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.”
Many people have a favorite type of pen or pencil, and I’m no exception: I usually carry two Pilot Precise Grip pens – one black or blue, one colored, green or red. The only problem with these great pens is that occasionally they leak – usually into my pocket. And there is no stain more difficult to remove than an ink stain. I have ruined several pairs of jeans because of a stain that I could find no way to remove. As a result, I am very sensitive to leaking and at the slightest sign of it I throw the pen immediately in the trash.
Isaiah 1:18 is a promise given in the context of Isaiah’s initial prophecies. God spoke through the prophet to lament the sin of his people and reject their many offerings as useless. One senses that God is about to throw ou this leaking pen which had stained deeply.
But God is willing to try cleansing first. Verses 16 and 17 (Isaiah 1:16-17) say “Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil, 17learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.” Notice the emphasis on righteous living in community – God calls his people to justice, to caring for the widow and orphan, to combating oppression.
But neither these nor our more personal and internal sins can be corrected just by telling us ‘learn to do good.’ – and God knows that. Like the stains on my jeans, these stains are too deep for us to clean. So he offers the cleansing we need. Even if our sins are like dried red ink, God can purge them from us and make us white as snow, clean as freshly washed wool. What we cannot do ourselves he does as a free gift – he removes the stain and guilt of sin, placing them on his Son and makes us as pure and holy in his eyes as if we had never sinned at all.