Sunday, 7 August 2022

Sins Like Scarlet

I  know people complain about modern chemicals. But they could make some right odd things in the old days. The Romans used the slime from sea snails to make Imperial Purple, for instance. And getting the slime out of sea-snails is such a performance, that only very rich people could afford purple clothes.

And scarlet - you got scarlet by grinding up bugs called kermes. And again it's a fast dye, it doesn't run when you wash it. And because it's so intensive to make, it became the colour of royalty and cardinals and other powerful people. And of sin.

The Revelation of John was long after Isaiah's time, no matter how late scholars have dated their latest invented Isaiah. But when St John came to write about the Whore of Bablyon, there's no doubt about the colour of her clothes. Scarlet. The colour of exploitation. The colour of murdering millions of tiny bugs just to have a splash of brightness. The colour you can only afford in bulk if you have made a stash and want to flaunt it : "Whore of Babylon flaunts her side-boob in scarlet bikini" - Daily Mail.

Thing about scarlet is, it's a fast dye. Once it's in your clothes, it sticks. And it's very bright. A lovely orangey-red. It strikes your eye. It's said that Liverpool FC started wearing all-red strips because Bill Shankly thought it would psychologically scare opponents. Well, yesterday's game against Fulham would suggest that ain't true all the time. But certainly we won the league the year he changed the strip.

So as a colour associated with wealth, danger, being unmissable, and yet unremovable - It's the perfect symbol for sin.

And God says, “Though your sins are like scarlet, they will be as white as snow; though they are as red as crimson, they will become like wool." 

Isaiah's book is just starting. And it's gonna be a long old series of woes on the way to a return to the Promised Land, a lot of sin before the Suffering Servant. But Isaiah puts it up front. All the things you do wrong - all the things you've done wrong - all those you will do wrong - cling to you like a fast dye, and rage at you like the brightest red sunburn.

And, says God, I will take them away.

All the stuff you've got wrong, all the hurts you've caused, all the hurts you cling onto, all the selfishness you hold close to your heart - forget them. If you choose me, and reject those sins, and follow what is right - then I already have.

And it's later in the prophecy, when the Servant sings his song, and later again, when a virgin gives birth and that child is Immanuel, that the way God's forgiving works is revealed. By his stripes we are healed, says Isaiah 53. The sins that bring us back to the past, that colour our relationships with God and each other, that we cannot wash away with good intentions or good deeds - are washed away in the stream of scarlet that pours from Messiah's veins.

Though our sins are like scarlet, yet in God they are white as snow. Don't look for them- they are gone.

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