Isaiah 1:18 “Come now, and let us reason together,” Says the LORD, “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool.”
This was one of my favorite verses when I was a young man. How encouraging to know that my crimson, scarlet sins could be as snow or as a coat made of white wool! Often I bathed in this truth and felt the filth of my flesh melt away from my defiled conscience.
Now, as an adult this passage impresses me anew with its full contextual meaning. Now I see conditions I missed when I was young. Oh, I am still comforted by God’s wonderful grace, but I am also sobered by the consequences of disobedience.
You see, Israel at the time of Isaiah was a very religious land. They fulfilled their appointed sacrifices, they observed new moons and Sabbaths. They sang songs and they fasted. They held sacred meetings and burned incense. But God despised their religiosity because something was missing.
While they sang and worshipped, innocent blood was being shed in their land! They did not stop their evil practice of child sacrifice, nor did they take action to do good or seek justice. They did not rebuke those who oppressed others and they did not defend those without fathers or husbands who could not protect themselves.
Now join me as an adult and read Isaiah’s words…in context:
Isaiah 1:13-20 Bring no more futile sacrifices; incense is an abomination to Me. The New Moons, the Sabbaths, and the calling of assemblies—I cannot endure iniquity and the sacred meeting. 14 Your New Moons and your appointed feasts My soul hates; they are a trouble to Me, I am weary of bearing them.
15 When you spread out your hands, I will hide My eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not hear. Your hands are full of blood.
16 “Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; put away the evil of your doings from before My eyes. Cease to do evil, 17 learn to do good; seek justice, rebuke the oppressor; defend the fatherless, plead for the widow.
18 “Come now, and let us reason together,” Says the LORD, “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool.
19 If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land; 20 but if you refuse and rebel, you shall be devoured by the sword”; for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.
I am so comforted by God’s promise to cleanse my sins. But let’s keep in mind that this passage was originally written as a corporate warning to Israel to repent of two things.
- Committing evil acts, to the point of shedding innocent blood.
- Failing to confront evil.
Lord, have mercy upon us! Save us from burying our heads, not in the sand, but in the safety of our songs and our sanctuaries!