I have blotted out as a thick cloud thy transgressions, and
a cloud thy sins
Sins and transgressions are compared to clouds, for the number of them, they being many as the fleeting clouds of the air; and for the nature and quality of them: as clouds are vapours rising out of the earth and sea, so these arise out of the earthly and corrupt heart of man, which is as a troubled sea; and, like the clouds, they reach up to the heavens, and the cry of them calls aloud for vengeance from thence; they cause darkness, even all that darkness, both in unregeneracy, and after conversion; they intercept the light of God's countenance, and interpose between God and the souls of men, and cause him to hide his face from them; they come between them and the sun of righteousness, and cover him out of their sight; and by means of them the light and comfort of the Holy Spirit are withdrawn; and they hinder the free passage of prayer to God, at least as to the apprehension of God's people; see ( Isaiah 59:2 ) ( Lamentations 3:44 ) , and they portend a storm, and threaten with a tempest of divine wrath and vengeance; but God graciously forgives them; which is meant by "blotting" them out. Clouds are blotted out either by the wind dissipating and scattering them; or by the sun breaking through them, conquering and dispersing them, which perhaps is alluded to here; and designs not the satisfaction of Christ for sin; by which he has finished and made an end of it; but rather God's act of pardon upon it, and the application of it to his people; or the discoveries of it by Christ himself, the sun of righteousness, arising upon them with healing in his wings, that is, with pardon to their souls; saying to them, thy sins, though many, are forgiven thee; and they are so blotted out and removed as to be seen no more, and as if they had never been, as a cloud is; not only no more seen by the avenging eye of divine justice, but so removed from them as not to be seen by them, as to have no more conscience of them, or feel the load and burden of them; and though other clouds or sins may arise, yet these also are blotted out in the same way, and shall never appear against the saints to their condemnation. And as, when clouds are blotted out, there is a clear sky, a serene heaven, the sun shines in its brightness, and everything is pleasant and delightful; so when sin is pardoned, or it appears to be so, then God is beheld as the God of all grace, as all grace and love; the sinner can go with a holy boldness to him, through the blood of Christ, as being pardoned, and has fellowship with him; the evidences of interest in Christ become clear, and the comforts of the Holy Ghost are enjoyed. And let it be observed, that as no man can reach the clouds, and blot any of them out; so none can forgive sins but God, this is his sole prerogative, ( Isaiah 43:25 ) . Here is mention made of a cloud, and a thick cloud; no clouds are so thick but God can blot them out, and these are no sins so great but he can forgive them; clouds, and thick clouds, are blotted out, lesser and greater sins are forgiven by him. Some read the words thus, "I have blotted out", wiped or washed away, "as with a thick cloud, thy transgressions, and as with a cloud thy sins" F14; and give the sense thus, as clouds pouring down with rain wash the streets from the filth of them, so the Lord, as with a deluge of pardoning grace and mercy, washes away the sins of his people; grace superabounds abounding sin, and carries it all before it, and removes it clear away; now this blessing of grace is mentioned, to attach the people of God to his service, as it follows: return unto me, for I have redeemed thee;
this supposes them to have backslidden from the Lord in heart or in practice, in life and conversation, or in both, and yet the Lord had forgiven them; and which was a reason why they should return to him by repentance; as nothing is a greater motive to it, or more strongly influences it, than a discovery of pardoning grace; and then the people of God do return to God as their Father, who graciously receives them, and to Christ as their husband, to whom they are married, though backslidden, and to their duty to both. So the Targum,
``return to my worship or service;''the reason or argument enforcing it is very strong, "for I have redeemed thee"; from sin, and all its sad effects; from the law, and the curses of it; and from death and hell, and wrath to come; and therefore need not fear any of these things, or fear coming to the Lord on account of them. Such, who are redeemed, need not doubt but they shall be kindly received, though they have backslidden, and that no good thing will be withheld from them; for if God has given his Son to redeem them, he will give all things freely with him; besides, being redeemed, they are the Lord's, and therefore ought to return to him, and glorify him with their bodies and spirits, which are his; and as they are redeemed from our vain conversation, they should return from it, and not indulge one, or otherwise the end of redemption is not answered: and this being joined with the forgiveness of sin in the preceding clause, shows that that proceeds upon the foot of redemption, or upon the foot of satisfaction made by Christ; and both furnish out arguments engaging to the service of God.
F14 So some in Gataker.