This admonition comes from Isaiah 1:18, where the prophet says to Judah, “’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.’”
In the next two verses (Isa. 1:19, 20), Judah is given a clear choice to “reason” out. If they would be faithful to God, then they would enjoy all the blessings such obedience brings (Isa. 1:19).
However, if they chose to continue in their rebellion against God’s will, they would be the recipients of severe punishment (Isa. 1:20). Both verses state a condition, a choice that would result in specific consequences. Both before and after this choice is laid out Isaiah rebuked Judah for the wicked nation they had become.
The phrase, “let us reason together,” is translated from a single Hebrew word. Strong’s Hebrew Lexicon defines it as: “1 to prove, decide, judge, rebuke, reprove, correct, be right;” and the specific form of the word in Isaiah 1:18 (i.e. Niphal) as, “to reason, reason together.”
The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament defines this word as referring to “a covenant lawsuit.” That is, the case was being made against Judah for their “breech of contract” with God. They had broken the covenant that they entered into with Jehovah.
“Following a record of rebellion where Yahweh, the plaintiff, condemns Judah for their self-deigned religious festivals (1:10-15), Isaiah issues a call to repentance (1:16-20). Within this context then we should understand the expression ‘let us reason together’ … as meaning ‘let us debate our case in court’” (TWOT 865).
The only other times this word is used in the same verbal stem are in Genesis 20:16 and Job 23:7. In the case of Job, he is certain that an upright person could make his case before God and he would be vindicated.
It is clearly used in the sense of a courtroom argument to establish Job’s innocence in his suffering. In Genesis 20:16, Abimelech restores Sarah to Abraham with 1,000 pieces of silver as proof that he had not acted improperly toward her while she was with him.
The King James and New King James says she was “reproved” or “rebuked.” The word used, though, is more in the sense of “arguing” her innocence (cf. ESV).
In Isaiah chapter one, God lays out a case against Judah. He “takes them to court,” as it were, because of their breech of covenant. When Isaiah says, “let us reason together,” God is telling Judah to examine the case against them and make the necessary corrections.
If they would correct the situation, then they would be forgiven. However, if they continued in their rebellious course then they would suffer all the consequences their rebellion brought upon them.
There is a beautiful statement of grace and mercy in this passage. In this setting of a legal court case being brought against Judah by God, there was no way that Judah could stand before the court and argue for their innocence. God had thoroughly laid out His case against them and the truth of it could not be denied.
However, even though there was absolutely no way they could make the case for innocence, they could throw themselves on the mercy of the court. They could plead guilty and acknowledge their transgressions. They could put themselves in the hands of the Judge and accept His judgment.
If they would do that, what would be the outcome? Forgiveness!
We all find ourselves in place of Judah. None of us, no not one, can stand before God innocent of transgressing His will (Rom. 3:23). However, if we will acknowledge our guilt and repent, accepting His commands for our restoration, then He will forgive our transgressions (Acts 2:37-41).
None of us can say we’re innocent. But we can say we’re forgiven. Praise God for His wonderful mercy and grace!
Please join us as we study this wonderful passage from God’s word Sunday evening at 6 p.m. If you would like a free Bible correspondence course by mail, we would love to send that out to you upon request.
Norm Fields is the minister for the Church of Christ Northside meeting at 1101 Hogansville Road in LaGrange. He may be reached at 706-812-9950 or [email protected]