Two Sides of the Same Coin

Isaiah was on a roll this morning.  Well, I was reading him this morning; he got on his roll almost 3 millennia ago.  Writing to the Southern Kingdom of Judah, Isaiah warns against the very sins that would cause the Northern Kingdom of Israel to be destroyed by Assyria.  In fact, Isaiah’s words to Judah in Isaiah 1 sound almost identical to the condemnation Amos directs at Israel in Amos 5.  They both condemn a religiosity that focuses on ritual and ignores holiness and helping others.  Compare Isaiah 1:10-17 with Amos 5:21-27.  Both guys are using the same sermon outline here.  Both guys probably had veins bulging and spit flying as they preached it!  Get that way myself sometimes… which explains why our folks never sit on the front rows!

Unlike Amos, Isaiah turns on a dime and sounds more like Jesus in Matthew 11:28-30.  His voice and his face soften (at least in my staging of the scene) and he offers the quintessential Old Testament invitation in Isaiah 1:18—
18 “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. 
There was a time when preachers went soft on the soft and gentle invitation of God.  The fear factor of hell-fire and brimstone was too useful.  You keep your people scared straight and smelling the sulfur.  Today, most of us are too soft on the brimstone and seem to portray God as a cosmic grandfather with lots of goodies and few expectations.

I think we need both pictures!  God hasn’t gone soft on His expectations; it’s still as Hebrews 10:31 suggests, “a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Isn’t Hebrews in the New Testament).  But God is the God of Calvary; the cross is His invitation of love.  He still promises “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.”  This message of judgment and forgiveness are two sides of the same coin.