You answered them, O LORD our God: you were a God that forgave them, though you took vengeance of their inventions.
The "inventions" here are simply "doings;" but the word seems to imply "self-willed doings." So we read, "God made man upright; but he has sought out many inventions." There is no allusion to "scientific discoveries." When we read the passages in which Divine forgiveness seems so absolutely assured, it is necessary that we bear in mind how the Divine forgiveness may be absolute in the Divine purpose, yet must be limited in Divine application. We can at once think of two limitations.
1. The exigencies of God's universal rule.
2. The moral condition of those whom God would forgive.
I. FORGIVENESS LIMITED BY THE EXIGENCIES OF GOD'S UNIVERSAL RULE. That demands the, recognition, and the adequate punishment, of all acts of wilful sin. God has ordered the relation of things in nature so that suffering certainly attends sin, and calls attention to the character of sin. In the interests of the race, that relation must be maintained; it must never for one moment even seem to be doubtful. Even in God's chosen people wilful wrong doing must be duly punished; and so even when God forgives the wilfulness, he does not interfere with the punishments. Of this Moses and Aaron present striking instances. They sadly failed in the matter of the smitten rock. They were forgiven, but the penalty of their sin came on them. They died on this side Jordan, with their life hope unrealized.
II. FORGIVENESS LIMITED BY THE MORAL CONDITION OF THOSE WHOM GOD WOULD FORGAVE. We do not sufficiently realize that God would have his forgiveness prove the best possible moral blessing to those whom he forgives. Forgiveness only blesses those who are in a mood to receive forgiveness. And so we see that punishment, along with forgiveness, may be necessary in order to get the forgiven into proper soul moods. Christ taught that his disciples could not be forgiven unless they were forgiving. They must be in right mood to receive. So there are holy limitations even to the Divine free forgiveness. - R.T.
Parallel VersesKJV: Thou answeredst them, O LORD our God: thou wast a God that forgavest them, though thou tookest vengeance of their inventions.