“Come now, and let us reason together,”
Says the LORD,
“Though your sins are as scarlet,
They will be as white as snow;
Though they are red like crimson,
They will be like wool.
One of the questions that arises when reading this verse is that while it sounds like it might be a good idea to come and reason together with God, how do we have such an exact and intimate conversation? How do we know that we are hearing from God? The verse implies that we can ask questions and express skepticism and there will be a high degree of responsiveness. Of course we can say, “My sheep hear my voice” (John 10:27). Or that prayer is a two-way endeavor (Ephesians 1:18). Or that God wrote a whole book, the Bible (2 Timothy 3:16). I agree with these things. But I get the feeling that when Jesus said that His sheep hear His voice, maybe He was talking to the people He was actually standing with. And when I pray, I could be imagining God’s responses and thus am being led astray by my own thoughts and desires. And we all know that people can read whatever they want into the Bible – look at all the various cults and schisms and splits and “isms” in the church! So how do I know that I am reasoning with God? Isaiah 1:18 says that we should come and reason with God Himself, not the church, not the Bible exactly, and certainly not my flawed idol of God. How do we do this? How do we know that we are hearing God’s own genuine trustworthy responses?
The clue is right in the verse. God is going to reason with us about our sins, that they will be forgiven. Our sins are equated with deep red dye, like blood. All of the book of Isaiah is giving us a clue: the good and righteous and holy judgment of God leads inexorably, even through long stretches of history, to Christ and Him crucified for us. This is His perfect and utterly trustworthy Word to us. It is His response to everything. The cross is truly the very finger of God writing on the stone of history. It is His answer to the problem of evil in the world: He hates it. It is His wrath against sin. It is His way of saying – no, no one will ever “get away with it.” It is His perfect example. It is His perfect expression of perfect standards. It is His redeeming grace and forgiveness. It is utterly unconditional love. It is justice perfectly expressed, and mercy richly given. It is God Himself walking the walk and not just talking the talk.
So how do we know we are hearing from God? Prayer and Bible reading are not enough. Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons pray and read the Bible. Muslims pray and read their holy book. How do we know they are wrong, if they also do what we do to hear God – pray and read the holy writ? We hear and read amiss if we do not hear and read from the perspective of faith in Christ and Him crucified. If we hear Jesus’ voice, we hear amiss if we hear only wrath or only fluffy unicorn love – we are hearing the voice of Him who died for our sins. When we pray, we pray amiss unless we pray to the God who died for our sins and rose from the dead to excitedly tell us that it worked. If we read the Bible, we read amiss if we do not look for Christ and Him crucified at the heart of it. Christ and Him crucified is the true just and merciful voice of God which answers every doubt and pours forth revelation upon every person forever.