Sep 11, 2008

White as Snow

“Come now, let’s settle this,”
     says the LORD.
“Though your sins are like scarlet,
     I will make them as white as snow.
Though they are red like crimson,
     I will make them as white as wool.”

Even in the first chapter of Isaiah, where the emphasis is upon God’s call to Israel to obedience, we are also reminded that God alone can forgive sins. God is the one who can take our scarlet sins and “make them white as snow.”

It’s not hard to figure out the connection of whiteness and forgiveness. White signifies purity and cleanliness. When God makes our sins white as snow, they are wiped away.

But what is the connection between sin and scarlet? The context in Isaiah suggests a close association between sin and blood. In verse 15, God had said, “Though you offer many prayers, I will not listen, for your hands are covered with the blood of innocent victims.” The sins of the Israelites were scarlet in that their hands were bloody with their works of violence and injustice.

Ironically, sin and blood are closely related because the shedding of blood is required for divine forgiveness (Heb. 9:22). In the Old Testament era, animal blood from sacrifices signified God’s forgiveness. For those of us in the New Covenant, the shed blood of Christ takes our scarlet sins and makes them whiter than snow.

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION: What do you do with your sins? Do you rationalize them? Do you try to hide them? Ignore them? Minimize them? Do you try to get rid of them by your own strength? Or do you rest upon the forgiving work of God in Christ?

PRAYER: Gracious Heavenly Father, it is true today even as in the time of Isaiah: you are the only one who can make my scarlet sins white as snow. Through the shed blood of your Son, I am forgiven and cleansed. What a marvelous gift! What a wonder!

Help me, dear Lord, to live each day with reliance upon your forgiveness. When I sin, may I turn to you for “whitening.” When I’m tempted, may I reach out to your Spirit for the strength to choose what is right. Let me live, Lord, in the purity you have given me through Christ. Amen.

A P.S. from Mark:
As I mentioned yesterday, so far in these Daily Reflections I’ve worked my way through Genesis and Matthew. As I return to the Old Testament, I’m focusing on Isaiah, the first of the prophetic books. If you’d like to read a brief overview to Isaiah, check this link.

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