A mother was looking over her daughter’s wedding guest list and she noticed that all the invitations were addressed “Mr and Mrs” and that there was not a single “Miss”, “Ms” or “Mr” in the bunch.
“Why is that?” the mother asked her daughter.
“It’s an economy measure,” the daughter replied.
“Yeah, if I send invitations to single people they will most likely end up getting married some day and I’ll be expected to give them gifts. But if they are already married, I will not have as many wedding gifts to worry about in the future.”
The criterion for this invitation is based on marital status. What do you think of the daughter’s reasoning? After all, weddings are expensive these days. Cutting the guest list down is often necessary. Clever thinking or completely unfair?
In the Scriptures, we find wonderful and marvellous invitations that are different from the one I have mentioned. Here we will examine one of them. An invitation that God makes to each and every one of us.
The passage we will unpack is Isaiah 1:18:
“Come now, let us reason together, said 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.”
Before we look at this text, a brief understanding of the immediate background will help us understand the message better.
Isaiah, the author of the book that bears his name, wrote during the stormy period that marked the expansion of the Assyrian Empire and the decline of Israel. Israel was declining in political power and also spiritual power. As history proves, whenever the spiritual lives of the Israelites deteriorated, their political power also declined.
Right in chapter 1, we see Isaiah revealing the spiritual condition of Judah. Verse 2 says, “Hear, O heavens! Listen, O earth!” This is an interesting introductory phrase because Isaiah is using this phrase from the covenant lawsuit, calling upon nature to witness in this declaration because man can’t be a witness.
You see, the covenant lawsuit in the Bible requires a witness or someone to guarantee the accuracy of a transaction, and people were always called in to witness the agreement. Those who were called in were reliable and trustworthy. However, in the case of Isaiah, human beings were so evil, so sinful, corrupted and rebellious that God had to call upon nature to be the witness. From verses 3-17, Isaiah further describes Israel’s wickedness.
But right here in the midst of the revelation of their sins, God says, “Come now, let us reason together, though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.”
This is a beautiful invitation because, when everything else fails, God reaches out His hand. When our dreams are shattered, when our hopes are gone, when our lives are endangered, God invites us.
But let’s break this verse down further by analysing some of the words and phrases.
1. “Let us”
In Hebrew, this “let us” expresses a wish, request or command. This of course would suggest that God is not only inviting you, but He wishes that you would reason with Him.
This “let us” may also express “purpose” (in order to) or result (resulting in). Again, this means that God is not only inviting you, but He wishes that you would reason with Him in order for you to “be cleansed, or result in being cleansed”. In other words, this invitation is intentional and has a sense of purpose.
Now I wonder why God asks us to come and reason with Him? He could have just said, “Come, though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.” Although, the word “reason” is a term often expressed in a legal setting, I guess reason here indicates that salvation is a free choice. You are not forced to choose, you are not misled, you are not cheated or bribed. Instead, you are given the freedom to reason with Him. Isn’t it amazing to see God pleads and reasons with His people?
The beauty of the invitation is that it is clear and it is a free choice.
3. “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.”
When we read the text, it seems to suggest that our sins will become white. However, when God says “though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow”, He uses a figure of speech where sin is referring to the person receiving the invitation. Thus, our sins will not be painted white, but we ourselves will become white by wearing the robe of righteousness of God.
This is the beauty of the invitation, for you are the focus, the centre. The difference in this invitation is that you are invited because of you alone and not the occasion. Again, the beauty of this invitation is that you are the reason for the invitation and not the occasion.
"When our dreams are shattered, when our hopes are gone, when our lives are endangered, God invites us."
4. “Says the Lord”
One may wonder who is doing the inviting. The text says that it is none other than God. The name of God used here is His unspoken name, the four letter word, which means, “I cause to be what comes to pass, I am the existing One” or “I am that I am, and I will be what I will be.” The beauty of this invitation is that when we come to Him, He will be there from stage one and He continues to see us through to the end. In fact, only an omnipotent being and a king can do this. Yes, the beauty of this invitation is that it is majestic. You are invited by the King of kings.
5. “Come now”
In Hebrew, the word “now” is an emphatic imperative. It suggests that there is an emphasis, a command and a sense of urgency.
It can be translated also as “come please” or “come straight away and do not delay”. This is the most beautiful thing about this invitation—you don’t have to wait for a specific date, specific time and a specific place. You just need to come now. The beauty of this invitation is that it is urgent.
For that reason, this invitation is given to you now and the only criterion is for you to come now.
God wants to invite you to choose Him. He promises that He will make you white and clean, your sins forgotten. And He wants to do it immediately.
Will you accept the invitation?
Dr Ronald Stone is Ministerial Association secretary and Global Mission coordinator for the Trans Pacific Union Mission.