“Come now, let us reason together,” says the LORD. “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)
When the Egyptian Pharoah foresaw that the increasing population of the Israelites was likely to become a problem, his solution was typical of the powerful throughout history. He had male Israelite babies killed by the thousand.
Christ’s coming was the solution born in God’s heart to a problem that affected us all—our rebellion against our creator. Isaiah 1:10-20 gives a good idea of just how distasteful and offensive this problem (and its parallel, our empty worship) was to Him: “I cannot bear your evil assemblies” (v. 13), “your hands are full of blood” (v. 15).
To read the disgust with which God views his people’s attitude and actions in Isaiah 1, you would think that he intended to destroy them with the same passion as that of the Pharaoh. His true intentions are suggested by verse 18: “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.” And the way he ended up resolving the problem is radically different from the methods of the powerful of the earth. Caesars and emperors destroy their enemies. God reconciles his enemies to himself.
Perhaps this is why people at the time of Jesus had a hard time recognizing who He was. He didn’t fit their understanding of what a powerful ruler should be. The Messiah as one who was meek shattered their preconceptions of divinity. They had forgotten that in His history of interaction with them, Yahweh had always taken the first step.
God confounds expectations not only in how He responds to His enemies, but in who those enemies actually turn out to be. We, the religious, observers of Holy Days and raisers of hands in worship, are the ones who need cleansing. We need to change our ways, lest God’s word to Israel should fall on us too.
Advent reminds Christ followers not only to celebrate His first coming but to passionately expect His second (2 Tim 4:8). God forbid that we should be as unprepared for His second Advent as the religious were for His first one. Let Advent be a time for reevaluating the condition of our hands and our hearts.
Andy Bowen is a long time friend of the camp and serves as a missionary in Paraguay.
Check out our Advent Devotion book available online.