Come now - This is addressed to the nation of Israel; and the same exhortation is made to all sinners. It is a solemn act on the part of God, submitting the claims and principles of his government to reason, on the supposition that men may see the propriety of his service, and of his plan.
Let us reason together - ונוכחה venivākechâh from יכח yâkach not used in Kal, but in Hiphil; meaning to show, to prove. Job 13:15: ‹Surely I will prove my ways (righteous) before him;‘ that is, I will justify my ways before him. Also to correct, reprove, convince, Job 32:12; to rebuke, reproach, censure, Job 6:25; to punish, Job 5:17; Proverbs 3:12; to judge, decide, Isaiah 11:3; to do justice, Isaiah 11:4; or to contend, Job 13:3; Job 16:21; Job 22:4. Here it denotes the kind of contention, or argumentation, which occurs in a court of justice, where the parties reciprocally state the grounds of their cause. God had been addressing magistrates particularly, and commanding them to seek judgment, to relieve the oppressed, to do justice to the orphan and widow; all of which terms are taken from courts of law. He here continues the language, and addresses them as accustomed to the proceedings of courts, and proposes to submit the case as if on trial. He then proceeds Isaiah 1:18-20, to adduce the principles on which he is willing to bestow pardon on them; and submits the case to them, assured that those principles will commend themselves to their reason and sober judgment.
Though your sins be as scarlet - The word used here - שׁנים shānı̂ym - denotes properly a bright red color, much prized by the ancients. The Arabic verb means to shine, and the name was given to this color, it is supposed by some, on account of its splendor, or bright appearance. It is mentioned as a merit of Saul, that he clothed the daughters of Israel in scarlet, 2 Samuel 1:24, Our word scarlet, denoting a bright red, expresses the color intended here. This color was obtained from the eggs of the coccus ilicis, a small insect found on the leaves of the oak in Spain, and in the countries east of the Mediterranean. The cotton cloth was dipped in this color twice; and the word used to express it means also double-dyed, from the verb שׁנה shânâh to repeat. From this double-dying many critics have supposed that the name given to the color was derived. The interpretation which derives it from the sense of the Arabic word to shine, however, is the most probable, as there is no evidence that the double-dying was unique to this color. It was a more permanent color than that which is mentioned under the word crimson. White is an emblem of innocence. Of course sins would be represented by the opposite. Hence, we speak of crimes as black, or deep-dyed, and of the soul as stained by sin. There is another idea here. This was a fast, or fixed color. Neither dew, nor rain, nor washing, nor long usage, would remove it. Hence, it is used to represent the fixedness and permanency of sins in the heart. No human means will wash them out. No effort of man, no external rites, no tears, no sacrifices, no prayers, are of themselves sufficient to take them away. They are deep fixed in the heart, as the scarlet color was in the Web of cloth, and an almighty power is needful to remove them.
Shall be as white as snow - That is, the deep, fixed stain, which no human power could remove, shall be taken away. In other words, sin shall be pardoned, and the soul be made pure. White, in all ages, has been the emblem of innocence, or purity; compare Psalm 68:14; Ecclesiastes 9:8; Daniel 7:9; Matthew 17:2; Matthew 28:3; Revelation 1:14; Revelation 3:4-5; Revelation 4:4; Revelation 7:9, Revelation 7:13.
Though they be red - The idea here is not materially different from that expressed in the former part of the verse. It is the Hebrew poetic form of expressing substantially the same thought in both parts of the sentence. Perhaps, also, it denotes intensity, by being repeated; see Introduction, 8.
Like crimson - כתולע katôlâ‛ The difference between scarlet and crimson is, that the former denotes a deep red; the latter a deco red slightly tinged with blue. Perhaps this difference, however, is not marked in the original. The purple or crimson color was obtained commonly from a shellfish, called murex, or purpura, which abounded chiefly in the sea, near Tyre; and hence, the Tyrian dye became so celebrated. That, however, which is designated in this place, was obtained, not from a shellfish, but a worm (Hebrew: תולע tôlâ‛ snail, or conchylium - the Helix Janthina of Linnaeus. This color was less permanent than the scarlet; was of a bluish east; and is commonly in the English Bible rendered blue. It was employed usually to dye wool, and was used in the construction of the tabernacle, and in the garments of the high priest. It was also in great demand by princes and great men, Judges 8:26; Luke 14:19. The prophet has adverted to the fact that it was employed mainly in dying wool, by what he has added, ‹shall be as wool.‘
As wool - That is, as wool undyed, or from which the color is removed. Though your sins appear as deep-stained, and as permanent as the fast color of crimson in wool, yet they shall be removed - as if that stain should be taken away from the wool, and it should be restored to its original whiteness.
Though your sins be as scarlet - שני shani, "scarlet or crimson," dibaphum, twice dipped, or double dyed; from שנה shanah, iterare, to double, or to do a thing twice. This derivation seems much more probable than that which Salmasius prefers from שנן shanan, acuere, to whet, from the sharpness and strength of the color, οξυφοινικον ; תלע tela, the same; properly the worm, vermiculus, (from whence vermeil), for this color was produced from a worm or insect which grew in a coccus or excrescence of a shrub of the ilex kind, (see Plin. Nat. Hist. 16:8), like the cochineal worm in the opuntia of America. See Ulloa's Voyage book v., chap. ii., note to page 342. There is a shrub of this kind that grows in Provence and Languedoc, and produces the like insect, called the kermes oak, (see Miller, Dict. Quercus), from kermez, the Arabic word for this color, whence our word crimson is derived.
"Neque amissos colores
Lana refert medicata fuco,"
says the poet, applying the same image to a different purpose. To discharge these strong colors is impossible to human art or power; but to the grace and power of God all things, even much more difficult are possible and easy. Some copies have כשנים keshanim, "like crimson garments."
Though they be red, etc. - But the conjunction ו vau is added by twenty-one of Kennicott's, and by forty-two of De Rossi's MSS., by some early editions, with the Septuagint, Syriac, Vulgate, and Arabic. It makes a fuller and more emphatic sense. "And though they be red as crimson," etc.
Jesus was tempted in all points like as we are, that He might know how to succor those who should be tempted. His life is our example. He shows by His willing obedience that man may keep the law of God and that transgression of the law, not obedience to it, brings him into bondage. The Saviour was full of compassion and love; He never spurned the truly penitent, however great their guilt; but He severely denounced hypocrisy of every sort. He is acquainted with the sins of men, He knows all their acts and reads their secret motives; yet He does not turn away from them in their iniquity. He pleads and reasons with the sinner, and in one sense—that of having Himself borne the weakness of humanity—He puts Himself on a level with him. “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.” 4T 294.1
Man, who has defaced the image of God in his soul by a corrupt life, cannot, by mere human effort, effect a radical change in himself. He must accept the provisions of the gospel; he must be reconciled to God through obedience to His law and faith in Jesus Christ. His life from thenceforth must be governed by a new principle. Through repentance, faith, and good works he may perfect a righteous character, and claim, through the merits of Christ, the privileges of the sons of God. The principles of divine truth, received and cherished in the heart, will carry us to a height of moral excellence that we had not deemed it possible for us to reach. “And it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is. And every man that hath this hope in Him purifieth himself, even as He is pure.” 4T 294.2
Here is a work for man to do. He must face the mirror, God's law, discern the defects in his moral character, and put away his sins, washing his robe of character in the blood of the Lamb. Envy, pride, malice, deceit, strife, and crime will be cleansed from the heart that is a recipient of the love of Christ and that cherishes the hope of being made like Him when we shall see Him as He is. The religion of Christ refines and dignifies its possessor, whatever his associations or station in life may be. Men who become enlightened Christians rise above the level of their former character into greater mental and moral strength. Those fallen and degraded by sin and crime may, through the merits of the Saviour, be exalted to a position but little lower than that of the angels. 4T 294.3Read in context »
God's promise is, “Ye shall seek Me, and find Me, when ye shall search for Me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:13. SC 43.1
The whole heart must be yielded to God, or the change can never be wrought in us by which we are to be restored to His likeness. By nature we are alienated from God. The Holy Spirit describes our condition in such words as these: “Dead in trespasses and sins;” “the whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint;” “no soundness in it.” We are held fast in the snare of Satan, “taken captive by him at his will.” Ephesians 2:1; Isaiah 1:5, 6; 2 Timothy 2:26. God desires to heal us, to set us free. But since this requires an entire transformation, a renewing of our whole nature, we must yield ourselves wholly to Him. SC 43.2Read in context »
Christ was manifested as the Saviour of men. The people were not to trust in their own works, in their own righteousness, or in themselves in any way, but in the Lamb of God which taketh away the sins of the world. In Him the Advocate with the Father was revealed. Through Him the invitation was given, “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.” This invitation comes sounding down along the lines to us today. Let not pride, or self-esteem, or self-righteousness keep any one from confessing his sins, that he may claim the promise: “He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.” Keep nothing back from God, and neglect not the confession of your faults to the brethren when they have a connection with them. “Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed.” Many a sin is left unconfessed, to be confronted in the day of final accounts; better far to see your sins now, to confess them, and put them away, while the atoning Sacrifice pleads in your behalf. Do not dislike to learn the will of God on this subject. The health of your soul, the unity of your brethren, may depend upon the course you pursue in these things. Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, “casting all your care upon Him; for He careth for you.” FE 239.1
It is a lamentable fact that the erring heart is unwilling to be criticised, or to subject itself to humiliation by the confession of sin. Some see their faults, but thinking confession will detract from their dignity, they excuse their wrong, and shield themselves from the discipline that confession would give to the soul. The thought of their manifest error will remain to embitter their enjoyments and embarrass their movements; for in passing out of the path of confession, they fail to be faithful examples to the people. They see the errors of others; but how can they have courage to give the advice, “Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed,” when they have failed to follow this instruction in their own lives? How much will ministers or people learn of a truth which they thrust aside, and forget if possible, because it is not agreeable; because it does not flatter their pride, but reproves and pains? Ministers and people, if saved at all, must be saved day by day, hour by hour. They must hunger and thirst for the righteousness of Christ, the illumination of the Holy Spirit. Church members,—those placed in positions of trust,—must be baptized with the Spirit of God, or they will not be qualified for the positions they accept. FE 239.2
A man may have a knowledge of the Scriptures which will not make him wise unto salvation, although he may be able to master his opponents in public controversy. If he does not have a yearning of soul after God; if he does not search his own heart as with a lighted candle, fearing that any wrong should lurk there; if he is not possessed with a desire to answer the prayer of Christ, that His disciples may be one as He is one with the Father, that the world may believe that Jesus is the Christ,—he flatters himself in vain that he is a Christian. His knowledge, begun in ambition, is carried forward in pride; but his soul is destitute of the divine love, the gentleness and meekness of Christ. He is not a wise man in the sight of God. He may have wisdom to overcome an opponent; but wise unto salvation, he cannot possibly be without the agency of the Holy Spirit. And the “fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance.” Neither talent, eloquence, nor selfish study of the Scriptures, will produce love to God or conformity to the image of Christ. Nothing but divine power can regenerate the human heart and character, and imbue the soul with the love of Christ, which will ever manifest itself in love to those for whom He died.—The Review and Herald, November 28, 1893. FE 240.1Read in context »
There is not the mingling of the elements of character that brings justice and mercy and the love of God into beautiful harmony. There is altogether too much talking, too many strong words and feelings that the Lord has nothing to do with, and these strong feelings influence our good brethren. TSB 241.1
Compassion and Sympathy, But Also Plain Dealing—I am compelled to deal plainly and rebuke sin, and then I have it in my heart, placed there by the Spirit of Christ, to labor in faith, in tender sympathy and compassion for the erring. I will not let them alone; I will not leave them to become the sport of Satan's temptations. I will not myself act the part of the adversary of souls, as is represented by Joshua and the Angel. Souls cost the price of my Redeemer's blood. TSB 241.2
When men, themselves liable to temptation, erring mortals, shall be free to pronounce upon another's case, who is humbled in the dust, and shall take it on themselves to decide by their own feelings or the feelings of their brethren, just how much feeling the erring one should manifest to be pardoned, [they are] taking on themselves that which God has not required of them. When I know that there are those who have fallen into great sin, but we have labored with and for them, and God has afterwards accepted their labors, when these have pleaded for me to let them go and not to burden myself for them, I have said, “I will not give you up; you must gather strength to overcome.” These men are now in active service.... TSB 241.3Read in context »
Jesus, Only Hope of Sinners—The bewitching power of Satan has been upon you. But make no delay; Jesus is at the right hand of God and mercy still lingers. “Come now,” says the Lord, “and let us reason together; ... 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]. Yes, Jesus is the sinner's only hope. “Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money (no goodness, no righteousness, nothing to recommend him to God); come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price” [Isaiah 55:1]. TSB 142.3Read in context »