O Israel, return to the LORD your God; for you have fallen by your iniquity.
While the freeness of God's mercy is the leading idea suggested by the text, it is not the only one: the condition of our nature is accurately expressed, as is the mode by which alone it can be ameliorated.
I. THE STATE INTO WHICH MAN HAS BROUGHT HIMSELF. There are few things more important than the fastening on the sinner all the blame of his sin. Adam might have obeyed the simple injunction, and, holding on his probation, might have won for himself and his descendants a hereafter fenced up against the spoiler. God foreknew that Adam would transgress, and prepared for the contingency. We can see that if there had been no ruin there could have been no restoration. The work of redemption takes, of course, for granted the apostasy of our race. On Adam must be fastened all the blame of his transgression. There was no extenuating plea which the offender could in justice have urged. The blame of the fall belongs individually to man. Thou hast not fallen through an inherent inability to stand; He has so constituted thee that thou mightest have stood. Thou hast not fallen through the ground being slippery, and thick-set with snares. He placed thee where thy footing was firm, and thy pathway direct. So that upon man himself comes home wholly all the effect of the fall. We argue from this the unqualified gratuitousness of God's interposition on man's behalf. In whatever degree there may be a necessity of sinning, in no degree is there a necessity of perishing. God places no man in such a moral condition that our falling into perdition is unavoidable. Let a man have once heard of Christ, and from that moment forward salvation is within arm's length of this man. Man can have no right to take off the burthen of responsibilities and cast it on the secret decrees of his Maker.
II. THE MODE OF MAN'S DELIVERANCE. "Return unto the Lord thy God." It comes not within our power to destroy or diminish God's title to our service. The fall did not do away with God's claim on man. Some teach that God proportions His demands to our impaired capacities, and will be satisfied with the honest endeavour, seeing that we cannot come up to the thorough performance. But this is making God answerable for the apostasy of man. We may, however, gather an inference of consolation as well as one of admonition. There is the groundwork of hope, that God will yet look mercifully upon us, and restore us, seeing that, notwithstanding our alienation, He is still our God. Man of himself hath no power to turn unto God; but since God invites, He surely enables. He bestows all requisite assistance, and a clear pathway has been made.
(H. Melvill, B. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: O Israel, return unto the LORD thy God; for thou hast fallen by thine iniquity.