Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land: But if ye refuse and rebel, ye shall be devoured with the sword: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it.Isa 1:18-20
God had been making an argument. The people were putting their faith in performing rituals while being blatantly disobedient in every other area of their lives. What was the point of the rituals in the first place?
We know that God justified those who believed in Him. They were justified because of their faith. Their faith was demonstrated through obedience to the rituals and ceremonies that God required of them. The shedding of blood through the sacrifices God demanded were a picture of the coming sacrifice of Jesus, God’s Son, for the sin of the whole world.
God had been calling out the children of Israel because of their disobedience to his commands throughout their lives, and then their ritualistic adherence to the ceremonial law. Their lifestyle outside of their obedience to the rituals demonstrated their lack of faith in God. They may have had faith in the ritual, but they did not have faith in God.
So God says to them, “let us reason together.” He’s asking them to think about what He has said. If they were obedient to him and sought to obey him, every part of their lives and their faith would justify them. He depicts this transformation from dirty to clean with a very visual picture. Though their sins were as scarlet and crimson to white as snow or wool.
He then tells them that there will be blessing with obedience. If they would obey they will have his favor. But if they disobeyed they would be “devoured by the sword.” So the question he had for them could be phrased this way: “Do you want blessing and life, or do you want wrath and death?
There is a similar application for us today. True saving faith always results in works. James said it this way.
Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.James 2:17-18
These people were thinking that empty ritualism and religious activity would make them right with God. The problem was their hypocritical living revealed their lack of faith in the true God. It is important for us to examine our faith as well. Do we serve God out of sheer tradition? Have we truly repented of our sin and trusted in Christ alone for our salvation? Is there evidence of our faith in God exhibited in our works, or are we content to practice our religion on Sunday and deny Him by our life the other six and a half days a week?
Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.Philippians 2:12
And like the audience of this first chapter, this is a matter of life and death for us. We will all face eternity, and at that point the genuineness of our faith in Christ is the only thing that will matter.
• If you haven’t truly trusted in Christ as Savior, know that though your sins be as scarlet they can be as white as snow! Trust in Christ today!
• If you do know Christ as your Savior, has your worship in any way become ritualistic and dispassionate? What do you need to do for that to change?