“I alone, I am He, who for his own sake wipes out your transgressions, who will remember your sins no more”.
Isa 43:25 NEB
It is sometimes taught today that the idea of sin is old-fashioned and unhelpful. Modern praise-songs seldom use either the word or the idea. God is, like us, “a jolly good fellow”, and when we meet to worship we all get along fine being jolly together. We can happily ignore the horrendous crime rate, the breakdown of family life, the destruction of human bodies and minds by drug addiction, the carnage on the roads often aggravated by drunkenness, and the sexual abuse of children, human trafficking and the spread of pornography.
The sins Isaiah listed in his message of comfort to the exiles in Babylon were largely failures and disloyalty in worship and disobedience to the regulations for sacrifices. But they were deeply offensive to a holy and loving God. And they were at the root of the loss of community life in Israel before the exile and their loss of national life was attributed to this breakdown in worship. Whilst we often assume that the Old Testament is about law and more law, Isaiah points us to the gospel of God’s true heart – forgiveness, cleansing and reconciliation.
It was at the heart of Christ’s gospel as well. When they brought to him a woman taken in adultery, wanting to stone her to death, he said that those who were without sin should cast the first stone. No one did. In fact they all just disappeared. Then, looking at her with holy love, he declared, “I do not condemn you either. Go, but do not sin again” (Jn 8:11 GNB). He did not minimize the sin. He forgave it.
Lord, let your redeeming love cleanse and heal us all.