by the Rev. Andrew Kuyvenhoven
Isaiah's God is the Holy One of Israel. In God's presence we have to be morally clean. God has chosen his Servant, who will rule in righteousness in a kingdom of peace.
"Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow ... If you are willing and obedient" (Isa. 1:18–19).
This is one of the Bible's most wonderful promises of forgiveness: God will erase the scarlet shame of our sins, leaving our lives as white as snow. Transformed by grace, we will be innocent in God's eyes.
These words are like God's medicine. We find comfort when the liturgist speaks them on God's behalf. We find healing when we sing them with the congregation: "Whiter than snow, yes whiter than snow; wash me and I shall be whiter than snow."
We may not forget, however, that God spoke these words through the fiery prophet Isaiah. The "whiter than snow" text stands in the context of a blistering attack on temple ritual by people who fail to seek justice, defend the poor, and help the weak. The radical forgiveness of this text is of one piece with a radical reformation of life. "If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the good of the land; but if you resist and rebel, you will be eaten by the sword."
Purity cannot be obtained by some ritual. Only through a complete change of heart will we find cleansing and moral goodness. When we are washed "whiter than snow," we "seek justice, we encourage the oppressed, we defend the cause of the fatherless and plead the case of the widow."
A mere social gospel is no gospel. But a gospel without social implications isn't the good news of God either.
Andrew Kuyvenhoven's Daylight, a modern devotional classic, was originally published in 1994. This edition is copyright by Faith Alive Christian Resources, from whom may be ordered Daylight, the predecessor of Twilight.
A man of many accomplishments, Andrew Kuyvenhoven is probably best known for his contributions to Today (formerly The Family Altar), a widely-used monthly devotional booklet associated with the Back to God Hour. Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations for this edition of Twilight are from the New International Version