“I will not return to destroy Ephraim: for I am God, and not man.”
HE LORD, speaking of himself as “God, and not man,” mentions as the special point in which he is above and beyond man, that he has greater grace, greater long-suffering, and greater willingness to forgive: “I will not return to destroy Ephraim: for I am God, and not man.”
In a thousand respects, God is greater than man; for us to enter into that theme, would require a very considerable length of time; but the Lord here puts this truth most prominently forward, that he is “God, and not man,” in that he is infinitely more forbearing, infinitely more tender, infinitely more ready to pass by offenses than any man ever can be.
What men cannot do by reason of the narrowness and shallowness of their goodness, God can and will do by reason of the height and depth and length and breadth of his immeasurable love. Note that truth in our text, and then note another.
When God can find in man no reason for showing mercy to him, he still finds a reason for displaying his mercy, for he looks for it in his own heart. He does not say, “I will not return to destroy Ephraim, for he is not as bad as he might be, and there is really something hopeful about him.” No, the Lord does not let the bucket down into that dry well; but he fetches the argument for his mercy out of himself: “For I am God.”
“It is not what he is, but what I am, that decides the case,” says Jehovah; “I will have mercy upon Ephraim, because I am God, and not man.”
Guilty one, your hope of pardon lies in the character of God; and the more quickly and completely you recognize this fact, the better will it be for you. Do not be looking into yourself to find some reason there why God should have pity upon you, for there is no reason within you but what Satan can answer and overturn. Rather look to God, especially as God looks to himself, for your hope lies in what be is whom you have offended.
I know that he is just and holy, and that this truth at first condemns you; but he is also good and gracious, and this truth brings joy and brightness to you. The only rays of light you can ever get must come to you from the sun. You will not find any in your own eyes, for they are blind; it is from the sun himself that your very power to see, as well as the light by which you can see, must come.
So, God fetches his argument in favor of mercy from himself; you have one specimen of it in that grand passage where he says, “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion,” drawing the reasons for the display of his mercy out of the great deeps of his own sovereignty.