DIG: What does the LORD promise in accordance with their repentance? What’s happening in Judah, in 1:15, 21-23 that accounts for this call and promise? Given their religious rituals in 1:11-15, how does the secular image of adultery fit their spiritual state? In what sense is He a jealous God? Likewise, how do scarlet and red fit? What is the condition upon which their forgiveness rests?
REFLECT: Have you ever found yourself working so hard for ADONAI that He started getting cut out of the picture? When has the LORD ever said: Come now, let us reason together to you? Did you respond? If not, what were the consequences for you? What did it take to restore your relationship with Him? How do you confess your sin? When do you confess your sins?
So after answering their response to Him and showing them that their faithfulness in the sacrificial system had been to no avail because their sacrifices were not accompanied by faith, God offers them salvation. He then invites the sinful people to come to their senses and admit that they had been wrong in their attitudes and practices. The invitation, Come, literally go (the Hebrew language views the action from the starting point; the English from that of a destination) now, let us reason together, was more than a call for negotiations between the people and God. The word reason is a legal term used for arguing, convincing, or deciding a case in court. The people were to be convinced by their arguments that He was right and they were wrong about their spiritual condition. Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow (1:18). If they admitted the depth of their sins, that their sins were like blood-colored scarlet or red stains on their souls, God in His grace would cleanse them, making them spiritually white like snow or wool.7
When Yeshua told us to pray for forgiveness of our debts as we forgive our own debtors, He knew who would be the one to pay the debt. As he would hang on the cross He would say: It is finished (John 19:30). Tetelestai, one Greek word meaning paid in full. It is in the perfect tense indicating a past, completed action, with continuing, and in this case, permanent results. There are some facts that will never change. One fact is that you are forgiven. If you are in Christ (Ephesians 1:1, 3-4, 7, 9, 11, 13 and 20), when He sees you, your sins are covered – he doesn’t see them. He sees you better than you see yourself. And that is a glorious fact of your life (from Walking with the Savior, Wheaton: Tyndale House, 1993).
When the nation of Israel was still in her childhood, learning from ADONAI at the foot of Mount Sinai, He said to them: I, the LORD, your God, am a jealous God. This means He is zealous to protect what rightfully belongs to Him alone. Hence, it is an ethical right in the sense of a husband being zealous to have the affection of his wife alone (see my commentary on Exodus Dl – The Second Commandment: No Idols). If they continued to commit spiritual adultery (Hosea 2:2-5), He vowed that there would be consequences, punishing the children for the sin of their fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate Me, but showing love to a thousand [generations] of those who love Me and keep My commandments (Exodus 20:5b-6; Deuteronomy 5:9b-10). Forgiveness only comes as a result of a changed attitude.
There is a delicate balance between human freedom and divine sovereignty. We should not think that obedience produces forgiveness. If that were true, we would control the Divine will. But we cannot play God; He forgives not because He has to, but because He wants to. He is the God of second chances (see my commentary on Jonah). But it is also clear that the LORD does not forgive those who are unwilling to obey.
God offers forgiveness of sin to Israel if they come to Him, and He even gives them the motivation for doing so. If you are willing to be obedient, you will eat the best from the Land; but if you resist and rebel, you will be devoured by the sword. For the mouth of ADONAI has spoken (1:19-20). He seeks to motivate them to accept His salvation by showing the alternatives and consequences of their decision. If they accepted His offer of forgiveness, salvation would follow. But if they rejected His offer, then curses would follow. The Bible teaches that mankind has the ability to choose (Genesis 2:16-17, 4:6-10; Isaiah 1:18-20; Jeremiah 36:3; Ezekiel 18; John 7:17). Confession of sin always comes before cleansing. It was true in Isaiah’s day and it is still true for us today.
In 1:19-20, the verb tenses in these two conditional sentences point to action. In each case the first verb pair are in the imperfect tense (viewed as an ongoing, but not yet completed action); whereas, the second verb pair is in the perfect tense (viewed as a completed action with continuing results). Thus, the sense means something like, if you are willing to obey . . . then obey; however, if you are disposed to resist . . . then rebel. The Hebrew does not recognize a distinction between hearing and doing. They would say that if you do not obey a command, you did not truly hear it! But only with a changed heart and confession of sin will our actions line up with God’s heart.
Jesus’ closest friend on this earth, the apostle John, said it this way: If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us, or cleanse us, from all unrighteousness. But if we claim we have not sinned, we make Him out to be a liar and His word has no place in our lives (First John 1:9-10).
The Teaching Ministry of Jay Mack 2006-2015