Red Sin & White Snow
Isaiah chapter 1 in my bible carries the title: The wickedness of Judah. What an exciting place to start Isaiah! This book opens with a torrent of judgement that is almost uncomfortable to take in. The people of Judah, supposedly God’s own people, have drifted far from a meaningful relationship with him and God has arrived through the prophet Isaiah to settle accounts with them. Just listen to some of the statements God makes to his people in this chapter.
I have had enough of your burnt offerings. I do not delight in them. (1:11)
The incense you are burning to make me happy? I actually consider it an abomination. (1:13)
I mean can you imagine being the guy in charge of incense? How awkward would this have been? Just slowly setting down your lighter and backing away. Pretending you don’t know whose incense is burning as Isaiah continues to speak.
My soul has become weary of bearing the burden of your feasts in my honor. (1:14)
These people were having feasts in the name of God and yet their hearts are so far from him God says it is a burden (metaphorically) to his soul.
This is the backdrop on the canvas God is painting in Isaiah 1. Things take a turn in verse 18, where it seems as though God is changing his mind when in reality he is making the point he was working towards all along.
Isaiah 1:18 – “Come now, 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 become like wool.”
This time in Israel’s history comes before Jesus…before the Lamb of God lays down his life and pours out his blood for the forgiveness of sins. What God is saying here is that he knows exactly who his people are.
God knows that his people are scarlet stained, sin-infected, incense burning, rebels. And instead of turning his back on them or folding his arms and glaring, he promises that even these sinful people will be made white as snow.
This was true for the people of Judah and this is true for you and me today. God knows exactly who we are, brokenness and all. And still he offers forgiveness, new life, grace and love. What a God we have. Against the dark background of judgement God paints a picture of a lamb, whose wool is white as snow, who loves his people so much that he is willing to die for them so that they might be drawn near.
God is never surprised by the waywardness of his people. He doesn’t see my crimson stained hands and turn away in disgust, instead he says I know just what you need to get that off you.
Even in a passage like Isaiah 1, where we feel God’s holiness and righteous judgment, we are still not left without the most important thing: His free-flowing grace for his people.