Changed, Not Covered
Snow is a fact of winter here in Bloomington, but one recent snowfall was especially striking. Did you marvel like I did at the snow that sat so picturesquely on all the tree branches? Snow oftentimes blows to the ground, but this time it rested on the trees and covered them in a blanket of beautiful white. The beauty of God’s creation reminded me of God’s gift of saving grace and forgiveness: “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 1:18). There’s a difference between crimson and scarlet (just ask some of your favorite sports teams about their colors). Barnes explains in his commentary:
The dye used to make the Scarlet color was applied twice to fabric and this resulted in a very permanent color. It would have been indelible to washing or long wear. So are our sins, imbedded deeply in our hearts. We repeat them and we are prone to fall repeatedly into them. No human effort is sufficient to take the stain of sin away.
The second example of crimson sins is interesting, because crimson was also used to dye wool. We are given an image of dyed, red wool in this verse [Isaiah 1:18] which has somehow, impossibly, become white again.
I think it is deliberate that the Isaiah verse doesn’t say our sins are covered with snow, but it says they are white like snow. Anytime you observe a thaw, you will see what has been hidden under the beautiful snow, and sometimes it is ugly. The snow can make a garbage pile look beautiful, but it does not change its inherent ugliness.
Our ugly, scarlet sins are not simply covered like the branches are concealed by thick snow. Our sins have somehow, through the miracle of God’s grace, been changed, not hidden. Through the cleansing blood of Christ, our sins have not been concealed, but become white. We are changed. We are pardoned, forgiven, redeemed. We are a new creation in Christ.
Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge. Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. Surely you desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place. Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice. Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity. Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. -Psalm 51:1-12
For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will–to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. -Eph. 1:4-8