Today we will be looking at the core Bible principle of forgiveness, and how we have the ability, through faith in Messiah, to gain the privilege of being reconciled with our Maker when we recognize that our lives are not in alignment with his purposes. To accomplish this, we must repent of those things that are outside of his will for us.
Isaiah 55:7 – Let wicked people abandon their ways. Let evil people abandon their thoughts. Let them return to Yahweh, and he will show compassion to them. Let them return to our God, because he will freely forgive them.
Throughout the Bible, forgiveness from God for wayward actions has always been graciously available for those who seek it.
2 Chronicles 7:14 – if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.
Notice this forgiveness is conditional on his people’s conviction to humble themselves, seek God, and turn from their wicked ways. The Bible also has examples of those whom God would not forgive, not because he is arbitrary, but because the individual or group of people demonstrates non-repentance.
Deuteronomy 29:18-20 – Beware lest there be among you a man or woman or clan or tribe whose heart is turning away today from Yahweh our God to go and serve the gods of those nations. Beware lest there be among you a root bearing poisonous and bitter fruit, one who, when he hears the words of this sworn covenant, blesses himself in his heart, saying, ‘I shall be safe, though I walk in the stubbornness of my heart.‘ This will lead to the sweeping away of moist and dry alike. Yahweh will not be willing to forgive him, but rather the anger of Yahweh and his jealousy will smoke against that man, and the curses written in this book will settle upon him, and Yahweh will blot out his name from under heaven.
Joshua 24:19-20 – But Joshua said to the people, “You are not able to serve Yahweh, for he is a holy God. He is a jealous God; he will not forgive your transgressions or your sins. If you forsake Yahweh and serve foreign gods, then he will turn and do you harm and consume you, after having done you good.”
These examples show that forgiveness is possible only after a recognition of having done something against God’s revealed instruction. However, many people today don’t seek God’s forgiveness because they are not aware of having violated any of God’s commands. So perhaps in our discussion of forgiveness, we need to start there. One can’t ask for forgiveness if one is not aware of how some revealed instruction of God has been violated.
The revelation of God’s instruction to an assembled group of people has happened in two primary and distinctive portions of the Bible: the giving of the Ten Commandments at Mt. Sinai, and the Sermon on the Mount. One was transmitted directly to the people from God himself, the other was related to an assembled group of followers through God’s Anointed One, Yeshua. One provides the basis for all godly and human interaction in concrete commands, the other provides the basis for the spiritual emphasis of God’s concrete commands. Taken together, these two great passages form the core of the Bible message, and God’s expectations of human interaction with himself and others.
If a person seeking God recognizes that their life is outside the bounds of these very basic parameters that God has provided to all people, then they may feel the need to change the pattern of their life in those areas. When this occurs, they sense a real and urgent need to be forgiven. Whether it’s from wrongs they have committed with other individuals or whether it’s for seemingly irreconcilable errors committed in life, humans will typically reach a point within their lives where forgiveness becomes a real need. It may not be something obvious to others or sometimes even themselves, but the need exists and persists until a crisis point is reached. Once that happens, something must be done to meet this need.
In the passage today, Isaiah outlines three things necessary to accomplish this with God when confronted with the basic expectations God has for people in the Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount: abandoning wicked ways; abandoning wicked thoughts, and returning to Yahweh.
First, Isaiah says that the people must abandon their rebellious ways. This individual is named with the adjective “wicked.” The Hebrew word implies the idea of someone who is guilty of doing wrong, or worthy of condemnation because of moral depravity. This is typically used throughout the Bible for an individual with bitter and hostile intent toward God or others, or just a bad person.
The problem that arises in our modern context is that most people, even bad people, do not consider themselves as bad people. They justify themselves in their actions based on their own rationale stemming from comparing themselves with those around them who may do even worse things, thinking themselves better and therefore not guilty of wrongdoing.
However, God’s standards are uncompromising. As mentioned previously, even at the most basic level, the Ten Commandments exhibit a baseline standard for people to evaluate themselves in any culture and in any time in history. The universality of the commandments stand as a testimony against every individual as a performance standard that God expects of people who would consider themselves as his own people. That was the purpose of delivering them to the assembled congregation at Sinai, as God was laying out the constitution or charter of his Kingdom to be evidenced among his people for all time. The commandments lay out the appropriate actions toward God and toward others, and all other instruction from God’s Word stems from this blueprint.
Yeshua taught this as well.
Matthew 22:37-40 – And he said to him, “You shall love Yahweh your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”
These two commandments are the summary of two tablets of the Ten Commandments: the first half of the instruction relates how to love God, and the second half relates how to love others. When people compare themselves to these standards and not to the corrupt culture around them, they can reach no other conclusion except that they are guilty of morally wrong actions, and therefore by the Bible definition, bad or wicked.
Yeshua expanded on the spiritual motivations behind the Ten Commandments with his Sermon on the Mount. This teaching appears in both the gospels of Matthew and Luke in slightly different settings, highlighting the likelihood this was a basic teaching of Yeshua’s which he shared wherever he went.
Back to Isaiah’s instruction for the wicked to abandon their ways, the word for abandon implies leaving, forsaking, loosing and letting go. The way of a person is their manner, habit, course of life and intentions. When a person’s plans and purposes are against the plans and purposes of Yahweh, then God is not able to accomplish his purpose through that individual. The cycles and patterns of personal behavior have to be changed with a commitment to move beyond them.
Yeshua relates a similar purpose when he states, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you,” (Matthew 6:33). When the individual can lay down their purpose at the feet of God and the purposes of his kingdom, then God has the ability to direct and provide what is needed for an obedient life. When this conclusion is reached, it is a huge step towards the fulfillment of completing the other steps Isaiah lays out in our subject verse.
The next step Isaiah mentions is that of not just abandoning wicked ways, but of abandoning evil thoughts. This is not an injunction to mindless obedience, but a directive to change the habits of thinking that can keep individuals trapped in the loop of non-productive or harmful behaviors. Nothing changes in the actions until thought patterns are revised.
The Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount are not just about actions, but about intentions. By putting God first, not worshiping images, respecting his Name and set apart time, we demonstrate to him how much we love him in our thinking. When we desire to abide by the rest of the commandments in our thinking, we tend to act out those thoughts through honoring others created in his image. These intentions and thoughts then keep us focused on him and his Kingdom, and not our own ways.
The methods of seeking God’s Kingdom first are laid out in the Sermon on the Mount, as I have covered in detail throughout the various teachings presented on this site. These methods and intentions involve integrity, vigilance, holiness, trust, forgiveness and compassion. When people truly evaluate their actions in view of the standards God has provided to us in these teachings of Moses and Yeshua, and not the standards of society, then there is a more complete picture of their standing before God.
The third aspect is what Isaiah describes as returning to God. While this admonition was originally spoken to those in Israel who were familiar with God but had rejected him, the same encouragement exists for us who have been confronted with God’s standards and are seeking for a measure of spiritual peace that comes from reconciling with the Creator of all things. Isaiah confirms this in the context of this passage when he writes:
Isaiah 55:3-5 – Open your ears, and come to me! Listen so that you may live! I will make an everlasting promise to you – the blessings I promised to David. I made him a witness to people, a leader and a commander for people. You will summon a nation that you don’t know, and a nation that doesn’t know you will run to you because of Yahweh your God, because of the Holy One of Israel. He has honored you.
Isaiah alludes to the fact that foreign nations would be drawn to the God of Israel because of the example of God’s faithfulness with David, and with his people. What was future to Isaiah is the present age we are living in. Because of the faithfulness of David’s “son,” Yeshua the Messiah, we have the ability, through faith in him, to gain the privilege of being reconciled with our Maker when we realize that our lives are not in alignment with his purposes.
- John 1:12-13 – …he gave the right to become God’s children to everyone who believed in him. These people didn’t become God’s children in a physical way-from a human impulse or from a husband’s desire to have a child. They were born from God.
- Isaiah 55:6 – Seek Yahweh while he may be found. Call on him while he is near.
He is near even today and able to accept and forgive all who come to him with sincere motives and a willingness to abandon their past wicked ways and past disobedient ways of thinking. That need for forgiveness can be met today.
Romans 8:5-7, 13-14 – For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. … For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.
For all those who recognize they have transgressed the commands and intentions God has provided in his Word, forgiveness is always available, along with strength through his holy Spirit which can enlighten and guide in the correct ways. Repentance of wicked ways and thoughts paves the way for God to expand his influence in the life of not only those who have not yet experienced spiritual regeneration, but in the life of the believer, as well. The Word of God comes to life through our obedient thoughts and ways, and God is glorified when we lay down anything that offends or transgresses his instruction for us. This is how the Kingdom of God continues to expand and grow, and we become privileged to become his co-laborers in the fulfillment of these things.
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