White as snow
“She’s pure as New York snow” goes the song. That’s to say – not pure at all. New York snow is quickly sullied by the city’s grit and grime. But, for the first hour or so, a white blanket covers over a multitude of sins.
Isaiah the prophet knew that his people’s spiritual condition was worse than a New York sewer but he knew too that the LORD ’s covering is more dazzling than gleaming snowdrifts.
In showing us the LORD’s solution to our sin, Isaiah takes us to depths we rarely tread and heights we can’t imagine.
First, the depths.
Isaiah He opens his book with this description of the people:
“Ah sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a seed of evildoers, children that are corrupters: they have forsaken the LORD, they have provoked the Holy One of Israel unto anger, they are gone away backward. Why should ye be stricken any more? ye will revolt more and more: the whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint. From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it; but wounds, and bruises, and putrifying sores. (Isaiah 1:4-6)
If we diagnose our own ills, we usually leave a glimmer of hope. We don’t mind a thorough spiritual check-up as long as the verdict is: “There’s life in the old girl yet.” But Isaiah sees only wounds, bruises and sores. He takes us to dire depths.
And then Isaiah surprises us. He spurns the well-trodden path of religious improvement. He’s not interested in selling a cheap spiritual salve to the people. He doesn’t commend religious activities to a sinful people. Instead he reports the LORD’s speech from verse 13:
“Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination unto me; the new moons and sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with; it is iniquity, even the solemn meeting. Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hateth: they are a trouble unto me; I am weary to bear them. And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood”. (Isaiah 1:13-15)
According to the LORD, religion is not part of the solution to sin. It’s part of the problem. He could not be more clear that His “soul hateth” the “solemn meetings” of the self-justifying.
The people are much worse than they thought. And their religious activities are of no help to them. Isaiah brings people utterly to the end of themselves, and then drops in a wonderful gospel promise from God:
“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.” (Isaiah 1:18)
It’s not that their sins “aren’t so bad after all” – they are scarlet! Yet there is a covering for sins. Like a blanket of snow on a grimy city street, God’s purity that can be laid over our filthy lives.
We all need this covering. How do we get it?
Later on in Isaiah, the LORD Jesus Himself speaks (Isaiah 61:1-3; Luke 4:16-21). He is the true King, full of the Spirit, who comes to preach good news to the poor, blind, bound and bruised. He binds up the broken-hearted. Here is a King who comes for those in the gutter.
And He has a covering for them. He says this in Isaiah 61:10:
I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels.
Christ Himself has a pristine covering. He has garments of salvation – a robe of righteousness. But this covering is not simply for Him – the Bridegroom. It is also for His bride. He will adorn His beloved. He will cover His people with gleaming purity. Those who come to Him are robed in His righteousness. Through Christ, though our sins are as scarlet, we’re made as white as snow.
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