Sunday Evening English Worship
January 7, 2018 - 5:00 pm
Messenger: Don Frank
Bible Passage - Isaiah 1:18
Introduction: The New Year has begun and the snow is falling nicely all over Hokkaido. I truly believe that each of the four seasons has it's own beauty and charm. I grew up with four seasons and can't imagine living anywhere that doesn't have them. I lived in Hawaii for 8 years before I came here to northern Japan - and I must admit that it was kind of boring. Everyday I'd wake up to the same green leaves on all the trees and the plumeria and hibiscus flowers blooming all around. Now, that may sound like paradise to many of you, but I really missed the changing of the seasons. Each one is so nice.
And now the winter is here and I'm really enjoying myself. This last week, I spent everyday enjoying the snowy scene from my window, as did my Papico-chan, as you can see by the photo I took! Well... I'm enjoying everything except the snow-shoveling! My poor back isn't what it used to be!
Every year when winter comes, the same Scripture pops into my head and that's what I want to share with you tonight in our Bible study. The title of my message this evening is A Fresh Start and our Bible passage is Isaiah 1:18, "Come now, and let us reason together," says the LORD, "though your sins are as scarlet, they will be as white as snow..." I'm always happy to the Holy Spirit when He reminds me of this one! I'm sure this is one of the reasons that I really enjoy wintertime so much.
1. The Covering - I Will Make Them As White As Snow. - Since snow is on my mind, I’d like to jokingly take Jesus’ statement about the “last being first” and apply that to our scripture this evening. Ha ha! I’d like to begin this Bible passage by starting at the end.
Looking again at the Bible passage, we see that our sins will be made as white as snow or as white as original, undyed wool. As we believe in Christ as our Savior, then God will only see His Son’s righteousness in us, pure white just like a fresh covering of snow. And what’s nice about wintertime is that the snow will fall again and again and again. And every time it falls, it covers up more and more of the landscape. So it is with the sins that are so common in our lives. It’s like every time we sin, God covers it again freshly and purely to make it white like before, like pulling up a white blanket over us.
The great poet and musician of the Old Testament, King David, wrote these words in Psalm 5:11 - “But let all those who go to you for safety be glad. Let them always sing with joy. Spread your cover over them and keep them safe. Then those who love you will be glad because of you.” This is just one of a number of Bible passages that talks about God covering us. I can imagine God pulling the blanket of snow over me to cover my sins!
Again, King David in Psalm 51:7 says, “Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.“ David longed to be forgiven and made pure again. Maybe he had the same image in his mind as I often do during the winters. He wanted God to make him whiter than snow, to be perfectly clean! And that’s what winter and these two promises from God‘s Word give to us, the promise of being pure again, white like the driven snow!
2. What's Covered - Though Your Sins Are Like Scarlet... Now we step back one phrase and look at what is covered, our sins! They are the color of scarlet and crimson. They are totally dark red! The original Hebrew word here for the word scarlet means to “double-dye” something. When a clothing maker wanted a color to be dark or not to fade, then they would dye the garment twice. We humans like to think of our sins by levels or categories. Some of them are very light and some of them are very heavy or dark. Thus we have the expression “to tell a white lie,” meaning that the lie was very small and not so serious. But the Bible tells us differently in Romans 6:23, "For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.” To God, all sins deserve death, so there are no such things as small sins and big sins. To Him, they are all big!
And this too is very much like the winter scene that we’re talking about. After it snows and snows, everything is covered up. But when spring comes, we can see everything that was buried under the snow, very clearly. We’ll find grass and rocks and park benches, trash and weeds and dead leaves. God sees all of our sins in their true light, dark red like scarlet or crimson. Nothing hides from His eyes.
3. He Who Covers - Let's Settle This... Now we move backward one more phrase to the beginning of the Bible verse, “Come now, let’s settle this...” or in other Bile translations, "Come, let us reason together." We're talking about He Who Covers Us. In English, we get the feel of one person talking to his equal. But the tone and the nuance of the Hebrew is one of a king talking to his servant or a judge talking to a criminal. It’s a higher level person talking to a lower level person. But don't worry, this isn't a time of judgement from God. If I had to paraphrase this, I'd say something like, "Come on, let's sit down and talk this over, shall we?" or "Hey, don't be in a rush. Let me tell you what I've got in mind."
Instead of judgement, this generous king offers us His grace and mercy. Again and again throughout the Bible, these two words are linked. An example would be Hebrews 4:16, "So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most." These are words that we throw around a lot at church, but do we really know what they mean? Here's a definition in picture form that I like a lot:
Grace is when God gives us things that we don't deserve.
Mercy is when He spares us from bad things we deserve.
Blessings are when He is generous with both.
Truly, we can never run out of reasons to thank Him.
God is good all the time!
Conclusion - Now, our time is almost finished for this evening, so let's pull this all back together again and see what we studied.
3. Our good God wants so much to give us His grace and mercy.
2. We know we have sinned terribly.
1. God promises to cover our sins and make us white as snow!
Closing Prayer - And now let's take our last Bible passage and pray it back to Our Lord tonight as our closing prayer. Hebrews 4:6, "So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most."
Dear Lord, Thank You so much for giving us free access to come to You anytime we want to. We know how bad our sins are and we ask You tonight to forgive us. Now, please cover us like a blanket of snow and make us pure white again, by Your grace and mercy. In Jesus' precious name we pray, Amen.