Rational Religion – Isaiah 1:1-20

A great many people in our world today think that the old, ancient religions are irrelevant? “In the light of modern scientific thought, we don’t need religions like Bible Christianity.” The people who say such things, think of themselves as intelligent; that they are thinkers. But the fact is that most of them are pseudo-intelligent at best – or plain, old, everyday non-thinkers. Many have heard some famous writer or Hollywood star, and they repeat what they have been told. And some of those pseudo-intelligent notables are often inventing new religions and new gods, to go along with their new movies, new phones, new medical techniques and new modes of transportation. But reality is – the majority of the fallen children of Adam are merely looking for excuses to avoid thinking about the one true and living God.
Of course, it must acknowledged there are hundreds of ancient religions which are not worth a second thought. With one exception of course – the faith that Abraham had – and Moses and David. I believe that Adam was saved by grace through faith in the same way the Lord has saved me. The old ways are without a doubt the very best ways. We aren’t going to stop eating vegetables simply because our great grandparents ate vegetables. I am, not going to stop enjoying the heat of the sun, just because that same sun warmed the faces of Adam and Abraham. And I am not going to trash the worship of Jehovah simply because He was worshiped by godly people 5,000 years ago. The Bible is as relevant in the 21st century as it was in the 1st Century and 5 centuries before that. The nature of mankind hasn’t evolved one iota in the last 10,000 years – or 100,000 million years for that matter. Furthermore, the history and condition of the United States is a mirror image of the nation of Israel or Egypt or Babylon.
Even to a blind man, the first chapter of Isaiah is a revelation of the sins of Israel. But when we put our high-tech, computer generated eye glasses on, we can also see the United States. Beginning with verse 2, we see an initial blessing of the Lord on this nation. But we, following Israel’s lead, have deliberately turned our backs toward Jehovah, while continuing to dine on His bounty. Our society is full of evildoers, thieves, leeches, frauds and cheats. “From the sole of the foot even to the top of the head there is no soundness in our society.” Look at the number of broken homes and women and children on welfare. Examine the way that we entertain ourselves with drugs, lust and blood. We are the spitting image of Roman decadence in its very worst forms.
Verse 7 – Your country is desolate and your cities are burning with fire. Many neighborhoods throughout this nation are ghettos and armed camps with nightly murders. And it appears that we have more people in prison than we do in college. Or at least we should have more people in prison than we should have in college. We certainly have more people in theaters than we do in houses of worship. Oh, but we do have plenty of churches, sometimes man-made and certainly man-corrupted… Provoking the Lord to demand – “to what purpose is this multitude of sacrifices unto me?” He says, “I am fed up with burnt offerings, and I have no delight in your sacrifices” – verse 11. “Don’t bring me any more of your empty, formal prayers and religion” – verse 13. Your celebrations of Christmas, Easter, the Passover and Yom Kippur, are a joke – verse 14. “Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil; learn to do my will; seek justice and think about others once in a while.” “Come now and let us reason together about such things, saith the LORD.”
Now, let me ask you, how many of our neighbors actually believe anything I just told you? How many Americans think that God’s judgment is soon to fall on this nation? Most enjoy their God-less lives, and if they don’t they, take extreme measures to try to.
It takes a miracle of God for anyone to hear Isaiah 1 and to stop what they are doing. It takes the intervention of the Omnipotent before we even hesitate in our wickedness. In your Bible you’ll probably see a paragraph symbol before verse 18. That means the printer considered this to be a new thought, and I agree. It is a short parenthesis. That verse is not directly connected with the previous seventeen and perhaps not directly to what follows. Verse 18 is to the small remnant of people whom God had selected, spiritually resurrected and inspired. The wicked world – no matter how rational it might claim to be – is never going to be sufficiently rational to reasonably converse with God. I am preaching this verse today, praying that you have been quickened sufficiently to grasp what it says.
“Come now and let us REASON together, saith the LORD.” The religion of the Lord, the faith that is in Him, the worship and service of Jehovah is RATIONAL. It makes sense; it is reasonable. Furthermore it is absolutely critical. I don’t wish to sound like a pessimist, because I am not; I am filled with hope and “the” hope. I know a solution to the problems of this world: It is contained in God’s statement – “Though your sins be as scarlet they shall be as white as snow.” I don’t wish to sound like a pessimist, but we are living under an earthen dam, which holds back a reservoir of the judgment of God. This dam was built with an expiry date, but most of our neighbors don’t care to look at it. Having enjoyed its shadow for years; its water for their gardens & the fish in the river, they are satisfied. But every now and then, a little crack appears, perhaps like a little epidemic, or it shivers with an earthquake, reminding us that this dam is not going to stand for ever. The judgment of God is not very far away.
I can’t help but think of II Peter 3 at this point. Please turn to II Peter 3. Verse 3 – “Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation. For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water: Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished: But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men. But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.”
We have two choices, living under the very old gravel-filled dam which holds back God’s righteous judgment – We can either take to God’s shelter, or we can wait for the quake which rips away God’s patience and mercy. Only one is a logical answer for people under this dam. “If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land: But if ye refuse and rebel, ye shall be devoured with the sword: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it.”
I propose before you this morning a very rational religion in four points. And then I will conclude with a piece of fantasy. Hoping you are interested in the fantasy, I urge you to stick with me through the facts.
First, it is a fact, GOD exists – and He is a holy and righteous God.
Of course, the skeptic, the atheist and most evolutionists, quickly reply that to declare the existence of God is NOT rational. But those people are doubly wrong, because God does exist, and because that consideration IS logical. Christians know there is a God, because He has told us, and then He has revealed Himself to us. He has told us about Himself in the Bible. The Bible is not like the Koran or any other religious book that you might find. The Bible has proven itself true through thousands of specific prophecies and revelations. Those prophecies are not nebulous guesses, but precise, pre-occurrence declarations of upcoming events. The prophecies of the Bible often contain the names and dates of people and events which later became historical facts. The same Bible which proves its own spiritual authenticity, declares the existence of God.
But it is an interesting fact that the Bible does not take the trouble of proving the existence of God. There are many scriptural, philosophic and logical ways to try to prove the existence of the Lord. But the Bible simply assumes that logical, observant, thinking people will not need such arguments. We could talk about the beautiful creation around us which demands a Creator. We could speak about justice demanding a Judge, an Executioner and someone to reward that which is good. But the Bible simply says, “In the beginning GOD created the Heaven and the earth.” And the same Bible simply declares: “The dead, small and great shall stand before God to be judged according to their works.” Logical men do not need to be convinced of such things, they only need to be reminded of them.
Second, we know that God exists because He has revealed Himself to us, and walked among us. The Bible says that “God was made flesh and dwelt among us and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father full of grace and truth.” Jesus of Nazareth declared himself to be of the same eternal and spiritual essence as the Father. “God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto Gentiles, and believed on in the world.” When Jesus Christ was murdered, and then three days later, came out of the tomb wherein He had been buried, He proved Himself to be Who He claimed to be – the God/Man. He was “declared to be the Son of God with power, by the resurrection from the dead.”
Isaiah 1:18 contains the point of logic which says, “God exists.”
And it also assumes that SIN exists.
Don’t argue with Jehovah whether or not you are a sinner, or that there is such a thing as sin. The word “reason” in this verse is not an invitation to a debate the Lord about these issues. It is an invitation to sit up straight in your chair, to put on your thinking cap and to begin answering the Lord’s test questions. Look at the front page of yesterday’s newspaper and try to tell me that sin doesn’t exist. I’ve spent hours in the ante-room of several county jails – don’t tell me that sin doesn’t exist. I’ve spent hours in the waiting room of several county hospitals, don’t tell me that sin doesn’t exist. And every honest man knows that he has transgressed the will of God.
The Bible doesn’t try to prove the existence God, but it does try to prove & convince men that they are sinners. It defines and describes sin in some of the brightest and/or darkest colors. We have “scarlet” and “crimson” here in this verse. The Bible names sins and points out why they are sins – it doesn’t call them “mistakes” or “crimes.”
There are many today who agree that certain things, like murder, are bad, but they refuse to call them “sins.” Killing, roasting and eating children is reprehensible, but few would call it a “sin.” Sin’s declaration – or denial – is predicated on those people’s previous acceptance or denial of the divine Judge. Sin is, first of all, a crime against God, and where there is no God, there is no sin. But, actually, that place where God doesn’t exist is only found in a few people’s imaginations. And thus the only place where sin doesn’t exist – is, again, in that God-denying mind. Even though society might think that some deed, like genocide is a bad thing, societies come and go. Genocide was acceptable in German three generations ago; and it is fine in a few countries today. It is acceptable here in America so long as we call it “abortion” and not “sin” or “genocide.” Why is “killing, roasting and eating children” reprehensible, while abortion is not. Someone is not thinking rationally. The reality is, whether society agrees or not, God has enumerated a multitude of sins, some of which are even worse than genocide. And He has pointed out that those deeds of sin are the product of the nature of sin which lies within us.
“Come now and let us reason together saith the Lord, your sins ARE as scarlet and crimson.” There was a definite reason why the Holy Spirit chose to color sin in scarlet and crimson. We might think that black would be a good color to use, and it does have some scriptural authority. But in this case we have a word which speaks of a bright, obvious, eye-pleasing and permanent color. Some commentators mention that scarlet was a special dye applied to wool in a special way. It comes from the squashed grubs of a insect which lived among the oak trees of that part of the world. The fabric, or the yarn, was dipped into the blood and guts of these bugs, then allowed to dry. Then it was dipped a second time. Not only was the fabric double-dyed, but the dye itself was regarded as the most permanent of any that people used in ancient days. They said that neither dew, nor rain, nor washing, nor long use could remove it – it was a permanent red. They didn’t need to protect the color – it was impervious to any soap or solvent that they had.
The implication & Biblical declaration is – Your sins have been permanently & indelibly stained into your soul. There is nothing that any child of Adam can ever do to remove those stains. There are no external rites, no tears, no prayers, no alms, no efforts, nothing that can clean the stain of sin. Sin is a fact of your heart, and the stain of that sin is an additional fact.
Furthermore, JUDGMENT for sin is a fact that exists before us.
If you refuse the Lord’s grace you shall be devoured with His sword – the mouth of the Lord had spoken it. There is absolutely no escape. “The wicked shall be turned to Hell, and all nations that forget God.” And it seems that the vast majority of our nation has forsaken and forgotten that God. “The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master’s crib, but (America) doth not know or consider.” “The wages of sin is death.” “The fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.”
God may be liberal in His grace, mercy and patience, but He is not a liberal. A man may murder half a dozen of his neighbors, and receive a slap on the wrist from some human judge and then be given a clean bunk and three meals for the rest of his miserable life. He may rape and molest a dozen children and end up in a hospital for reprogramming – or perhaps even the White House. But that is because other men and women don’t have the guts to obey God. The Lord Himself doesn’t have any of the liberal weaknesses of our American cousins. God will not be fooled, we all shall reap what we sow. Look at Achan who stole the Lord’s property from Jericho – executed for simple theft. And as we saw last week, Moses smacked a rock with a stick. Because he disobeyed the Lord’s command to speak to the rock, Moses was denied admission into the Promised Land. God will not be mocked. “Whatsoever sins a man comitteth, those wages shall he reap.” I read of a millionaire who wanted more millions, and so he tried his hand at crime. When he was caught, he was sent to prison – back in the days when criminals earned their keep. A friend visited the prison and found him assembling burlap sacks, to which he said, “Sewing?” The convicted felon replied, “No, reaping.” “They shall receive the reward of their unrighteousness” – II Peter 2:13.
This scripture reminds us that judgment certain.
But it also declares that FORGIVENESS exists as well.
“Though your sins be as scarlet they shall be as white as snow: though they be red like crimson they shall be as wool.” It is impossible for you, or any of your neighbors, to remove the stain of sin. “But with God nothing is impossible.” “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” “In Him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace.”
I promised you some fiction or fantasy, and now I come to it. In my reading the other day, I came across an article by a scholar named John Kitto. Kitto, like John Gill a few generations before him, loved to read and quote ancient Jewish scholars. I always take those quotes with a few shakes of salt, sometimes raising my blood pressure in the process. That pressure is exacerbated when those scholars don’t corroborate each other – as it was in this case. I am sharing this story with you for illustration purposes only; I’m not saying it is true. But Kitto says that when some Jewish commentators write about Isaiah 1:18 they point back to the first Kippur – Day of Atonement, and then they speak of the comments of other commentators.
Here are the facts: Jehovah has clearly said to those who will listen to Him: “Though your sins be as scarlet they shall be as white as snow: though they be red like crimson they shall be as wool.” It will take a miracle of divine grace, but your sin – can become perfectly clean in God’s sight. And that means – by grace your sins will cease to be sinful. As Paul might have put it – God declares some sinners to be righteous – justified by divine grace which is then received by faith.
Another fact is that in the autumn of each year Israel celebrated “Yom Kippur – the Day of Atonement.” The events of that day contained an Old Testament picture of the workings of justification – or if you like, deliverance from the penalties of sin. “Though your sins be as scarlet they shall be as white as snow.” On the day of Atonement, following earlier sacrifices, two goats were presented to the Lord. Leviticus 16:8 – “And Aaron shall cast lots upon the two goats; one lot for the LORD, and the other lot for the scapegoat.” The goat upon which the first lot fell was then offered in sacrifice for a sin-offering. “Without the shedding of blood there is no remission” for sin. That anima’s death was essential for salvation. Kitto points to some Jewish commentators who say that despite any record of it in the Bible, the second goat had a scarlet ribbon tied around its neck. Verse 10 – “But the goat, on which the lot fell to be the scapegoat, shall be presented alive before the LORD, to make an atonement with him, and to let him go for a scapegoat into the wilderness.”
Kitto says that the high priest put his hands on the head of the scapegoat and confessed both his sins and the sins of nation. He quoted his Jewish acquaintances, saying that IF the Lord accepted the double goat offering, the scarlet rope around the neck of the living animal miraculously became as white as fresh snow. But if the Lord was not pleased with the offerings that day, there was no change – the crimson remained. According to Kitto’s ancient experts this was to what Isaiah referred.
I’m not going to say that this actually ever occurred, because I don’t have enough information. It can’t be found in the Bible, and so I have my doubts – it sounds like superstition and fable. But if I had my wish, I would like to say that it is a wonderful illustration of a very profound truth.
There has been a sacrifice made for sin, in the person of the infinite Son of God, Jesus Christ. There was tied about him, my scarlet-colored sins. “He bore my sin in his own body on the tree, and through his suffering cleansed me of my sin.” Christ put his hands upon me, receiving my sin as His own and applying His righteousness to me. And when his sacrificial blood touched those sins of mine, they immediately became whiter than snow. “He was bruised for my transgressions and wounded for my iniquities.”
This is the great need of our nation. When 12-year-olds are having babies – or they are killing babies. When 15-year-olds are murdering each other, and 17-year-olds are dying of AIDS. This world doesn’t need more education, more government control, more technology and more entertainment. This world needs the love and the blood of the Son of God.
And even though your sins may not be as hideous as your neighbors, you still have the same need of Jesus Christ. “There is not a just man upon the earth that doeth good and sinneth not.” “What can wash away YOUR sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus.”