By this therefore shall the iniquity of Jacob be purged; and this is all the fruit to take away his sin…
The first clause may be translated thus: "On these terms shall the guilt of Jacob be purged." There must be the signs of reformation - the actual destruction of idols and all idol-associations, as the proof and manifestation of the declared heart-surrender of idolatry. The child's verse is correct theology and practical godliness-
"Repentance is to leave
The sins we loved before;
And show that we in earnest grieve,
By doing so no more." The very "stones of the altar" must be as "chalkstones that are beaten in sunder" if Jacob would make plain its repentance of its idolatries, and come to receive Divine forgiveness. Illustrations may be taken from the practical reformations on which Hezekiah and Josiah insisted as the outward signs of the national repentance. From this verse deal with the constant temptation to rest in mere sentiment, and impress the demand which God ever makes for proof in act of the repentance, or the faith, or the humility, or the zeal, that may be possessed. As our Savior expressed the same point in another of its connections, "If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them.
I. GOOD SENTIMENTS ARE GOOD BEGINNINGS. Therefore in preachings and teachings appeal is properly made to feeling; effort is made to arouse emotions and to persuade. By the way of the heart access can often be gained to a man; and Scripture provides material for emotional appeals. "Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men." To move feeling, and to awaken good sentiment, is at least to make a breach in the walls. It is a beginning, and there is hope of what may be further accomplished when such a beginning is made. But we should be alive to the constant disposition of men to rest in sentiment. There is a subtle pleasure in feeling deeply. We easily get a kind of satisfaction in our good sentiments; and so Scripture roughly shakes down the satisfaction by calling such things "refuges of lies," or staffs that pierce the hand that leans on them.
II. GOOD SENTIMENTS MAY SOON FADE. They always do when they remain as sentiments, and do not become motives to action. Our minds are constantly passing on to fresh things, and the older ones grow dim in the distance. If things are to keep up their interest, we must put continuous thought to them, and make them bear on daily conduct. We weep over a pathetic story-book, but in a little while all is forgotten as a dream when one awaketh. It would be a most humbling sight for us all if God were to show us the great heap of beautiful sentiments we once had and enjoyed.
III. GOOD SENTIMENTS HAVE NO VOICE THAT GOD CAN HEED. If we offer such things to him, he will entirely withdraw and hide himself within a cloud, and wait and see how long the good sentiment will last. Penitence that is only a sensational sigh or tear he will not regard. It means nothing. It is but a passing ripple on a pool. Why should he turn aside to notice that? This thought will unfold into a practical dealing with the danger of forced emotions in revivalistic services; or the straining of religious feeling in children and young people. Mere emotion is too light a thing to ascend as prayer to the throne of God.
IV. GOOD SENTIMENTS MUST SPEAK TO GOD THROUGH DEEDS. YOU say you repent. But the supreme question is - What has your repentance made you do? You repent of that sin: then have you put it away? You repent of that wrong to your neighbor: then have you, as far as possible, put the wrong right? You repent of your idolatry: then have you broken up your idol-altars? Corresponding actions, "works meet for repentance," - these are the terms of "purging;" this is the "fruit to take away all the sin." - R.T.
Parallel VersesKJV: By this therefore shall the iniquity of Jacob be purged; and this is all the fruit to take away his sin; when he maketh all the stones of the altar as chalkstones that are beaten in sunder, the groves and images shall not stand up.
WEB: Therefore, by this the iniquity of Jacob will be forgiven, and this is all the fruit of taking away his sin: that he makes all the stones of the altar as chalk stones that are beaten in pieces, so that the Asherim and the incense altars shall rise no more.