Who is a God like to you, that pardons iniquity, and passes by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage?…
There is scarcely anything in religion more difficult than deeply to feel our sins, and mourn over them, and yet to believe firmly in the readiness of God to forgive them. It is easy to yield to despondency, and to consider the pardon of them as impossible. To oppose such gloomy suggestions is an important as well as pleasing duty.
I. THE MATCHLESS EXTENT OF GOD'S PARDONING MERCY. The uniform character of God in His dispensations to His Church in all ages is that of a God who "pardoneth iniquity, transgression, and sin." Note the several expressions in verse 18. He is ever engaged in remitting the sins of those who plead His mercy. "He pardoneth iniquity." He voluntarily overlooks offences. "Passeth by the transgressions of the remnant of His heritage." He does not allow Himself, as He justly might, to be hindered or stopped by our sins, but acts as one who sees them not. When God pardons sin, He passes, as it were, over it, even as a hastening traveller urges on his way, and neglects the impediments in his road. "He retains not His anger forever." He is provoked with the obstinate and rebellious; but when they truly repent and turn to Him, He lets go His wrath, He views them with infinite compassion, He pardons them, He passes by their sins, and accepts them "to the praise of the glory of His grace." The spring of all this grace and consideration is, that He "delighteth in mercy." He does not pardon reluctantly, and pass by our sins with hesitation or backwardness, but with willing promptitude and satisfaction. There is a force in the original phrase which deserves notice. It reads literally: "Because, as for Him, He delighteth in mercy"; or "He delighteth in mercy, even He." His very nature prompts Him to it. Why, then, should any inquiring and self-condemned penitent despair of pardon? The difficulties in the way of remission may be great, and to us may appear insurmountable, but the glory of God in bestowing it is therefore so much the more illustrious.
II. THE CONSOLING APPLICATION OF THIS MERCY TO THE CASE OF THE PENITENT SINNER. In the text this general truth is applied to the particular circumstances of the Jewish Church. It would be of little moment to have some surprising ideas of the clemency of God unless this application of it to the actual circumstances of the Church were added, and unless the faithful were assured for themselves that God would be merciful to them when they call upon Him. And this is indeed the true reasoning of humble piety in every age. The awakened inquirer may be assured that God "will turn again." Though He may have withdrawn from us on account of our sins, yet He will return and bless us with His salvation. And how will He return? "He will have compassion upon us." All the misery and distress which we endure will be observed by Him; all our state will touch His heart, and move His pity. A claim to merit we cannot advance, but an appeal to the compassion of God in Christ will never fail. And what will be the effect of this compassion? "He will subdue our iniquities"; that is, God will bestow the very blessing we need, and which we most ardently desire. He will, by His grace, overcome the power and dominion of iniquity in the heart, and enable the penitent to love and obey Him. To subdue the tyranny of our sins is one blessing which flows from the compassion of God. But what shall become of our past iniquities and present imperfections? To meet this question, it is added, "God will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea." His forgiveness shall be signal and complete. It shall be as ii the whole mass of our guilt were buried in the mighty waters. What is cast into the depths of the fathomless ocean sinks never to rise again.
III. THE CONFIRMATION BOTH OF THE EXTENT OF GOD'S PARDONING MERCY, AND OF THE CONSOLING APPLICATION OF IT, WHICH IS TO BE DERIVED FROM THE COVENANT OF MERCY ITSELF. God had chosen Abraham, and had made a covenant with him and his seed. In this covenant, pardon, grace, strength, consolation were assured to all God's heritage. A distinction may be observed between the words "mercy" and "truth" as they are applied to this covenant. God is said to "perform His truth to Jacob, and His mercy to Abraham." Possibly because His covenant, as it was given to Abraham, was an act of mere mercy; but in ratifying it to Jacob, God only made good what He had before promised. Mercy first bestowed, then truth confirmed, the covenant. So still, God first offers Himself freely to us, and then is faithful and true to His promises. Application —
1. Encourage the trembling penitent to act on the views thus unfolded.
2. Ascertain your interest in the Everlasting Covenant.
3. Allow that possibly your sins may be pardoned, and your case relieved.
4. Nay, cherish a fully assured hope of being pardoned and accepted.
(D. Wilson, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity, and passeth by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage? he retaineth not his anger for ever, because he delighteth in mercy.