In this very well-known and often quoted Scripture, we like to gloss over the first part and instead focus on the end…the promised things God will do for us. But in doing so, we miss two small but very important words contained in this verse. The first, is how this Scripture starts, “If My people…” “If” puts the burden and responsibility squarely on our shoulders to follow through with the conditions God has placed here…namely, for us to have a radical change of heart, mind, and spirit. It is only at that time and after that is completed, (marked by the second important word, “then”) that God will forgive and heal the land. You could call these prerequisites…things God requires of us beforehand…not because He’s a mean tyrant, but because He’s a good and just God.
Admitting we’re wrong and asking forgiveness is hard to do. And when it comes to acknowledging our sin before God it gets even tougher. It’s not that we’re deliberately rebelling against Him…of blatantly and conspicuously sinning for all to see. No, it’s rather sins by omission that really mess us up. These are secret sins that are easy to hide…things that only we may know about. These sins of omission are things neglected and left undone in our lives…like regular time in the Word, or prayer. Or they’re things we chose to turn a blind eye to…knowing the Lord wants us to act, but choosing to be apathetic instead. These sins of omission are disobedience at its best and need to be dealt with, for as time goes on, it becomes easier and easier to allow these sins to hide in our sub-conscience and justify them rather than admit they are wrong.
None of us is immune to grief, suffering, and troubles…for they are just part of this journey we call life. But it’s good to reflect on the attributes of the Lord spoken of in this Scripture today. God’s love for us is everlasting and unconditional…for there is nothing in and of ourselves we can do to obtain this love…it is a free gift given by grace not our works. But also there is nothing so terrible we can ever do that this love can’t reach us. Mercy and kindness are central to God’s character, and it’s out of this great love for us that we can find forgiveness of sins and eternal life.
When we come to Jesus, He says to us, “Be clean!” And at that moment we are purified from all the pollution, guilt, and shame of our sins. For it says in Psalm 51:2, “Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.” Where we once were covered with the filthy stains of sin, we are now cleansed…our nastiness replaced by pristine purity and righteousness through our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. For it is only through the blood of Jesus that we can become cleansed from all our transgressions…it is only through Jesus we can be saved.
We all have things we’ve done that we’re not proud of. Lapses in our character where we actually thought we could hide willful sins…but God saw everything. And the longer we attempt to cover-up and rationalize sin, the harder it is to admit we’ve crossed the line. David in Psalm 32:5 told the Lord, “I acknowledge my sin to You, and do not cover up my iniquity.” The first part of David’s confession was Relent. We need to yield to God and admit we’ve messed up. The second part was Repent. There needs to be true remorse and shame for our sin. We’re sorry for what we’ve done, not just sorry we got caught. Finally, we need to Remove the sin from our life…by whatever means it takes. By keeping a short account with God, we won’t find ourselves outside His Will and far from His compassion.
In the presence of God, Isaiah realized instantaneously his sin of impure language. In that moment of God’s presence, there’s never any vague, broad sense of sin…rather the Lord will laser focus in on some specific personal area of your life you need to change. Your attention will be directed to it, followed by conviction to take personal responsibility and confess the sin to Him…followed by you acknowledging your need for forgiveness.
All of us do it…we daydream. Pleasant fantasies that transport us from the drab and boring into over the top imaginings. But if we indulge in these musings more and more, they will soon take over our life…for the real world can never compete with fantasy. And it’s here in this verse we’re warned about willful pleasure-seeking thoughts. As humans living in a sinful world – ungodly thoughts are going to drop into our minds…thoughts that can even shock and embarrass us. Like, “Where did THAT come from?!!) But it’s at that moment we have to take captive that thought and make it obedient to Christ. (II Corinthians 10:5) For if we give in and allow these thoughts to have their way in our mind…our vivid daydreams will lead us farther and farther from God into disobedience.