Insights: Scarlet Became White

What an incredible last few days with the fantastic snowfall and perfect temperatures for a winter snowdrama! Yes, the Mayor made road travel “Red Condition” on Monday, the schools are still closed on this Wednesday, the roads have four inch ice holes for some slipping and sliding, but the scenery is outstanding. I have seen frost and even great snow fall on trees, but the wet snow pack and freeze from Sunday reminds me of the cleansing the Lord Jesus provided for my sins and yours.

It also reminds me of the great passage from Isaiah 1. The Lord calls out to Israel like a shepherd calls out to his sheep. “Come now, and 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 be as wool.” (Is. 1:18 NKJ) The “white” as snow is easy to understand for that stands out today with the brilliant white of the new fallen snow! But what about the scarlet and crimson? How are sins like “scarlet” and “crimson”?

In Scripture, scarlet was the color of the robe the soldiers put on Jesus when they mocked Him (Matt. 27:28). Scarlet was also the color of the cord Joshua’s soldiers directed Rahab to hang out her window to mark the place of safety prior to the defeat of Jericho. But what about sins? It would make sense that sin should be black or dark or devoid of any color. Why are scarlet and crimson used?

Scarlet was a red dye made from crushed worms and the crimson referred to a red-colored cloth.1 It has been recorded that rabbis would bind a scarlet fillet on the scapegoat’s head and when the high priest confessed his and the people’s sins over it, the fillet became white.2  The color scarlet has the meaning of “double-dyed” which means “a deep-fixed permanency of sin in the heart, which no mere tears can wash away.”3 The red refers to blood on the hands (Is. 1:15).  Lawrence Richards writes, “Isaiah chose the image not because of the color, but because this was the most securely fixed dye then known. No launderer could remove that color from cloth. Isaiah thus says God can do the impossible and cleanse sinners, even though the stain of sin is fixed as firmly as crimson in the sinner’s soul.”4

The permanent stain of sin can never be washed away by anything man does.  Only the shed blood of Jesus can wash away this stain. Paul wrote,

7 In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace 8 which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence, (Eph 1:7-8 NKJ)

John reveals this picture in the book of Revelation as the Tribulational saints are martyred for their faith. John wrote, “And I said to him, “Sir, you know.” So he said to me, “These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” (Rev 7:14 NKJ)

Yes, they are cleansed by the blood of the Lamb, which does not make sense from the human perspective.  God’s redemptive work through Jesus on the cross makes sense only to the blood-bought believer, who has accepted Jesus Christ’s substitutionary (He died in place of me) work on the cross.

Praise God for the blessing of purity. Praise God for sin that has been washed clean and has become white as snow only by the precious gift of Jesus on the cross. Turn to Jesus today and accept His work for you.  You will then see the brilliance of the pure white snow that has fallen from heaven as a reminder of His work for you!

[1]Walvoord, John F. ; Zuck, Roy B. ; Dallas Theological Seminary: The Bible Knowledge Commentary : An Exposition of the Scriptures. Wheaton, IL : Victor Books, 1983-c1985, S. 1:1036


3Jamieson, Robert ; Fausset, A. R. ; Fausset, A. R. ; Brown, David ; Brown, David: A Commentary, Critical and Explanatory, on the Old and New Testaments. Oak Harbor, WA : Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997, S. Is 1:18

4Richards, Lawrence O.: The Bible Readers Companion. electronic ed. Wheaton : Victor Books, 1991; Published in electronic form by Logos Research Systems, 1996, S. 412


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