It may be that the house of Judah will hear all the evil which I purpose to do to them; that they may return every man from his evil way…
We can understand the prophet thus speaking, but how can there be anything uncertain or contingent with God? And yet it is he who here speaks and says, "It may be." We are accustomed to say, "God knows all the past, and all the present, and all the future (cf. Isaiah 46:9-11). Reason and Scripture alike seem to say that there can be nothing probable with God. But yet this is his word. Why does he thus speak? Perhaps -
I. BECAUSE THERE WAS NO LAW, NO DECREE, AGAINST THE PEOPLE'S REPENTANCE. He had made no such law, and man had not. There is no decree of reprobation.
II. IT MAY BE CONSISTENT, AFTER ALL, WITH THE TRUTH OF THINGS FOR GOD THUS TO SPEAK, THOUGH WE CANNOT SEE HOW. We infer certain conclusions from what we read and learn about God, and these conclusions seem to deny the possibility of there being any "it may be" with him. But we may be wrong after all, and the fact that he does thus speak lends to the suspicion that we are.
III. BECAUSE IT WOULD BE ILL FOR US WERE HE TO REVEAL THE CERTAINTIES OF THINGS. If they were to be such as we would desire, we should cease to labour for them. If otherwise, we should sit down in despair. But God desires us to labour and pray, and therefore hides the future from our eyes. Presumption and despair are both great evils; therefore to prevent them, God speaks after the manner of men, if not after the manner of God.
IV. BECAUSE HE INTENDS HIS "MAY BE" TO BECOME "SHALL BE." He would have us fellow workers with him, and therefore he encourages our efforts, but hides from us be that which would lead us to think them unnecessary. And probably the "may be" will become "shall be," though not at the time nor in the manner we expect. Let us, therefore, be ever cheered forward when God says, "It may be." - C.
Parallel VersesKJV: It may be that the house of Judah will hear all the evil which I purpose to do unto them; that they may return every man from his evil way; that I may forgive their iniquity and their sin.