaching to us the law, sir." No, I have not. The law says nothing about repentance. The law curses you from the very first moment when you have broken it. That gracious message, Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out," is not the utterance of law, but of the Gospel.
1. The Gospel of it lies in the fact that God has promised that He will abundantly pardon those who turn from their evil ways.
2. Not only does God bid men turn to Him, but He enables them to turn to Him; so the Gospel of this passage is, that God the Holy Ghost is freely given to sinners to turn them, first in their hearts, and then in their lives.
3. Jesus Christ Himself came into the world on purpose that this Divine Spirit might be given in connection with the exercise, by men, of faith in Him.
4. God gave His Son, Jesus Christ, to offer a full and complete atonement for sin.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
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.