Now You See it; Now You Don’t

My wife has a can of aerosol wonder spray that causes spots on the carpet to vanish.  No, I don’t know what it is – deliberately, so I don’t have to use it.  We each have our own gifts: my gift is putting the spots on the carpet…  Anyhow, it’s amazing stuff. You should get some.  Now you see it; now you don’t.  

In Isaiah, God said this:

“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 as crimson, they shall be like wool.” (Isaiah 1:18)

Most of us have sins we hope nobody ever finds out about, the ones that, whenever they come to mind, cause our toes  to curl up in our shoes.  We’d like to forget them but they won’t go away.  They are like bloodstains on the carpet.   But God says He will cause those to vanish.  Not just forgive them but take them away entirely.   Literally.  Isaiah knew this from first hand experience.  When he cowered before God and confessed that he, like everybody else, was a man of “unclean lips” (Isaiah 6:5) God arranged a weird, supernatural ceremony of atonement to happen:

Then one of the seraphs flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar.  With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.” (Isaiah 6:6-7)

I cannot explain all the bizarre details described there.  But God (literally His angelic beings) did something to cause Isaiah’s sin to disappear.  The Hebrew word behind the phrase “taken away” means to drag off, or cause something to vanish.  Now you see it; now you don’t.   The reason that is possible is explained in the Hebrew word behind the phrase “atoned for.”  If you wanted to purchase freedom for a slave, you would pay the going rate to his master, making atonement for him.   Jesus made that kind of payment to free us from our guilt.   If you are willing, God removes it.

In the verse we began with above, God says, in effect, “Be reasonable and I will cause your sin to disappear – not just the common ones, but the whoppers, too – the ones that seem like bloodstains on your memory.”   What does He mean by “Let us reason together?”  We see it in the next two verses:

If you are willing and 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 the Lord has spoken.  (Isaiah 1:19-20)

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