That’s the New Reformed Standard Version of Isaiah 1:18. If you’ve read (or heard) this verse before, it probably went something like, “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.” (King James Version). The NIV says: “Come now, let us settle the matter…” But, the NRSV, bless its heart, quotes God as saying, let’s fight about it.
This passage is often used during the Advent season. All of Isaiah Chapter 1 is about the rebellion of God’s people and ultimately, their need to be rescued. “And daughter Zion is left like a booth in a vineyard, like a shelter in a cucumber field, like a besieged city.” In verses 12 through 17, God speaks through Isaiah of how he despises his people’s lack of justice (“your hands are full of blood”) and their “vain offerings.” What are they supposed to do? “Cease to do evil, learn to do good, seek justice, correct oppression, bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s case.”
That’s when we get verse 18, which holds a great promise for God’s people who, try as they might have, had never quite learn to do good. First we’ll argue it out. Then, I will bleach the scarlet off of you.
If Advent is about the arguing, and hence the preparation for the washing, if that’s the purpose of this time of waiting, then what is the thing I’m hashing out with God in this season?
That’s something I haven’t really thought through, but I’m relieved about it. I love that God, in his kindness, lets us have it out with him in the process of bringing our rescue. There are a lot of things about the coming (and reigning) of Christ that I don’t understand. And I’m allowed to wrestle through those. What I do get to know is the reality of my scarlet being undone into brilliant white. I am not who I would have been. I’ve been marked by justice and goodness and hope. And that came to me through the hope of a Savior, who takes the failure we offer (even when he has to pry it out of our hands in the wrestling ring) and makes it beautiful.