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 as crimson,
they shall be like wool.”
I have known this verse from childhood because of its being set to music, and it is a marvelous verse indeed. Even to a child, the imagery was clear and easy to understand. The only sticking point is whether we acknowledge that we have indeed sinned. I keep coming back to feeling that pride is at the root of virtually all sin. Somehow we feel we know better than God, so we do whatever seems attractive or expedient to us, instead of what, in our heart of hearts, we know God wants. That was precisely what snared Adam and Eve in the garden, (Genesis 3:6) and it continues to snare us today. (1 John 2:16) And there’s no question that it is the single greatest barrier to repentance, which is our only path to salvation. Some people try to rely on the objective fact that Jesus died for their sins, without ever repenting of those sins in the first place. Jesus placed repentance before faith! (Mark 1:15) Verse 27 of this chapter says, “Zion will be redeemed with justice, her penitent ones with righteousness.” The Japanese says, “repentant.” God’s free offer of salvation is open to all, but we have to let go of our pride, acknowledge our sin, and repent of it.
This first chapter of Isaiah is significant to me because I based my final sermon in my Preaching class in seminary on it. It was graded by a doctoral student rather than by the professor, and he gave me a C, saying that I was “too extreme.” My response was that if I was too extreme, then Isaiah and the Holy Spirit were too extreme! (My title was, “There’s Blood on Your Hands,” from verse 15.) People don’t like having their sins pointed out to them! I was indeed fed up with the hypocrisy of organized religion, but then, so was Isaiah. The danger in pointing out such things is in being blind to the same things in ourselves. We all need the grace of God! As I seek to lead others to repentance I must not fail to keep my own repentance up to date. I was talking with a brother just last night about how the Holy Spirit doesn’t show us everything about ourselves at once, or it would destroy us. Rather, He shines His light on one thing at a time. When we repent of that, He goes to the next thing. We aren’t to go picking at ourselves, trying to find things to repent of. That’s neurotic, and will keep us from recognizing how God wants to use us, imperfect as we are. However, the moment the Holy Spirit does indicate something that needs to change, I need to repent and ask His help in following through.
Father, thank You for this reminder, and for the truly blessed time of ministry last night. Thank You for the awareness that I can’t save anyone, but You can and do use me in saving people. The brother last night said he had trouble imagining me as other than I am now, fully committed to You. I gave him some minor examples! I pray that You would indeed show Yourself fully real to him, that his faith may be deepened and strengthened so that he may blossom into all that You intend him to be, for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!