“Come now, and let us reason together,” Says the Lord, “Though your sins are as scarlet, They will be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They will be like wool.” (Isaiah 1:18, NASB).
I had an unsaved friend that had an abusive father. His father would beat him when he did anything wrong. This friend is a grown man now and his father has passed away. He would say to me, “Every time I looked at my dad I would remember what he did to me.” And yet, his constant regret is that he never forgave his dad and still can’t to this day. Forgiveness is not easy. Even as Christians, it’s hard for us to forgive people when they sin against us — when they gossip about us, when they take advantage of us, when they are cruel toward us.
In chapter one of Isaiah, the prophet presents to us a list of sins. God was the Israelites’ Father, yet the nation revolted against Him. They acted corruptly. They abandoned the Lord. They worshiped other gods and provoked the Holy One. Yet, in sharp contrast to us, the Lord was willing to forgive them their sins. Repentance was the only requirement to experience His forgiveness.
Isaiah draws our attention to two illustrations that serve as motivations to help us repent so that we can enjoy God’s grace and forgiveness.
First, God is motivating His people to repent by the display of His patience. The invitation in the beginning of this verse, “‘Come now, and let us reason together,’ says the Lord”, is not just an invitation for God’s people to argue their case but to allow them to come to realization of their sin. The Lord is the ultimate Judge. He has every right to judge us (cf. Romans 3:23-26). The word “reason” (yāḵaḥ) is a legal term used of arguing, convincing, or deciding a case in court. God is calling His people to come to their senses by admitting that they are sinners in need of forgiveness. He often allows circumstances in our lives to show us our sin in such an obvious way that it’s impossible to deny it (see Micah 1:2; cf. Romans 3:9-31). He deals with us according to our foolishness to bring us to a proper place of repentance. He is patiently calling us to repent and walk with Him in holiness.
“[God] is patient in the work of evangelism; He will not come until all of His people have been gathered in; only then will that glorious day come. He is patient toward the world even when they use that patience as a reason to mock, rebel, and blaspheme. He is patient toward me. I never want to presume upon His patience in a self-centered way, but I am grateful that I can depend upon it every day and every moment until that glorious day when I shall see Him and be like Him.” (Harry Reeder, The Patience of God, From Tabletalk Magazine, Ligonier Ministries; Sept 1, 2004).
Second, the Lord is motivating His people to repent because of the display of His grace. The contrast in this verse between filthy sin and unpolluted righteousness is so brilliant. Even though our sins are so great, God is willing to forgive us our trespasses and clothe us with the righteousness of Christ because of His unmerited favor toward us — grace. As one commentator says:
“…scarlet portrays sin, not only to denote its dreadful character, but also to emphasize its indelible nature. They tell us that you can immerse a cloth in any other color and the stain can be removed. Once red dye has been thoroughly set in a piece of goods, however, no scientific method is know that can successfully eliminate it without damaging the fabric. Even if the material is rubbed and scrubbed until threadbare, the fibers that are left will still retain their crimson hue.” (“Scarlet“, Sermon illustration, Our Daily Bread posted on Bible.org; Feb 2, 2009)
It’s impossible for us to self-clean our sins (cf. v. 10-15). Only God can do that. Sin stains every aspect of our being (Romans 7:13). Our iniquities are like blood or scarlet, affecting every part of our being (cf. Isaiah 1:6), but when we come to terms with the depth of our sins, then God, in His marvelous grace, will come to wash us completely and make us as white as snow and wool. Do you long to enjoy God’s forgiveness? God longs to forgive His people their sins and restore them to fellowship with Him.
Also check out another Christmas article by Eric Weathers, [intlink id=”854″ type=”post”]Investigating the Necessity of Christmas[/intlink].