We go on to a short portion: Isaiah 1:16-20
When G-d enters a situation, that situation is transformed – and always for the better. This first chapter in Isaiah gives us a great (summary) overview of the entire book. We learn that G-d is displeased with His people because they are unholy, wicked and far removed from His will, His purposes and His character. However, through G-d’s forgiveness, His grace and His mercy Judah will be transformed and will become an instrument of righteousness. G-d’s people become an instrument whereby G-d accomplishes His purposes through them.
v16: Wash yourselves…: G-d is calling them to repent. It is only when they repent that G-d will offer them forgiveness.
v17: Learn to do good: Learn to do the things which are good ie those things that are according to G-d’s will (evil, although it may appear good in our eyes, is doing anything not in G-d’s will. For example: If G-d tells you to give $100 to your enemy but you give it instead to a friend…you think you have done well – because you have given the money, but in fact you have done evil, because the money was not given as G-d intended it to be given).
- Seek justice: This is one of the good things that G-d is calling us to do. We do not only demand justice with our words, we need to act in a manner that establishes justice.
- Oppressor: Ruthless one. This one is far removed from, he is in opposition to, the things of G-d.
Note: When we are willing to do these things mentioned above, we are going to see G-d move in such a way that His anointing comes upon His people. It is only then that the ruthless ones are going to be changed. When we do not contend for the widow or look out for the orphan (the least of our brethren) then we work to empower the wicked behaviour of those who are ruthless, and we let them take over the leadership in our midst. The offering of G-d’s salvation is always accompanied with a command from G-d to change. We are not saved by our ability to change, but we won’t be saved if we do not believe that G-d is calling us to change. We have to agree that sin is wrong, and we have to have the desire to turn away from it. We will never find the power to do that until we’re saved. The proclamation of salvation, the offering of the good news of G-d’s forgiveness, grace and mercy, is always attached to a call to repentance – this desire to turn away from evil and embrace that which is good.
v18: Come (literally: please): A strong request made in very polite terms. G-d wants to do a work of grace and mercy in the lives of His people. He wants to forgive them. He beseeches them, in a very polite way, to receive His kindness.
- Reason: A word of argument. Biblically, this kind of argument is talking about arriving at the proper or right conclusion to a matter (arriving at truth). It is not a word of rejection or contention.
- Your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow: This is a picture of the transformation or change that is going to take place. That which is unholy can become holy. That which is stained with sin (as the term ‘scarlet’ conveys) can be made pure (white like snow). G-d is the One who does this work in us. We cannot do it for ourselves.
v19: Willing and obedient: This change begins because people are listening to G-d, hearing His revelation and are putting it into practice. We listen to G-d through His Word. It is when we hear the Word of G-d that transformation can take place in our lives (Roms 10:17).
Note: In this verse G-d is revealing an important truth about who He is and how He behaves. Although the people have been rebellious, G-d, who is rich in mercy and grace, has extended an invitation of mercy to them. Those who intensely desire this transformation that only G-d can bring about, and those who listen and are obedient, are not only forgiven, are not only changed, but they also become partakers of the goodness of G-d and of His creation.
v20: If you refuse and rebel…devoured by the sword: G-d’s forgiveness, mercy, partaking of His goodness etc is conditional on our response.
- The mouth of the L-rd has spoken: G-d is serious about this. G-d is willing to forgive. He has invited us to repent. He is capable of cleansing us. He is generous and He loves us. We, however, need, with great desire, to be willing to respond to Him.