Come, let's reason together

Text Isaiah 1:18 Time 11 01 09 Place Childs Hill Baptist Church
In one of his little books for children the hymn writer Isaac Watts calls Isaiah “the prophet who spoke more than any other concerning Christ and the gospel.” In his Short view of Scripture history, also for children, he speaks of “Isaiah, who was called the evangelical or gospel prophet, because he foretells the greatest variety of events that relate to him” and goes on to give some examples – Isaiah's prophecy of the virgin birth, of Christ's descent from David, of his rejection, of John the Baptist's role as forerunner, of Christ's sufferings, etc. The truth is that although Isaiah is clearly an Old Testament prophet who wrote some 800 years before Christ his book is full of Christ and full of evangelical or gospel teaching. What I want us to do this morning is to look at just one such text in Isaiah – probably the very first - the one that is found in 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.
Isaiah prophesied for a long time. You can see that from the title in 1:1. He prophesied during the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, kings of Judah. The burden of his prophecy in Chapter 1 is to confront God's people with their sin. God calls them rebels against him, people who have forsaken him. 2 The ox knows his master, the donkey his owner's manger, but Israel does not know, my people do not understand. Not mincing his words he calls them a brood of evildoers, children given to corruption! They have forsaken the LORD; ... spurned the Holy One of Israel and turned their backs on him. Isaiah explains that it is their persistence in rebellion that has caused the troubles they've known (7) Your country is desolate, your cities burned with fire; your fields are being stripped by foreigners right before you, laid waste as when overthrown by strangers. What devastation they'd known. It was not that the outward signs of religion had disappeared. They were all still there. But it was just an empty charade. Stop bringing meaningless offerings! God says (13) Your incense is detestable to me. New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations - I cannot bear your evil assemblies. Where is justice? Where are good deeds? There needs to be repentance. There is more of this later in the chapter. It is in this context though that we read (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.
The prospect of blessing is held out to the people – but only if they will respond to this verse.
Now this is an excellent verse for us to be considering this morning as although we may not be suffering as God's people were then, we are certainly rebels by nature and left to ourselves we all forsake God and turn from him. Such rebellion deserves his judgement. Nevertheless, in this verse we find a word of hope, a light at the tunnel's end so to speak, a reason not to despair.
There are three things to take note of
1. Consider this invitation to reason things through with the Lord
The first word in the text is Come which is a great Bible word and one that is full of invitation. When you get an invitation to a wedding or a party or something like that, the word come is often the key word. It may be dressed up a bit “Mr and Mrs John Smith request the pleasure of your company at the marriage of their daughter, etc” which is just another way of saying come or it may be a plain old “Come to my party”. What we have here then is an invitation. We can ask three obvious questions.
1. Who is sending out the invitation?
It is the LORD, the sovereign God of Israel, our Creator and our Judge, the only true God.
This means to say that it is an invitation that cannot be ignored. Like me you no doubt get all sorts of invitations through your door – places to eat, news of services available, ways of spending your money, etc. Most of these we ignore. It doesn't matter that we do this because the people who send them to us usually have no authority over us or any real claim on us. If, however, a summons to court should come through my door or something of that order then I cannot ignore it. This verse in Isaiah is an invitation but because it is an invitation from God it is in some ways more like a summons than an invitation. You cannot ignore it. You must respond.
2. Who does he send the invitation out to?
To his people, to all those who Isaiah was addressing. This would have included all sorts of people. In a similar way, there is a general invitation today that goes out from God to all who hear.
The word COME can helps us there. It includes Children but not just children Others too. It includes the Middle aged and the Elderly as well. Everyone, whatever their age, male or female, rich or poor, all are included. It includes you. This invitation from God to reason together about your sins is for you and for me and for all of us.
3. What are these people invited to?
Well, the invitation says Come now, let us reason together. It is an invitation to a conference, a parley, a discussion. One version paraphrases "Come. Sit down. Let's argue this out." Others have “I, the LORD, invite you to come and talk it over”; “Come now, let’s settle this”; “Come, let’s consider your options”.. That's the idea then - “Let's sit down together and talk this through”.
There are some people and they drift through life without ever really thinking at all. They never stop and consider what they do and how it affects others or where their way of life is leading them. They're too busy with other things. Is that you? Are you making that mistake? Don't!
There are others who do think about their lives and about many other things too. Sometimes they will discuss with others what they are thinking. Indeed some like to interact. What they will not do, however, is what this verse urges us all to – they will not reason together with God. They will not come to him and reflect on their ways before his face. It is summed up well in Psalm 110:4 In his pride the wicked does not seek him; in all his thoughts there is no room for God – a sort of motto for the age in which we live. Again is that you? You're a thinking person, yes, but you are an independent thinker – a person who is seeking to shut God out. Don't do that. Get to thinking about yourself with God. Do it together. Ah, it's a fearful thing to be in the presence of Almighty God I know but that is what is needed.
“How though?” you say “how do you reason together with God?” Well, you do it with your Bible open, in a spirit of prayer and humility. It's really what we are doing now – reasoning together with God, discussing things openly before him; listening to what God says and carefully reflecting on it. Let's do it then.
2. Understand how deeply stained with sin you are by nature
There are two things that we really need to take in here. The rest of the verse reads Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool. This is poetry and Hebrew poetry often uses repetition or parallelism. Your sins are like scarlet, parallels they are red as crimson and they shall be as white as snow, they shall be like wool. Let's look first at Your sins are like scarlet and its parallel they are red as crimson.
The thing about the colour red or scarlet or crimson here is, firstly, that it is pretty obvious. When soap powder manufacturers want to advertise their product they often do it with white clothing marked by tomato ketchup or red wine – things like that. There is no hiding sin in the end. It is a glaring thing. We talk about being caught red handed which is the same as being found with blood on one's hands. The terms, as here, speak of guilt, obvious undeniable guilt. That was the position of the people then and it is our position now. Our sins are like scarlet ... they are red as crimson. Another idea is that of being deep seated. Our sins cling to us and cannot easily be washed away. Have you ever had dye on your hand, especially a red or purple dye? It cannot be removed. So sin clings to us. It sticks to us like mud.
Some of you this morning are quite sensitive about sin. It's like the way some people with a fair complexion blush easily when they are embarrassed. Others of you sometimes feel quite pure and innocent but we only have to be exposed to God's law to see that we are full of sin. We do not love others as we should and we do not love God. He is not first in our lives. We would so often rather idols. We will not speak of him as we should and we will not give him the time we should. There is a rebellious streak in us that raises its ugly head at times. Sometimes we are malicious, sometimes lustful, sometimes grasping, sometimes dishonest, sometimes greedy.
Sexual immorality, impurity, debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. Such sins are typical. As Paul says plainly (in Galatians 5) I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. Yet these are the sorts of things we do.
Like Macbeth in Shakespeare's play we say “Will all great Neptune's ocean wash this blood Clean from my hand? No, this my hand will rather The multitudinous seas incarnadine, Making the green one red.” Like Lady Macbeth we say in vain “out damned spot” and “What, will these hands ne'er be clean? ... Here's the smell of the blood still. All the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand.” Oh, yes like them we can easily wash our hands or take a shower but it is not so easy to shake off the pangs of conscience. It keeps knocking. We continue to know its pangs and humanly speaking there is no way to deal with such pangs. There is such a stain that nothing will remove it. It is as if there is a beautiful white carpet and someone has thrown a tin of red paint all over it. It is obvious, lasting and nothing is going to remove it. That is our position before God by nature and we must see it.
3. Hear this promise of pardon and purity for sinners like you
All that is quite depressing, of course, but necessary. The thrust of the verse is very positive, however, Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD. Though your sins are like scarlet, ... though they are red as crimson - they shall be as white as snow; ... they shall be like wool.
Yes, the stain of sin is obvious and deep seated. We are guilty. We are not innocent. It seems as though there is no remedy. Yet here God speaks very plainly a word of hope Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool. It's been trying to snow recently. Snow in London soon turns to slush and is not a pleasant sight but when the snow comes down it is white, pure white – no sign of red in it. Wool on the backs of sheep can be various colours but tends to be most often more of an off white these days but there is certainly no hint of red in it unless it's been put there. “Now look” says God “by nature you are stained, you are marked, you are guilty but I can remove the stain, I can purify and cleanse you again.”
He doesn't go into how here but we know from elsewhere that it is through the work of the Lord Jesus Christ that this cleansing work can be done. By coming and dying as he has done Jesus Christ has provided a way so that though our sins are indeed like scarlet ... though they are red as crimson, they can nevertheless be as white as snow ... like wool straight from a sheep's back. All we need to do is to put our trust in Jesus Christ and all will be well, our sins will be washed away.
Are you washed? Are you washed in the soul cleansing blood of the Lamb? Are your garments spotless? Are they white as snow? Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb? Without that there is no hope. 19, 20 If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the best from the land; but if you resist and rebel, you will be devoured by the sword. For the mouth of the LORD has spoken. The Day of Judgement is fast approaching when God will thoroughly purge away all dross and remove all ... impurities. He is going to set up the City of Righteousness, the Faithful City. He will redeem Zion with justice, those who are sorry for their sins with righteousness But rebels and sinners will both be broken, and those who forsake the LORD will perish. What a fire will be kindled on that day. How will you escape unless you turn to him now? Put your faith in Christ then. Trust in him and know all your sins removed.