Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Isaiah 1:18 -- "Though Your Sins Be As Scarlet"

"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 is one of my very favorite scriptures.  Is there any more beautiful expression of the miracle of the Atonement and the hope it brings to each of us?

The Lord petitions us to come reason with Him.  D&C 50:10 says: "And now come, saith the Lord, by the Spirit, unto the elders of his church, and let us reason together, that ye may understand."

The Lord wants us to truly understand this doctrine of forgiveness, in fact it is the most important topic in chapter one of Isaiah.

This chapter is laid out in a chiasmus, which is defined in the dictionary as "a rhetorical or literary figure in which words, grammatical constructions, or concepts are repeated in reverse order, in the same or a modified form."  This pattern is found repeatedly throughout the writings of Isaiah and often takes this pattern: a, b, c, d, d, c, b, a --where each letter represents a different theme.  The central point, or d, is the most important point to be made. Chapter one is an example of this literary construction and verse 18 is the central point, even repeating the theme within the verse: "though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow, though the be red like crimson, they shall be as wool."

In the previous verses of chapter one, the Lord has been condemning and chronicling the wickedness of His people. But what is the Lord's true purpose in this chapter?  We discover this in verses 16-18.  He wants to entreat them to turn to Him and be clean again.  His purpose is to make them understand that even though they have committed horrible sins, He will forgive them.  The point of the construction of this chapter is to say that all those things won't matter, if you will come to Him and let Him make you clean.

In Ezekiel 18:21-22 it says:
     "But if the wicked will turn from all his sins that he hath committed, and keep all my statutes, and do that which is lawful and right, he shall surely live, he shall not die.
     "All his transgressions that he hath committed, they shall not be mentioned unto him: in his righteousness that he hath done he shall live."

I love the analogy of our sins, being as scarlet, becoming white as snow.  Anyone who has tried to clean a red stain out of white carpet knows how formidable a task and an often impossible one it is.  We may look upon our sins in much the same way.  The sins we commit may seem too great, the way back may seem too hard, it may appear impossible that we can ever be clean again.  Certainly, if the task were up to us to make ourselves clean, it would be impossible.

But that is what is so beautiful to me in this verse.  It is not impossible through the Atonement of Christ.  Even the reddest of red can be made white again.  This is the hope the Lord desires to give us.  This is the purpose of the Atonement, indeed the purpose of our life here on earth.  We will sin and fall short, but He has provided a way to be clean and white and pure again.  It is only accomplished when we turn to Him and accept the gift of His Atonement and seek to walk in His ways.  But when we do, we have this promise:

"Behold, he who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no more." 
(D&C 58:42)

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