To the ‘great tree with withered leaves’

“Come now, let’s settle this,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, I will make them as white as snow. Though they are red like crimson, I will make them as white as wool.” (Isaiah 1:18 NLT)

If this verse is evangelistic, it is because it evangelizes God’s own people.

In Isaiah 1, The messenger is relaying God’s message to God’s people that they are rebellious children who have turned their backs on the Holy One of Israel — and that he hates their worship services. “They are all sinful and false. I want no more of your pious meetings. … They are a burden to me. I cannot stand them! When you lift up your hands in prayer, I will not look. Though you offer many prayers, I will not listen, for your hands are covered with the blood of innocent victims.” (vv.13-15)

Jerusalem was once “the home of justice and righteousness,” but now she is “filled with murderers” and her leaders are “rebels, the companions of thieves,” who “love bribes and demand payoffs, but refuse to defend the cause of orphans or fight for the rights of widows.” (21-23)

Worshiping idols and tolerating injustice will bring terrifying consequences for God’s people: “Rebels and sinners will be completely destroyed, and those who desert the LORD will be consumed.” (28)

God’s people must: “Wash yourselves and be clean! Get your sins out of my sight. Give up your evil ways. Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the cause of orphans. Fight for the rights of widows.” (16-17)

In that context then, the Lord appeals to his apostate people: “Come now, let’s settle this. Though your sins are like scarlet, I will make them as white as snow. Though they are red like crimson, I will make them as white as wool.”

The Almighty is speaking to people who worship him regularly and piously, but whose hearts are far from him. If they refuse to turn back from their idolatry, if they refuse to establish justice in the land, they “will be devoured by the sword of their enemies.” (20) But “Zion will be restored by justice” and “those who repent will be revived by righteousness.” (27)

People of God, “Why do you continue to invite punishment? Must you rebel forever?” (5) Confess your idolatries. Admit the injustices by which the weak and vulnerable are oppressed in your land. Seek the Father’s forgiveness and walk in his ways. Let him purge your impurities and wash you clean. Where now you are “like a great tree with withered leaves” (30), you can be “like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season. Their leaves never wither, and they prosper in all they do.” (Psalm 1:3)

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Solving the problem of ‘gun violence’ … and evil bombers

“The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?” (Jeremiah 17:9 NLT)

Naive souls call for “solutions” to problems rooted in the desperately wicked hearts of sadly broken people. They demand these “solutions” from government officials who are as desperately wicked and sadly broken as the rest of us.

There are no “solutions” — save this: Make disciples of Jesus and love your neighbor the way you love yourself.

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