Isaiah 1:18-20 - "Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool. If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land; but if you refuse and rebel, you shall be eaten by the sword; for the mouth of the Lord has spoken."
This devotion pairs with this weekend's Lutheran Hour sermon, which can be found at lutheranhour.org.
One winter when I was young, school was cancelled for a snow day. I remember looking outside, enchanted by the freshly fallen snow. My friend, Mark, who lived down the street, walked over with his older sister. She offered to take us sledding. My family had this old, wooden Flexible Flyer sled, with solid steel runners painted red. On the front of the sled, the red frame stuck out, curved, like the blade of scythe. I'm walking up the sledding hill, dragging our old sled by a rope tied to the back. Mark, my friend, was down the hill, behind me. The rope slipped out of my hand and the sled cut through the snow. At that very moment, Mark tripped and fell, face down in the snow. He looks up just in time to see the scythe-end of the sled plowing toward him. He survived, thank God. But I'm guessing he has a sizeable scar on his forehead to this day. I don't remember much of what happened next. I don't remember him screaming. I don't remember what his sister said. I don't remember if I said, "Sorry." All I remember is the blood. So much blood, a sickening, crimson trail of it, leading through all that bright, beautiful snow. I remember feeling sorry, a little for Mark, but mostly for myself. I was annoyed that Mark got in the way and made such a mess of a perfectly good snow day.
There is much that is bright and beautiful in this world. But also much that is broken and sickening. And much of that comes from inside us. The prophet Isaiah called it "sin." Your sins are like scarlet, he said. Sin is the infection that comes when we turn from our Creator. Sin is falling short of who God created us to be. It's not just the bad things I do. It's also refusing the good things I could have done. I could have helped my friend. I could have walked him home. I could have stayed with him. Instead, I stood there, stuck in my agenda. I saw him, not as a friend and neighbor God gave me to love. I saw a bloodied mess, an obstacle I wanted plowed out of the way. That's what sin does to us. You can appear bright-eyed and rosy-cheeked on the outside. But, like me, you show your scarred, spiritual state whenever you take the beautiful gifts of God and start using them for your own agenda.
Christians are taught to reflect on our sin. We do this, not to beat ourselves up, not to wallow in self-pity, but to let this remorse turn us back to God. And turning to the Lord who loves us in spite of our sin, we hear His voice, "Come now, let's reason together. Even though your sins are like scarlet, they will be white as snow." God sent His Son to make it happen, to be born fully human, without sin, to meet us in our crimson sins. On the cross, Jesus embraced us—the whole broken and bloodied mess. And now He lives, offering forgiveness, life, and a way back home.
I can still remember the beautiful snow that day we went sledding. And even though it was visually ruined, there is another kind of beauty in that memory, a Christ-like beauty, hidden in the brokenness: Mark's older sister. While I'm standing there steeped in self-pity over a ruined snow day, she goes to his side, uses her scarf to stop the bleeding, hugs him, takes him by the hand, and leads him home.
WE PRAY: Lord Jesus, wash me in Your blood so I may be as white as snow. Amen.
This Daily Devotion was written by Rev. Dr. Michael Zeigler, Speaker of The Lutheran Hour.
1. It's been over 30 years since I've reflected on that ruined snow day—does that story stir up any memories for you? Any old scars or festering regrets?
2. Read Isaiah chapters 1 and 2, aloud. Of Isaiah's images of God's judgment on human sin, which are most striking to you? Which images of redemption and new life do you need to cling to?
3. Mark's sister was a "Christ figure" for me. Thinking on your personal regrets and failings, is there a person God has sent you, someone who has reflected Christ's long-suffering love for you?
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