At the heart of the gospel is salvation by grace alone. God redeems us for His sake and not because of our own merits. It is an amazing grace that fills me with tremendous gratitude and comfort. It is reassuring to know that I do not have to perform for God. This isn’t a job with a performance review at the end of a probationary period. Yet, I often abuse that grace and try to make up for it by earning God’s favor rather than asking for forgiveness and repenting.
This people have I formed for myself; they shall shew forth my praise.
But thou hast not called upon me, O Jacob; but thou hast been weary of me, O Israel.
Thou hast not brought me the small cattle of thy burnt offerings; neither hast thou honoured me with thy sacrifices. I have not caused thee to serve with an offering, nor wearied thee with incense.
Thou hast bought me no sweet cane with money, neither hast thou filled me with the fat of thy sacrifices: but thou hast made me to serve with thy sins, thou hast wearied me with thine iniquities.
I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins.
Israel is a perfect example but we can substitute ourselves to clearly see the problem. They are God’s chosen people to be His witness to the world but they do not acknowledge Him as their king. When the Lord says that He has not burdened them with sacrifices He is referring to their 70-year exile during which they did not make such offerings. However, He says that Israel burdened Him with their iniquities. It’s a raw deal for God, always. He wants their heart but they keep Him at arm’s length and abandon Him. They continually forget that He wants to bless them. They also forget that He didn’t choose them because they were so impressive but because it pleased Him.
We can easily bring this down to a personal level. God has created me for His glory and praise and yet I often fail to remember His grace towards me. I often betray Him by going off and doing what I want to do and ignoring Him. That line in the hymn says it perfectly: “Prone to wander, Lord I feel it. Prone to leave the God I love.” I am so easily beset by sin and tempted to remove my guilt by doing something to deserve God’s grace again. But God isn’t interested because He blots out my sins for His own sake. He made that choice on His own, not because I was able to sweet-talk him.
There is a risk that people will pervert this truth by using it as a license to sin and Paul explains why that’s wrong in Romans 6. We don’t have to sin in order to experience the wonder of God’s grace. The longer you live the more humble you become as you realize how many transgressions God has forgotten. It fills you with wonder to know that the Lord is so willing and eager to forgive and move forward.