We are going to learn a lot as we journey through Isaiah together. These short verses today are sandwiched between the words of judgment proclaimed by the Lord. This image of being white as snow or wool has always been powerful for me. As I sit here, now living in Mexico, it strikes me it has been a long time since I have seen snow. Most of my Mexican friends have never even seen snow in person, so the power of this verse may not be fully grasped.
I can still vividly remember white knuckle driving on country roads in Iowa during my commute in the winter. This Iowa girl does not miss snow one little bit! But when it comes to this verse, I am taken back to a time when I could be nestled safely inside a warm house, looking out at the vast fields of white, glistening in the sun. That snow was so white it almost hurt your eyes to look at its gleaming. That is the image I think of when I imagine my sins being cleansed by a loving God.
I don’t want to rush past the beautiful conclusion to the last book of the Bible. The promises of these few verses are immense. God has an amazing future planned for us. In these opening verses we read that our new community, the New Jerusalem, will be “like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.” We have all been wow-ed by a bride on her wedding day as she cascades down the aisle to her groom waiting at the altar. So much preparation has gone in to that moment.
So, too, God is preparing for the moment of his great reveal. He is waiting for the perfect time for all those he has loved so much from a distance to finally be brought into his presence. There is no way to truly express the beauty of this elaborate moment when God’s extravagant love for us is fully revealed. We just don’t have the words to fully describe the majesty. It is the precious moment when the time comes for “God himself will be with them.” With us. Don’t rush past this image. God himself! With us!
We’re starting to see a pattern in Jesus’ messages to the churches. Today we learn what he wants to tell the church in Pergamum. He comes to them as a sharp two-edged sword. You may recall a similar reference to the Word of God in Hebrews 4:12 and Ephesians 6:17. The Word is Jesus, as John opens his gospel. Jesus is truth. Therefore, the Word is truth. We’ll see a focus on standing strong on the Word of God in today’s message.
Jesus commends these people for standing strong despite the evil surrounding them, tempting them. That can be hard. We can probably identify with what it feels like to see messages in the world that are contrary to our Christian values and beliefs. We see how what we hold dear can be trampled on and made ugly by people’s own misunderstandings. It can be difficult to stand strong for God in the face of hostility or fear. Usually, we encounter the fear of not being accepted. Do we ever avoid tough conversations so that we can be “politically correct?”
When I think of a song, my mind goes first to the tune. Then I focus on the lyrics. When both the tune and the lyrics are powerful, the song is so much more memorable. Moses’ song appears to be lyrics only. The tune can always be added later. Isn’t it amazing how you can remember lyrics from songs you learned as a kid? I am always amazed when my husband, David breaks into song, only to find out it’s a song from the 60’s or one he played in a garage band back in the day.
God was brilliant when he had Moses write down a song to help the people remember. It’s a great learning tool. I’ve learned many Bible verses that way. Put them to a melody. As a worship leader, I’ve also learned many songs along the way only to find out later as I’m reading through the Bible that it was Scripture I was singing. I love those a-ha moments!
This whole idea of being unclean seems a little foreign to us today. It would be easy to say being unclean is when people need a shower or forget their deodorant. We may even picture a vagrant on the street who hasn’t changed their clothes in weeks. But in Biblical terms, being unclean was a state of being “unworthy” of being in God’s presence due to some circumstance, action, or lack of action, etc. When you were unclean, you were not allowed access to God and often shunned by the community.
It was interesting to see the different things that Moses declared deemed you unclean. Eunuchs, illegitimate children (and their descendants), Ammonites and Moabites (and their descendants), and men having wet dreams. This was the short list. Clearance and exclusion from this list were the Edomites and Egyptians. But the Ammonites and Moabites were also distant relatives of the Israelites, being from the family of Lot (Abraham’s nephew). But the promise to be God’s people was given to Jacob, several generations beyond.