Isaiah 1:18

18 Come now, let us argue it out, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be like snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.

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Isaiah 1:18 Meaning and Commentary

Isaiah 1:18

Come now, and let us reason, together, saith the Lord,
&c.] These words stand not in connection either with the preceding or following, but are to be read in a parenthesis, and are thrown in for the sake of the small remnant God had left among this wicked people, in order to comfort them, being distressed with sin. These, seeing their sins in their dreadful colours, and with all their aggravating circumstances, were ready to conclude that they were unpardonable; and, seeing God as an angry Judge, dared not come nigh him, but stood at a distance, fearing and expecting his vengeance to fall upon them, and therefore put away the promises, and refused to be comforted; when the Lord was pleased to encourage them to draw near to him, and come and reason with him: not at the bar of his justice; there is no reasoning with him there; none can contend with him, or answer him, one of a thousand; if he marks iniquity in strict justice, none can stand before him; there is no entering the lists with him upon the foot of justice, or at its bar: but at the bar of mercy, at the throne of grace; there the righteous may dispute with him from his declarations and promises, as well as come with boldness to him; and at the altar and sacrifice of Christ, and at the fountain of his blood: here sinners may reason with him from the virtue and efficacy of his blood and sacrifice; and from the Lord's proclamation of grace and mercy through him; and from his promises to forgive repenting and confessing sinners: and here God reasons with sensible souls from his own covenant promises and proclamations to forgive sin; from the aboundings of his grace over abounding sin; from the righteousness of Christ to justify, his blood to cleanse from sin, and his sacrifice to atone for it; and from the end of his coming into the world to save the chief of sinners: saying, though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow;
though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.
Every sin is a transgression of the law, and hateful and abominable to God; no sin is venial in itself, but deserving of the wrath of God, and the curses of the law; all sin is mortal, the wages of it is death: but all are not alike; some are greater, others lesser; some are attended with aggravating circumstances, as when the persons that commit them have, besides the light of nature, also the law of Moses, or the Gospel of Christ; have had the advantage of a religious education; have sat under a Gospel ministry, and received much speculative light and knowledge; yea, have been under convictions of sin time after time, and yet have been ringleaders and encouragers of others in sin, guilty of very enormous crimes, which in themselves are comparable to "scarlet" and "crimson": and perhaps reference may be had to the sin of murder, since the persons, among whom these dwelt, their hands were full of blood; and may respect the crucifiers of Christ, among whom there were some savingly convicted and converted. Moreover, they may be signified hereby on account of the effects of them, they defile men, provoke God to wrath, and, through the law, work wrath in their consciences; and may signify, that they are sins of a deep dye, and which have such a place in their hearts and consciences, that nothing can remove them but the blood of Christ: and besides are open, flagrant, and notorious to all, and especially to God; yet these, through the grace and blood of Jesus, become as white as wool and as snow: not that pardon of sin takes sin out of the hearts and natures of men, nor changes the nature of sin, or causes it to cease to be sin; but this is to be understood of the persons of sinners, who hereby are made so white, yea, whiter than this, ( Psalms 51:1 ) as they are considered in Christ, washed in his blood, and clothed with his righteousness, which is fine linen, clean and white; God, seeing no iniquity in them, has thus graciously dealt with them, and they being without fault, spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing. It was with respect to this Scripture that the Jews in later times were wont to tie a scarlet thread to the head of the scapegoat, when he was sent into the wilderness; though at first they fastened it to the door of the outward porch, and then to the door of the inward porch, and, if it turned white, it was a sign their sins were forgiven them, but, if not, otherwise F11; and it is owned by them, that it belongs to future time, the time of the Messiah F12.


F11 T. Bab. Sabbat, fol. 89. 2.
F12 Gussetius observes, that (Uwmx) signifies not "oppressed", but infected with leaven, and so (Uwmx yrva) means, reduce to a right way him that is corrupt with the leaven of vice, by hindering him that he may not go on to hurt the fatherless. Comment. Ebr. p. 265.

Isaiah 1:18 In-Context

16 Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your doings from before my eyes; cease to do evil,
17 learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow.
18 Come now, let us argue it out, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be like snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.
19 If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land;
20 but if you refuse and rebel, you shall be devoured by the sword; for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.
New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.