Isaiah 43:25
For mine own sake. Human action is seldom taken on the persuasion of only one motive. We can hardly ask - What was your motive? We should ask - What were your motives? One, indeed, may seem to be bigger than the rest, and to have decided the course of conduct; but we are very imperfect readers of human nature if we rest satisfied with the easy statement that every act has a single reason, a supreme motive. We may venture to apply this to God. We cannot think of him as acting without motive. We may assume that he is influenced by various motives. But we may be sure that there is always the controlling motive - he will do that which is consistent with himself, that which upholds the honour of his own Name. He takes into account our prayers, and lets them be persuasions upon him; but behind all other impulses we must see this one ever constraining him - "for his own Name's sake." In the text this is applied to the blotting out of transgressions. Forgiveness comes to us because the Divine righteousness wants exhibition, and the Divine love wants expression. It is uninfluenced by any cause in us, save as our persuasions are permitted to be secondary causes. The sovereignty of Divine forgiveness is constantly pressed upon us in Scripture; and the atonement is the mode in which it gains expression, rather than the agency by which it is secured. God is a forgiving God because he is. No more can be said about it. But we may fully enter into the joy of his forgiveness. Three things may be opened and illustrated.

I. FORGIVENESS AS A HOLY FEELING AND PURPOSE IN THE HEART OF GOD. The father holds forgiveness of the prodigal in his heart long before the son comes back.

II. THE EXPRESSION OF THE FORGIVENESS TO THOSE WHO HAVE SINNED. This is made in Scripture promises, and in the words and works of Christ.

III. THE APPREHENSION OF THE FORGIVENESS BY THOSE WHO NEED IT. This only can be known by the penitent. On the figure used in the text, which recalls the blotting out of a cloud from the sky, Maclaren says, "Sin is but the cloud, as it were, behind which the everlasting sun lies in all its power and warmth, unaffected by the cloud; and the light will yet strike, the light of his love will yet pierce through, with its merciful shafts, bringing healing in their beams, and dispersing all the pitchy darkness of man's transgressions. And as the mists gather themselves up and roll away, dissipated by the heat of that sun in the upper sky, and reveal the fair earth below, so the love of Christ shines in, melting the mist and dissipating the fog, thinning it off in its thickest places, and at last piercing its way right through it, down to the heart of the man that has been lying beneath the oppression of this thick darkness." - R.T.







I, even I, am He that blotteth out thy transgressions.
As in olden times jewellers were wont to set their most precious gems in casings of a very inferior nature — and that wisely, in order that the intrinsic lustre of the jewel might shine forth more brilliant from the contrast — so doth the Word of God delight to place the long-suffering mercy of our God in the settings of man's iniquity and ingratitude, in order that the most lustrous jewel in God's all-radiant diadem — even mercy — might glitter the more brilliantly from its immediate contact with the black foil spots of man's sin.

(F. F. Goold, M. A.)

I. THE RECIPIENTS OF MERCY. Look at the 22nd verse, and you will see —

1. That they were prayerless people.

2. They were despisers of religion. "Thou hast been weary of Me, O Israel."

3. Thankless people. "Thou hast not brought Me the small cattle of thy burnt-offerings."

4. A useless people. Neither hast thou filled Me with the fat, etc.

5. There are some who may be termed sanctuary sinners — sinners in Zion, and these are the worst of sinners.

6. We have here men who had wearied God: "Thou hast made Me to serve with thy sins, thou hast wearied Me with thine iniquities."

II. THE DEED OF MERCY. It is a deed of forgiveness.

1. A Divine forgiveness. "I, even I, am He." Divine pardon is the only forgiveness possible; for no one can remit sin but God only.

2. Surprising forgiveness; for the text speaks as if God Himself were surprised that such sins should be remitted: "I, even I"; it is so surprising that it is repeated in this way, lest any of us should doubt it.

3. A present forgiveness.

4. A complete forgiveness. The bond is destroyed, and He will not demand payment again.

III. THE REASON FOR MERCY. Says one poor sinner, "Why should God forgive me? I am sure there is no reason why He should, for I have never done anything to deserve His mercy." Hear what God says, "I am not about to forgive you for your own sake, but for My own sake." "But, Lord, I shall not be thankful enough." "I am not about to pardon you because of your gratitude, but for My name's sake." "But, Lord, if I am taken into Thy Church, I can do very little for Thy cause in future years, for I have spent my best days in the devil's service; surely the impure dregs of my life cannot be sweet to Thee, O God." "I will not engage to forgive you for your sake, but for My own; I do not want you," says God; "I can do as well without you as with you. I forgive you, therefore, for My own sake." Is there no hope for a guilty sinner here?

IV. THE PROMISE OF MERCY. "I will not remember thy sins." Is it possible for God to forget? Not as to the absolute fact of the committal of the deed, but there are senses in which the expression is entirely accurate.

1. He will not exact punishment for them when we come before His judgment bar at last. The Christian will have many accusers. The devil will come and say, "That man is a great sinner." Let all the demons of the pit clamour in God's ear, and let them vehemently shout out a list of our sins, we may stand boldly forth at that great day and sing, "Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect?" The judge does not remember it, and who then shall punish?"

2. "I will not remember thy sins to suspect thee." There is a father, and he has had a wayward son, who went away that he might live a life of profligacy; but after a while he comes home again in a state of penitence. The father says, "I will forgive thee." But he says next day to his younger son, "There is business to be done at a distant town to-morrow, and here is the money for you to do it with." He does not trust the returned prodigal with it. "I have trusted him before with money," says the father to himself, "and he robbed me, and it makes me afraid to trust him again;" but our heavenly Father says, "I will not remember thy sins." He not only forgives the past, but trusts His people with precious talents.

3. He will not remember in His distribution of the recompense of the reward. The earthly parent will kindly pass over the faults of the prodigal; but you know, when that father comes to die, and is about to make his will, the lawyer sitting by his side, he says, "I shall give so much to William, who always behaved well, and my other son he shall have so-and-so, and my daughter, she shall have so much; but there is that prodigal, I spent a large sum upon him when he was young, but he wasted what he received, and though I have taken him again into favour, and for the present be is going on well, still I think I must make a little difference between him and the others; I think it would not be fair — though I have forgiven him — to treat him precisely as the rest." And so the lawyer puts him down for a few hundred pounds, while the others, perhaps, get their thousands. But God will not remember your sins like that; He gives all an inheritance. He will give heaven to the chief of sinners as well as the chief of saints.

( C. H. Spurgeon.)

Free grace blots out our transgressions —

I. FROM GOD'S BOOK.

II. WITH GOD'S HAND.

III. FOR GOD'S SAKE.

IV. FROM GOD'S MEMORY.

(H. G. Guinness.)

Because of texts like this, the early Church called Isaiah the Evangelical Prophet. What does "Evangelical" mean? A "good angel," a "good messenger," bringing good tidings of great joy. All who bring the good tidings from God to sinners are evangelical preachers. All the Bible prophets were evangelical, else they would not have been there. Moses himself was evangelical; even law in the Old Testament has evangelical issues, and Moses was a schoolmaster to lead us to Christ.

I. THE NAME WHICH GOD GIVES HIMSELF. "I, even I, am He." You do not find this style save in the Bible. This was God's manner of speech. Baal could not say this, nor the gods of Egypt. God speaks to you as a man amongst men: "I have something to say to you." When He singles you out, that is often the beginning of personal religion. God speaks to you and me personally; there is none save Jesus Christ between God and myself. Whatever your name is, put it into this text, and lift up your soul in every sentence, making them petitions. Israel had grown weary of God, and had got broken and scattered. Are there not those who are weary of Sabbath services, and wish Monday had come to get back to business? They love entertainments and social gaieties; but tire of Sabbath preaching. Another of Israel's sins is found in the context, "Thou hast bought Me no sweet cane with money." Did God indeed care for sweet cane? If you go back to chapter 3. you will find a list of the ornaments and dresses, and what they spent their money upon. Read this and digest it. Bring your bank books and drink books and tobacco books; compare them with what you have contributed to the upholding of evangelical religion. Take your sins to God, and He will blot them out.

II. "FOR MINE OWN SAKE." Not for thy sake; that rather takes a man down. It is all owing to grace. I quite agree to the terms. Pardon my preachings, my sermons, and take me in a pauper. How does that suit your views? — it suits me. In the New Testament we have it put for Jesus' sake; it is the same thing at bottom.

III. "WILL NOT REMEMBER THY SINS." How God forgets, I cannot tell. Isaiah says our sins will never again come up to mind, but I cannot imagine how I can forget my own sins. Some men say they have forgiven you; your offence is dead. It's all past; but you see from the man's eyes that it isn't past, and other people know about it. Take some examples of Jesus' way of forgiveness. You might have said, had you not known, that the first to meet Him after His resurrection would have been the Virgin, or the women of substance who ministered unto Him. But it was the Magdalene that was the first to gaze on His resurrection form! This was just like Himself. And if Judas had not fallen utterly, and gone to his own place, might he not have been chosen to preach the great coronation sermon of Jesus? Peter, the next great sinner, was chosen. Look how Jesus did: He gets the best service out of sinners, such as I.

(A. Whyte, D. D.)

There is one thing that God always does with sin. He removes it out of His presence. God cannot dwell with sin. When He casts away the guilty soul into an unapproachable distance, and when He pardons a penitent soul, He is doing the same thing in both cases — removing sin.

I. THE AUTHOR OF FORGIVENESS. The expression, "I, even I," is not a very unfrequent one in Scripture; but wherever it occurs — whether in reference to justice or mercy — it is the mark of the Almighty, at that moment taking to Himself, in some special degree, some sovereign prerogative. Here, the magnificent repetition of that Name, first given in the bush, was evidently intended to show one characteristic feature of God's love. He forgives like a sovereign. All His attributes are brought to bear upon our peace.

II. THE NATURE OF FORGIVENESS.

1. As to time. The verb runs in the present tense — "blotteth out."

2. As to degree. You could not read — Satan could not read — a trace where God's obliterating hand has once passed.

3. As to continuance. The present swells out into the future. "Will not remember"

III. THE REASON OF FORGIVENESS.

(J. Vaughan, M. A.)

In the foregoing verses we have a heavy accusation drawn up against the Jews. But no severity follows hereupon; but, "I, even I, am He that blotteth out thy transgressions for Mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins." The like parallel place we have concerning Ephraim (Isaiah 57:17, 18). Here is the prerogative of free grace: to infer pardon where the guilty themselves can infer only their own execution. It is the guise of mercy, to make strange and abrupt inferences from sin to pardon.

I. Here is THE PERSON that gives out the pardon, i.e., God. God seems more to triumph in the glory of His pardoning grace and mercy than He doth in any other of His attributes. "I, even I, am He.' Such a stately preface must needs usher in somewhat wherein God's honour is much advanced.

II. As for THE PARDON itself; that is expressed in two things: "blotteth out"; "will not remember."

1. Blotting out implies(1) That our transgressions are written down. Written they are in a twofold book — God's remembrance; our own conscience.(2) A legal discharge of the debt. A book that is once blotted and crossed stands void in law. "I will not remember thy sins."

III. THE IMPULSIVE CAUSE, that moves God's hand, as it were, to blot out our transgressions. "For Mine own sake."

1. That is, because it is My pleasure.

2. Because of that great honour and glory that will accrue to My great name by it.

(E. Hopkins, D. D.)

1. Remission of sin is no act of ours, but an act of God's only.

2. Remission of sin makes sin to be as if it had never been committed.

3. Upon remission of sin God no longer accounts of us as sinners, but as just and righteous.

4. Pardoning grace can as easily triumph in the remitting of great and many sins as of few and small sins.

(E. Hopkins, D. D.)

That article in the Creed, "I believe in the forgiveness of sins," is too little thought of. Men flippantly declare that they believe in it when they are not conscious of any great sin of their own; but when his transgression is made apparent to a man, and his iniquity comes home to him, it is quite another matter. No stocks can hold a man so fast as his own guilty fears. With the desponding, I shall try to deal.

I. THERE IS FORGIVENESS.

1. This appears in the treatment of sinners by God, inasmuch as He spares their forfeited lives.

2. Why did God institute the ceremonial law, if there were no ways of pardoning transgression? The evident design of the whole Mosaic economy was to reveal to man the existence of mercy in the heart of God, and the effectual operation of that mercy in washing away sin.

3. If there is no forgiveness of sin, why has the Lord given to sinful men exhortations to repent?

4. There must be pardons in the hand of God, or why the institution of religious worship among us to this day?

5. Why did Christ institute the Christian ministry, and send forth His servants to proclaim His Gospel?

6. Why are we taught in that blessed model of prayer which our Saviour has left us to say, "Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive them that trespass against us"? It is evident that God means us to give a true absolution to all who have offended us. But then, He has linked with that forgiveness our prayer for mercy, teaching us to ask that He would forgive us as we forgive them. If, then, our forgiveness is real, so is His.

7. God has actually forgiven multitudes of sinners.

II. THIS FORGIVENESS IS TANTAMOUNT TO FORGETTING SIN. He wishes us to know that His pardon is so true and deep that it amounts to an absolute oblivion, a total forgetting of all the wrong-doing of the pardoned ones.

1. To speak popularly, a man lays up a thing in his mind; but when sin is forgiven it is not laid up in God's mind.

2. In remembering, men also consider and meditate on things; but the Lord will not think over the sins of His people.

3. Sometimes you have almost forgotten a thing, but an event happens which recalls it so vividly that it seems as if it were perpetrated but yesterday. God will not recall the sin of the pardoned.

4. This not remembering means that God will never seek any further atonement. Under the old law there was remembrance of sins made every year on the day of atonement; but now the blessed One hath entered once for all within the veil, and hath put away sin for ever by the sacrifice of Himself, so that there remaineth no more sacrifice for sin.

5. When it is said that God forgets our sins, it signifies that He will never punish us for them; next, that He will never upbraid us with them.

6. What does it mean but this — that He will not treat us any the less generously on account of our having been great sinners? Look how the Lord takes some of the biggest sinners, and uses them for His glory.

III. FORGIVENESS IS TO BE HAD. How? Through the atoning blood. Come for it in God's appointed way. "Repent." "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ."

( C. H. Spurgeon.)

I. THE SPEAKER. Whose voice thus proclaims obliteration of transgressions? A silver trumpet thus introduces the word: "Thus saith the Lord, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel." "I am the Lord, your Holy One, the Creator of Israel, your King." Jehovah speaks from His high throne. If other lips had thus addressed offenders, the word might have been empty, vain, and even worse: it might have relieved no doubts, healed no wounds, diffused no peace. Sin is terrible, because it is an offence against God. "Who can forgive sins but God alone? To the Lord our God," and to the Lord our God alone, "belong mercies and sorgivenesses."

II. THE REPETITION. "I, even I, am He." The Person who forgives twice shows Himself. This reduplication cannot be without strong cause, for there are no superfluous words from Divine lips. It is at once apparent that our God, in the riches of His grace, desires thus to awaken attention, to rivet thought, to banish apprehension, to deepen confidence, to inscribe the truth deeper on the heart. Hence the timidity of doubt assumes the aspect of impiety: incredulity becomes insult. This important view is powerfully established by the context. The preceding verses exhibit Jehovah arrayed in robes of majesty. As Creator He claims service from the creatures of His hands; He demands the due revenue of adoration: "This people have I formed for Myself: they shall show forth My praise." The scene then changes; and He confronts them with appalling charges. In these, as in a mirror, the vileness of the human heart is seen. Worship is not rendered; prayer is withheld; communion is shunned. The charge is unanswerable. What can the issue be? Will patience cease to forbear? Will indignation blaze? The sentence follows. "I, even I, am He," etc. What exquisite pathos: what marvellous grace! How Godlike: how unlike the utterance of man!

III. Thus the focal lustre of the word is reached — THE COMPLETENESS OF FORGIVENESS. God ordains forgiveness absolute, unrestricted, unfenced by boundaries, unconfined by barriers. "He blotteth out." It is true that the word has different shades of meaning, according to its context; but its main purport is neither vague nor obscure. It generally places sins in the most formidable light as recorded debts. It displays them as written in the pages of a book of reckoning, rigidly, exactly, — without extenuation; and then leads to the fact that they are completely erased, — expunged — Not merely crossed, for then they might be read again, and subsequent demand be made; but so eradicated that no trace can be discerned. But the vexing thought may intrude, that memory will continually recall his many and mighty sins. He tremulously may reason, If I cannot forget, will not God remember too? Amid all tokens of Divine love, will not my mind revert to former scenes, and be downcast? I shall see, or think I see, amid heaven's smiles, a reminder of my sinful course on earth. Let such thought be cast into oblivion's lowest depths. It is unscriptural: it is derogatory to the glorious Gospel of free grace. Mark how the word contradicts it: "I will not remember thy sins" (Jeremiah 31:34). Let none say, How can this be? Let it not be objected, such mental process is contrary to all experience: it is alien to the properties of retentive thought. Let it be remembered that we are now dealing with God: His ways are not our ways.

IV. THE MOVING CAUSE. Man reaps eternal benefit; but the spring from which the blessing flows is high in heaven. Man and man's deeds are universal provocation: in him there is no moving merit. If God did not originate forgiveness for the glory of His name, no sin could have been blotted out. But God's glory is His final end; therefore He blots out transgressions "for His own sake." Thus heaven shall re-echo with His praise, and eternity prolong the grateful hallelujah.

(H. Law, M. A.)

The remarkable point is not merely that the absolution contained in the text is preceded and succeeded by verses of accusation, but that it breaks in upon the connection, and cleaves the sense right in the middle. The king's messenger of mercy rides through the ranks of the men-at-arms in hot haste, sounding his silver bugle as he clears his way; he cannot linger, his message is too precious to be made to tarry. We may conclude that men know and prize Divine mercy most when they most feel the weight of their sins.

I. THE NATURE OF THE PARDON WHICH IS HERE SO GRACIOUSLY ANNOUNCED.

1. It is a pardon from God Himself, from Him who is offended. This is the more delightful because we know that only He could forgive. Inasmuch as the pardon comes from God, He alone it is who knows the full extent of sin.

2. The reason why it is given. "For Mine own sake." The entire motive of God for forgiving sin lies within Himself. No man has his sins forgiven because they are little, for the smallest sin will ruin the soul, and every sin is great. Each sin has the essence of rebellion in it, and rebellion is a great evil before God. Again, no man's sin is forgiven on the ground that his repentance is meritorious. By God's grace, forgiven men are made to do better; but it is not the foresight of any betterness on their part which leads God to the forgiveness. That cannot be a motive, for if they do better their improvement is His work in them. The only motive which God has for pardoning sinners is one which lies within Himself: "for Mine own sake." And what is that motive? The Lord knows all His motive, and it is not for us to measure it; but is it not first, that He may indulge His mercy? Mercy is the last exercised, but the most pleasing to Himself, of all His attributes. He has this motive, too, which is within Himself, that He may glorify His Son, who is one with Himself. What a comfort this is; for if, when looking into my soul, I cannot see any reason why God should save me, I need not look there, since the motive lies yonder, in His own gracious bosom.

3. It is noteworthy in this glorious text how complete and universal the pardon is. The Lord makes a clean sweep of the whole dreadful heap of our sins. Our sins of omission are all gone. Those are the sins which ruin men. At the last great day the Judge will say, "I was an hungred, and ye gave Me no meat," etc. Those on the left hand were not condemned for what they did do, but for what they did not do. Then He mentions actual sins. "Thou hast made Me to serve with thy sins"; but He blots them out, transgressions and sins, both forms of evil. This m the very Icy and glory of Gospel absolution. The believer knows that his sins are not in the process of being pardoned, but are actually pardoned at this moment. The pardon is noteworthy on account of its being most effectual. It is described as blotting out. Blotting out is a very thorough way of settling a thing. If an account has been standing in the ledger a long time, and the pen is drawn through it, it remains no longer. And then mark the wonderful expression, "I will not remember thy sins." Can God forget? Forgetting with God cannot be an infirmity, as it is with us. We forget because our memory fails, but God forgets in the blessed sense that He remembers rather the merit of His Son than our sins.

II. THE EFFECT OF THIS PARDON WHEREVER IT COMES WITH POWER TO THE SOUL. Timid persons have thought that the free pardon of sin would lead men to indulge in it. No doubt some are base enough to pervert it to that use, but there was never a soul that did really receive pardon from God who could find in that pardon any excuse for sin or any licence to continue longer in it; for all God's people argue thus: "Shall we sin that grace may, abound? God forbid. How shall we that are dead to sin live any longer therein?" At first, mercy fills us with surprise; then, with holy regret. We feel, What, and is this the God I have been standing out against so long? It next creates in us fervent love.

( C. H. Spurgeon.)

Many years ago in Russia a regiment of troops mutinied. They were at some distance from the capital, and were so furious that they murdered their officers, and resolved never resubmit to discipline; but the emperor, who was an exceedingly wise and sagacious man, no sooner heard of it than, all alone and unattended, he went into the barracks when the men were drawn up, and addressing them sternly, he said to them, "Soldiers, you have committed such offences against the law that every one of you deserves to be put to death. There is no hope of any mercy for one of you unless you lay down your arms immediately, and surrender at discretion to me, your emperor." And they did it there and then, though the heads of their officers were lying at their feet. They threw down their" arms and surrendered, and he said at once, Men I pardon you; you be the bravest troops I ever had." And they were, too. That is just what God says to the sinner.

( C. H. Spurgeon.)

If you have a dog at the table, and you throw him a scrap of meat, he swallows it directly; but if you were to set the whole joint down on the floor before him, he would turn away. He would feel that you could not mean to give a fine joint of meat to a dog. He would not think of touching it; at least, few dogs would. And it seemed to me as if the Lord could not have meant all the wonders of His love for such a dog as I was. I was ready to turn away from it through the greatness of it. But then I recollected that it would not do for God to be giving little mercy. He was too great a God to spend all His power in pardoning little sinners and granting little favours; and I came back to this — that if His grace was not too big for Him to give, I would not be such a fool as to refuse it because of its greatness.

( C. H. Spurgeon.)

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