God Reasoning with Lost Sinners
Francis Bourdillon, 1864
"Wash and make yourselves clean. Take your evil deeds out of my sight! Stop doing wrong, learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow.
"Come now, and 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. If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the best from the land; but if you resist and rebel, you will be devoured by the sword." For the mouth of the LORD has spoken it."
Because "the mouth of the Lord has spoken it" — it must be true. Every threat will be made good — every promise will be fulfilled; every warning and exhortation is of the most solemn importance. It is not man who speaks, not even the prophet — but the Lord Almighty Himself. He is speaking to sinners. What does He say?
"Come now, and let us reason together." How kind and gracious! He does not yet say, "Come, stand before the judgment-seat. Come, and receive the punishment due for your sins" but, "Come now, and let us reason together." God, whom he has offended, invites the sinner to speak with Him, to hear what He will say, to listen to His offer.
And what an offer! Nay, more than an offer — a promise, plain and sure. "Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool." God does not shut His eyes to what the sinner has done; his sins are all before Him, many and great, deep-colored, red like crimson or scarlet. Nor must the sinner himself shut his eyes to them. He must not deny them or refuse to look at them. God calls him to look at them and shows them to him as they are, with no veil or excuse — red like crimson. Then God says that they shall be as white as snow; and, as if to make it more certain, He says it again in other words, "they shall be as wool." He will forgive them all. He will fully forgive them. So fully, that not a stain shall be left. What is whiter than wool — or purer than snow? So white and pure — will God make the sinner in His sight.
How is this? We know now, under the gospel, how it is. The blood of Jesus Christ, God's dearly beloved Son, was shed on the cross. It is that precious blood that washes our sins away and makes us clean. It is for His sake that sinners are forgiven. "He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed" (Isaiah 53:5).
We must believe in Him. We must be "willing and obedient"; obedient to the gospel call, willing to give up all for Christ — all sin, all self-righteousness, all hope and trust but in Him. We must draw near to God with broken and contrite hearts, seeking mercy for Jesus' sake. This is what God invites us to do when He says, "Come now, and let us reason together."
We are not to argue the matter with our Maker and Judge, to make excuses, to put our case in the best light. We are to confess all, to humble ourselves before Him, and simply to plead that Jesus died for us. Then God will be gracious to us. He will surely pardon us. The blood of Jesus will wash away our guilt. Our sins will become as white as snow. "For the mouth of the Lord has spoken it."
But let none think to find forgiveness — and yet to continue in willful sin. This would be to "refuse and rebel," not to "be willing and obedient." This would be to "turn the grace of God into a license for sin" (Jude 4). Where there is a true coming to Christ for pardon — there will be also a change of heart; and where there is a change of heart — there will be a hatred of sin. A living faith will certainly lead us to strive continually, that we may "cease to do evil" and "learn to do good."
The pardoned sinner cannot but love his Savior; and Christ and sin cannot be loved together. There can be no real work of grace in the heart, no true faith in Christ, and no pardon of sin — unless there is the fruit of love to Him who redeemed us by His blood; and love will certainly be shown by striving to keep His commandments. Jesus said of one penitent sinner, "Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little" (Luke 7:47). He said to all, "If you love Me — you will keep My commandments" (John 14:15).