Isaiah opens his prophecy describing Israel as a terribly rebellious nation. We get no further than the opening statement before we have God’s lament, “Sons I have reared and brought up, but they have revolted against Me.” So extensive is their alienation from their creator that God says, “An ox knows its owner, and a donkey its master’s manger, but Israel does not know, my people do not understand.”
Before I judge Israel too harshly, I need to stand in front of the mirror for a bit and confess that God’s lament hit rather close to home for me. I am hard-headed, stiff-necked, and I rebel against my God. And I look at my country and see that we are no different than the people of Israel in Isaiah’s time.
Isaiah 1:4-9 (NASB)
Alas, sinful nation,
People weighed down with iniquity,
Offspring of evildoers,
Sons who act corruptly!
They have abandoned the LORD,
They have despised the Holy One of Israel,
They have turned away from Him.
Where will you be stricken again,
As you continue in your rebellion?
The whole head is sick
And the whole heart is faint.
From the sole of the foot even to the head
There is nothing sound in it,
Only bruises, welts and raw wounds,
Not pressed out or bandaged,
Nor softened with oil.
Your land is desolate,
Your cities are burned with fire,
Your fields – strangers are devouring them in your presence;
It is desolation, as overthrown by strangers.
The daughter of Zion is left like a shelter in a vineyard,
Like a watchman’s hut in a cucumber field, like a besieged city.
Unless the LORD of hosts
Had left us a few survivors,
We would be like Sodom,
We would be like Gomorrah.
It sounds pretty awful – bruises, welts, and open wounds. When we leave God’s light and yet walk in darkness, the effect is devastating. We compound that effect with wounds upon wounds, and the deeper into the pit we journey, the more it seems that there is no hope of return, no chance of ever being reconciled with God.
Have I strayed too far from God? Have there been too many women/men, too many parties, too many drugs? Have I been too abusive, too cruel, too self-centered?
When we look at our state from this vantage point, it seems there is a mountain of sin standing between us and God. If you find yourself in such a place, I urge you, plead with you to hear the voice of God on this. There is a place of restoration!
Isaiah 1:18 (NASB)
“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.”
David echoes the same sentiment in Psalm 51:7, “Purge me with Hyssop and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.”
It is critical to understanding the intensity with which David says this, to understand that David makes this cry immediately on the heels of being confronted with his sin of murder and adultery. David had taken another man’s wife, and then arranged the murder of her husband to cover it up. It is difficult to imagine a more heinous offense, yet even this will be washed clean. How much more so, my sin, when I cry out to a gracious and loving God, “Wash me, O God, and I will be whiter than snow.”
There is forgiveness, yes! But there is more than that. There is restoration, renewal, relationship, cleansing. You are a child of the King. You are chosen! You are beloved!
Embrace the love of Jesus. Let go of the past. I once heard it said that our past may indeed shape us, but it does not define us.
Whiter than snow, you are washed clean in the blood of Jesus the Lamb. Six times, in the Bible, this phrase is found. It describes the raiment of an angel of God. It describes Jesus when he was transfigured on the mountain. It describes the Ancient of Days sitting on the throne. It describes the head of Christ in His glory. And it describes you, and it describes me, when we come to Jesus in trusting faith, asking Him to wash us clean, pure, whiter than snow.
Victoriously in Christ!