When We Fall Short
"Come now, let us reason together," says the LORD. "Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool." Isaiah 1:18
It was not without some scientific basis that the prophet Micah, some seven centuries before Christ, exclaimed, "Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance?" Micah believed that God would have compassion and would "hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea" (Micah 7:18-19).
Only in recent years have scientists—chiefly oceanographers and hydrologists—come to appreciate the depths of the ocean floors. We do know that almost without exception, where there is no light, there is no life, and the deeper you go beneath the surface of the ocean, the more difficult it is, not only for humans to survive, but for anything to survive.
Nahum said that God pardons our sin, and because of His compassion, He hurls our sins into the depths of the sea. The Mariana Trench is among the deepest part of the ocean floor, but I would hardly expect to find my sins there. No. It was a picture, a beautiful one, which the prophet gave us to help us understand that when God forgives, the issue is settled, finished, never to be discussed again.
No matter how good you are or how evil you are, sooner or later you face the issue of finding acceptance before the Almighty. Does forgiveness come because of what we have done, or is it because of what Christ did, which God credits to us, as the Bible contends?
That is the issue! It was also the issue which confronted one of our Guidelines listeners who ended up in prison thinking that for him, life was finished. Let me quote his letter. "I was arrested on September 13, 1993. At the time I was looking at, the very least, 36 years in prison. I contemplated suicide and even went so far as to write my mother a suicide note. Then I found a pocket-sized New Testament Bible and began reading Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. I had never read a Bible before and although I didn't know what I was reading, I knew it was about Jesus Christ. Then some Christians came into my jail cell, and I was baptized in the Holy Spirit and all my suicide thoughts vanished. And I told God that I was a sinner, and I deserved all the years they wanted to give me. I thank the Lord so much for bringing me out of the miry clay and making me a vessel of honor. Before I made Jesus Christ my Lord and Savior, I never had anyone tell me what Jesus Christ did for me." And the letter was signed, "A brother in Christ."
This issue of falling short of God's expectations, of missing the mark, of going astray, or turning your back on God and what you know is right, is what the Bible describes as sin. We are all afflicted with the disease. Isaiah put it, "We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all" (Isaiah 53:6).
"Too easy!" you may be thinking. "Isn't there something I must do?" we ask. The simplicity is profound. Isaiah says (1) We turned our back on God and chose our own devious ways, but (2) God sought us as a shepherd looks for lost sheep, and (3) He forgives our sin in response to our plea for help, and then (4) He walks with us as a shepherd, guiding us into the green pastures.
A word of warning: The simple things are never easy. The real issue isn't all the heathen over there but the darkness of my own heart within. The most difficult thing is to acknowledge your personal need and to realize that the solution is still the grace of God bringing forgiveness and restoration.
Resource reading: Isaiah 53.