I have blotted out, as a thick cloud, your transgressions, and, as a cloud, your sins: return to me; for I have redeemed you.
I. THE FREENESS OF THE METHOD OF MAN'S ACCEPTANCE. "Return unto Me; for I have redeemed thee." There can be no difficulty in proving that we are bought with a price; there can be no difficulty in showing that it was God Himself to whom the price was paid. But there is something of a difficulty in understanding how purchase can consist with gift; and how that which is dearly bought can be said to be freely bestowed. The difficulty is just what follows. Much is said in the Bible as to our deliverance being perfectly gratuitous; but if God bestows nothing that has not been paid for, what becomes of that gratuitous character of redemption? Certainly it would seem that purchase is so inconsistent with donation, that He of whom forgiveness is bought can lay but slight claim to a surprising liberality. Careful examination, however, will set this in a proper light. "Return unto Me; for I have redeemed thee," is an assertion whose proof lies in the assurance that God is ready to receive the prodigal. A deliverance that has been bought for the world is more illustrative of God's free grace than any other which would have required no satisfaction. For a plan of deliverance in every sense gratuitous is one of those absurd creations of the fancy which it would have been impossible to turn into reality. If it could not have been said to man, Thou art a redeemed thing, and a purchased thing, it must have been said, in opposition to our text, Thou shalt not return; thou shalt continue a ruined thing. It fell not within the power of Deity to grant what men call unconditional forgiveness. It is requiring God to undeify Himself — to cease to be the Just One, the Faithful One. The fact that we may return to the Father only because we are purchased by the blood of His Son, wondrously demonstrates the freeness of the grace. The death of the Son does not, after all, place the Father under the necessity of extending forgiveness to sinners; He need not have said, "Return," even though we were redeemed. We are not merely debtors who have nothing to pay — we are criminals who have punishment to endure. If I were only a debtor, and Christ had discharged the debt, I cease to be a debtor, and God cannot, in justice, refuse to release me; but, if I were a criminal, I do not cease to be a criminal because another might have died in my room. Hence it is free grace, and nothing else, that grants me forgiveness.
II. THE EARNEST LONGING THAT GOD HAS THAT SINNERS SHOULD BE SAVED, DISCOVERED IN THE PATHOS OF THE ENTREATY. Men are bid to return because they are redeemed. There are, therefore, two conditions: they must have faith in the Redeemer, and they must have that repentance which includeth forsaking of sin: so precious are you in God's sight that to return is to please God.
(H. Melvill, B. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: I have blotted out, as a thick cloud, thy transgressions, and, as a cloud, thy sins: return unto me; for I have redeemed thee.