I have blotted out your transgressions like a cloud and your sins like mist; return to me, for I have redeemed you. (Isaiah 44:22 ESV)
I don’t have Alexa, Amazon’s voice-controlled device, but I read that it has a surprising feature. It can erase everything you say. Whatever you have asked Alexa to do, whatever information you’ve asked Alexa to retrieve, one simple sentence (“Delete everything I said today”) sweeps it all clean, as if it never happened. Author Winn Collier says that it’s too bad we can’t do this with the rest of our life. Wouldn’t it be great if every misspoken word, every disgraceful act, every moment we want to erase could just disappear? We would just speak the command and the entire mess would vanish.1
We can’t erase our own sins, but God’s Son Jesus came to sweep them away.
First the Bad News
Seven hundred years before Christ, God’s prophet Isaiah says that dark clouds are like a blemish on a sunny blue sky. And our wrongs are like a dirty stain on the record of our lives. If ink is smeared in a book, we can’t read it. But if the blots are removed, then the page is clean and useful again. The Bible says that our sins are moral stains that stand as legitimate evidence against us, until the Lord blots them out by His pardon in Christ.
Isaiah said: “Your sins have cut you off from God. Because of your sins, He has turned away and will not listen anymore. Your hands are the hands of murderers, and your fingers are filthy with sin. Your lips are full of lies, and your mouth spews corruption. No one cares about being fair and honest. Their lawsuits are based on lies.”2 God’s assessment of Ancient Israel fits Modern America well. We have wandered from the Lord, and everyone does as they see fit, whatever they feel like doing.3 Love for the Lord and for our neighbors is very low in our land in 2020.
Even if we have not gone all the way to physically kill someone, Jesus teaches that human anger, insults, and hatred can be the first steps on the path to murder.4 And to our Holy God, inner bad attitudes are wrong, as well as the outward bad actions that put people in prison. Christ said, “From the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, all sexual immorality, theft, lying, and slander.”5 The rest of the New Testament says the same.6
Pastor Jack Miller summed up the Christian gospel like this: Cheer up; you’re a lot worse off than you think you are, but in Jesus you’re far more loved than you could have ever imagined.
Next, Hear God’s Good News
The bad news is real and we need to confess our transgressions to God. But listen to Jesus’ glad tidings:
When you were dead in your sins…, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having cancelled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us. He has taken it away, nailing it to Jesus’ cross.7
Now the Lord’s face shines on Christ’s followers like sunshine, bringing us God’s life, light, and love. Malachi prophesied that Jesus the Sun of Righteousness will rise with healing in His wings. And the Lord’s people will be set free, leaping with joy like calves let out to pasture.8 God has taken the initiative to restore us and wipe away the clouds and foggy mists of our offenses against Him. He has expunged these things from our record and given us the spotless righteousness record of Christ. This pardon can’t be earned. It is received by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in God’s Son alone.
We Must Return to God Our Redeemer
The second half of Isaiah 44:22 says: Return to me, for I have redeemed you. Redeem means “to buy back at a price” and that is how the Lord described His delivering the Hebrews from Egypt.9 That is also how the Lord describes saving Christians from sin’s penalty:
God has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son He loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.10
God the Father buys us back from Satan’s domain and brings us into Jesus’ kingdom and family, even though we do not deserve it at all. It reminds me of Christ’s Parable of the Prodigal Son. God still forgives people who have done all kinds of terrible things. In the parable, the father gives the repenting son a kiss, a ring, and a robe instead of a lecture. God the Father gives a party instead of probation. The elder brother is self-righteous and legalistic, but Jesus won’t allow that. He has the father say: “We had to celebrate and be glad, because your brother was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.” Christ says: Forget the hypocritical judging and bookkeeping. The name of the game from now on is God’s redemption and resurrection unto newness of life.11 Has the Lord done that for you?
One Take Away
If God has blotted out our sins in Christ, we must pass on the kindness. Colossians 3:13 says: Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.
To be continued
Notes (various translations): 1 Our Daily Bread, July 22, 2020. 2 Isaiah 59:2-4. 3 Judges 17:6; 21:25. 4 Matt 5:22. 5 Matt 15:19. 6 See Romans 3:9-20. 7 Col 2:14. 8 Mal 4:2. 9 Exodus 6:6; 15:13; Deut 7:8; 9:26; 13:5; 15:15; 21:8; 24:18. 10 Col 1:13–14. 11 Luke 15:11-32 and comments by Eugene Peterson.