Isaiah 38:17
For thou hast cast all my sins behind thy back. To cast behind one's back, in Hebrew and Arabic, is a figure of speech meaning "to forget, to lose sight of, to exclude from view." Roberts, writing of Hindoo life, says, "This metaphor is in common use, and has sometimes a very offensive signification. The expression is used to denote the most complete and contemptuous rejection of a person or thing. 'The king has cast his minister behind his back,' that is, fully removed him, treated him with sovereign contempt. 'Yes, man, I have forgiven you; all your crimes are behind my back; but take care not to offend me again.'" What Hezekiah realized was that, in responding to his prayer for renewed life, God had graciously removed from consideration the just judgments for which transgressions called. He put them aside, out of sight. Matthew Henry sententiously says, "When we cast our sins behind our back, and take no care to repent of them, God sets them before his face, and is ready to reckon for them; but when we set them before our face, in true repentance, as David did when his sin was ever before him, God casts them behind his back." Two other very striking figures of God's ways with sin may be recalled.

1. He casts them into the depths of the sea, where they are lost, out of sight, and out of reach, for ever. Lost, as a jewel dropped in mid-ocean.

2. He puts them from us far as east is from west - a figure whose fulness of suggestion only unfolds to meditation. There is a north pole and a south pole, giving limits to our conception of north and south. There is no east pole or west pole. East is on everywhere one way, and west is on everywhere the other way. God's way with sin is -

I. TO KEEP STRICTEST ACCOUNT OF IT. God "besets us behind and before." "All things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do." There is a record. Illustrate by the idea that all our actions are photographed on the waves of air, and wafted on to God's keeping, against the judgment-day. This is sure - God is never indifferent to sin. He is strict to behold iniquity.

II. TO APPORTION DUE, CORRECTIVE PUNISHMENTS OF IT. Some coming in the way of ordinary and natural results, and some as special Divine judgments. Thank God, his judgments wait close on our sins.

III. TO PARDON. In a royal, gracious way, whensoever the sinner humbles himself, and with penitence and confession seeks grace. "Though your sins be as... crimson, they shall be whiter than snow."

IV. TO PUT IT FROM CONSIDERATION IN MEETING THE DESIRES AND PRAYERS OF HIS PEOPLE. This is the case before us. This is the marvel of grace. God treats his people as if they were not sinners. He treats them as if standing in the goodness and the rights of his ever-obedient and acceptable Son, Christ Jesus. - R.T.

Behold, for peace I had great bitterness.
I. A SAD, HEAVY AFFLICTION. "Behold, for peace," &c. The affliction is aggravated —

1. By a description of it in its own nature.

(1)In the quality of it — "bitterness."

(2)In the quantity of it — "great bitterness."

2. By opposition of the blessing which is removed — "peace"; a word that comprehends an temporal blessings, and more particularly is taken, in Holy Writ, for health — a blessing without which all other blessings have no relish in them.

3. By the surprise of it — "Behold!" as a strange thing.

4. And this further aggravated it, if we understand it, as we must in a spiritual sense — that, his sickness calling his sins to remembrance, and causing some distrust of God's love, instead of that peace of conscience he had had heretofore, his spirit was now troubled and greatly embittered. And "a wounded spirit, who can bear?"

II. A MERCIFUL DELIVERANCE OUT OF THIS AFFLICTION. "Thou hast in love," &c. The mercy of the deliverance wants not its heightening circumstances; as —

1. From the efficient cause. It was God delivered him.

2. From the motive or impulsive cause — "love."

3. From the danger he was delivered out of, and that no ordinary one — "a pit" — "the pit of corruption," even the grave.

III. A BLESSED IMPROVEMENT OF THIS MERCY. "For Thou hast cast," &c. This is the crown of mercies, when temporals are thus accumulated with spirituals; this a recovery indeed, of the whole man, when health is improved unto salvation, and strength of body accompanied with pardon of sins. This is right "saving health."


1. By showing the impossibility for the dead to perform this duty.

2. And then showing, not the possibility only, but the probability, that the living will, i.e., such as Divine mercy continues in life, and especially such as are by that mercy preserved from imminent danger of death.

3. Exemplified in himself. "As I do this day."

(A. Littleton, . D. D.)

I. THE FELICTIOUS CONDITION OF THE GOOD HEZEKIAH IN THE POSSESSION OF PEACE. Shall I speak of him as a man enjoying health in his body; as a king blessed with prosperity and tranquillity through all his dominions? These are invaluable privileges. Rather let us consider him as a sinner whose, conscience has been sprinkled with the blood of Christ, by virtue of which he enjoys that peace which consists in a sweet sense of the Divine friendship.


III. REFLECT ON THE LOVE OF GOD, DISPLAYED TOWARDS HEZEKIAH in lengthening out his life and pardoning all his sins.

(John Rippon.)

I. THE DISTRESS Hezekiah was in before our Saviour spoke peace to him, and delivered him from his sins.

II. THE ASSURANCE he had of being pardoned and accepted by his Heavenly Father and saved; and how boldly he testifies that this must be the case with all the children of God.

III. THE CAUSE OF ALL, which he says was the love of Jehovah to him.

(John Cennick.)

is to draw us away from all pits, dejections, humiliations, prostrations, and to give us life, vigour, triumph, sense and guarantee of immortality.

(J. Parker, D. D.)

I. HEALTHFUL BITTERNESS. You have it in the first sentence, which runs in Hebrew very nearly as follows: "Behold, to peace (or to health) my bitter bitterness." This means —

1. That Hezekiah underwent a great, sad, and unexpected change. Let us never boast ourselves of to-morrow, for we know not what a day may bring forth.

2. Hezekiah's condition was one of emphatic sorrow, for he says, "Behold, to peace, Marah, Marah — bitter, bitter." Marah was a notable spot in the journeys of the children of Israel, and Hezekiah had come spiritually to a double Marah. Have you ever passed that way and drank of double bitterness — the wormwood and the gall? Some of us know what it means, for we have had at the same time a body racked with pain, and a soul full of heaviness. Perhaps the double Marah has come in another form: it is a time of severe trouble, and just then the friend in whom you trusted has forsaken you. Or, peradventure, you are in temporal difficulties, and at the same time in great spiritual straits. The flying fish is pursued by a fierce enemy in the sea, and when it flies into the air birds of prey are eager afar it; in like manner, both in temporal and spiritual things we are assailed. "Deep calleth unto deep."

3. The meaning of our verse is not at all exhausted by this explanation; we find in it a better meaning by far. "Behold, to peace bitter bitterness" — that is to say. the king's double bitterness wrought his peace and health. Take the word in the sense of health first. Many a time when a man has been exceedingly ill the medicine which has met his case has been intensely disagreeable to the taste; but it has operated as a strengthening tonic, it has purged away the cause of the malady, and the man has recovered. Hezekiah bore witness that God had sanctified his bodily sickness and his mental sorrow to his spiritual health. While he lay with his face to the wall, he read a great deal upon that wall which he had seen nowhere else. The king's bitterness of soul led him to repent of his wrongdoing, as he saw wherein he had sinned.

4. This bitter bitterness made Hezekiah see the need of his God more than ever he had seen it before.

II. LOVING DELIVERANCE. The original runs thus: "And Thou hast loved my soul from the pit of destruction." Taken in its first sense, the king ascribes to the love of God his deliverance from death and the grave, and praises God for his restoration to the land of the living. But the words of inspired men frequently have a deeper significance than appears upon the surface, and indeed they often conceal an inner sense which perhaps they themselves did not perceive, and hence the king's words are as dark sayings upon a harp full of meaning within meaning. At any rate, taking the language out of the mouth of Hezekiah, we will use it for expressing our own emotions, and give to it a wider sense if such be not the original range of its meaning. Let us notice three things.

1. The deed of grace: "Thou hast brought my soul from the pit of corruption."(1) From the pit of hell.(2) Of sinfulness, as horrible a pit as hell itself; indeed, under some aspects it is the same thing, for sinfulness is hell, and to live under the power of sin is to be condemned.(3) From the awful consciousness of wrath under which we once groaned.

2. The power which performed it. Love. Divine love is a catholicon, a universal medicine. No spiritual disease can resist its healing power.

3. The modus operandi of this love. "Thou hast embraced my soul out of the pit of corruption." Yonder is the child in the pit, and the father, wishing to save it, goes down into the pit and embraces his beloved one, and so brings him up to life and safety again. After this manner dig Jesus save us. He embraced us by taking our nature, and so becoming one with us. All our lives He communes with us, and embraces us with arms of mighty love, and so uplifts us from the pit of corruption.

III. ABSOLUTE PARDON. "For Thou hast cast all my sins behind Thy back." This King Hezekiah mentions as the cause of his restored peace and health. Sin was the foreign element in his spiritual constitution, and as long as it was there it caused fret and worry and spiritual disease. Notice —

1. The burden. Sins.

2. The owner of this burden. "My sins."

3. The comprehensiveness of the burden. "All my sins." The Lord comes to deal with them. He casts them behind His back. Where can that be? It means annihilation, non-existence.

( C. H. Spurgeon.)

Thou hast in love to my soul delivered it.
"Thou hast loved my soul out of the pit of corruption" (margin).

I. We were in the beginning LOVED INTO GRACE.

1. The love of Christ to sinners was the topic which arrested our solemn attention to the Gospel.

2. We sat in the region of the shadow of death, and would have remained there had we not been loved into faith.

3. At the time when faith came into our hearts, there came with it the sister grace, namely, repentance.

II. We have been LOVED INTO GROWTH IN GRACE. The great motive power urging us onward has always been the self-same love of God. The Lord loves us out of love to sin. He loves us out of the pit of idolatry. There is another pit of corruption into which children of God sometimes fall, namely, that of sluggishness. The only effectual cure for a slumbering Christian is to let him have the love of Christ shed abroad in his heart. The same is true of that abominable pit of selfishness and self-esteem and pride and self-seeking, into which our feet so easily glide. The love of Christ is equally a cure for despondency and unbelief. Many a child of God can bear witness that the Lord has loved him out of his impatience.


( C. H. Spurgeon.)

I have heard a story of a man, who, travelling late and being in drink, rode over a narrow footbridge where there was a great, deep water underneath, that the least trip of the horse's foot would have posted the rider to his long home. Next morning, when he came to himself, being asked which way he came, and brought to the place, the apprehension of his last night's adventure did so astonish his sober thoughts, that he fell down dead in the very place at the sight of it. And when we look back upon the follies and vanities of our past lives, how can we but be justly startled, when almost every step we have trod has been upon the brink of destruction!

(A. Littleton, D. D.)



1. Horrible.

2. Nigh to every man.

3. Treacherous at its edge.

4. Bottomless.


1. He attributes his deliverance to God.

2. That it was God's love, and not his merit, that originated his deliverance.

3. That all may possess this consciousness of deliverance.

4. That unless the soul is delivered it will sink into this pit eternally.

(W. O. Lilley.)

Thou hast cast all my sins behind Thy back.

1. We are not to wait for this sense of pardon before we come to Christ.

2. This consciousness of pardon includes many things, although it is not alike comprehensive in all souls.

3. But, saith one, "How does this sense of pardon come?" It comes in different ways and forms. Many men receive their consciousness of pardon in an instant. With others it is of slower growth. This conviction is sometimes conveyed to us in the most extraordinary manner. I have known it brought home to the soul by some singular saying of a minister. At other times, some strange providence has been the singular means of giving joy and relief.

4. Permit me to dwell upon the joy which this sense of pardon creates. It is but taking God at His word, when the soul knows that as a necessary consequence of its faith it is saved. But, besides that, the Spirit beareth witness with our spirit, that we are born of God.

II. A SENSE OF FORGIVENESS ENJOYED BY MAN, NOT AS A SINNER, BUT AS A PARDONED CHILD. I have sometimes heard uninstructed Christians ask how it is that when a man is once pardoned he has nevertheless to ask every day that his sins may be forgiven. The difficulty lies in a forgetfulness of the relationship which Christians sustain to God. As a sinner I come to Christ and trust Him. God is then a Judge; He takes the great book of the court, strikes out my sins, and acquits me. At the same moment, out of His great love, He adopts me into His family. Now I stand in quite a different relationship to Him. I am not so much His subject as His child. He is no longer to me a Judge, but has become a Father. And now I have new laws, a new discipline, new treatment; now I have new obedience. I go and do wrong. What then? Does the Judge come and at once summon me before His throne? No! He is a Father, and that Father brings me up before His face, and frowns on me — nay, takes the rod and begins to scourge me. He never scourged me when He was a Judge. Then, He only threatened to use the axe. If I do that which is wrong, I am bound to go to Him as on a child's knees, and say, "Our Father which art in heaven, forgive me these trespasses, as I forgive them that trespass against me."

( C. H. Spurgeon.)

The strangest story I ever remember to have read, with regard to peace given after a long season of despondency, is the case of Mrs. Honeywood. Living in puritanic times, she had been accustomed to hear the most thundering of its preachers. She became so thoroughly broken in peace with the consciousness of sin, that for, I think, some ten years, if not twenty years, the poor woman was given up to despair. It seemed that in this case, a kind of miracle must be wrought to give her peace of mind. One day, an eminent minister of Christ, conversing with her, told her there yet was hope. Grasping a Venice glass that stood on the table, made of the thinnest material that can be conceived, the woman dashed it down on the ground, and said — "I am lost, as sure as that glass is broken into a thousand pieces." To her infinite surprise, the glass suffered no damage whatever, but remained without a crack. From that instant she believed that God had spoken to her. She opened her ears to hear the words of the minister, and peace poured into her spirit.

(W. O. Lilley.)

The back of God! Where is that?

I. A MAN'S SINS. May be —

1. Many.

2. Various

3. Heinous.

(1)They are his curse.

(2)He cannot east them away.

(3)He must own them for ever unless Divine mercy interpose.


1. God alone has the right to east them away.

2. God alone can.

3. He removes them so as to see them no more for ever.

4. He casts all sin away that is repented of.

(W. O. Lilley.)

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