Monday, March 17, 2014

Wrestling With the Familiar

Five months into life as a newlywed, I left a lonely husband at the airport terminal so that I could attend a professional conference in Austin, Texas.  My trip only lasted a few short days, but during that time, my husband got the hair brained idea that he should wash all his clothes in order to make my job easier when I returned. 

Unfortunately, the poor man had zero experience with separating lights from darks, and so, he never imagined the dangers of adding bright red socks into a full load of white laundry.  Worse, once the damage was done, he didn't know stuffing those clothes (including the two wet, red socks) into a hot dryer was the next worst thing he could do.

As you may imagine, I returned home to find all the white underwear tie-dyed a mottled pastel pink, their hue heat set.  Permanently.

In the end, he sheepishly wore those pink Hanes until they wore out.  Little did I know that with children in my future, this would merely be the first of many experiences with inadvertently dying fabric.

An infamous verse in Isaiah speaks of our sin as dyeing our souls: "'Though your sins are as scarlet, They will be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They will be like wool"

I know.  This is a verse well known to most Christians. But immediately before this part, the first words of this verse read, "'Come now, and let us reason together,' Says the LORD" (v. 18).  With those words, God is stating that He wants us not to mindlessly do as we are told.  Instead, His desire is that we wrestle with His words so that we comprehend and obey based on an understanding and true desire of the soul to obey, not because of mere tradition or religiosity.

These words mean God wishes us to wrestle with the common words we may have had before us our entire lives.  With the familiar, we are to pause.  To reread.  To study what we believe ourselves to already know.  To approach Scripture with the intent to learn what more God has for us to know in the common everyday language we have already committed to both and mind and heart.

In the above verse, it initially looks like God is repeating himself, giving two different words for red--scarlet and crimson.  Yet, since we know God does not waste words, either the two words hold different meanings or He is using emphasis for a reason.

"Scarlet" dye was created from "the insect 'coccus ilicis', the dried body of the female yielding colouring matter from which is made the dye used for cloth to colour it scarlet or crimson"*

According to Matthew Henry, this word scarlet denotes  "a deep dye, a double dye, first in the wool of original corruption, and afterwards in the many threads of actual transgression; though we have often dipped into sin, by many backslidings; yet pardoning mercy will take out the stain."

The concept of our sin being "double dyed" seems to be reflected in God's double use of words for "red," emphasizing just how permanently we are stained by sin in His eyes such that nothing we can do could ever release us from that stain.  

What I find most interesting, though, comes from Henry Morris' Biblical Basis for Modern Science.  Morris explains further the tern scarlet as it is created by the coccus ilicis insect:

"When the female of the scarlet worm species was ready to give birth to her young, she would attach her body to the trunk of a tree, fixing herself so firmly and permanently that she would never leave again. The eggs deposited beneath her body were thus protected until the larvae were hatched and able to enter their own life cycle. As the mother died, the crimson fluid stained her body and the surrounding wood. From the dead bodies of such female scarlet worms, the commercial scarlet dyes of antiquity were extracted. What a picture this gives of Christ, dying on the tree, shedding his precious blood that he might 'bring many sons unto glory' (Hbr 2:10)! He died for us, that we might live through him! Psa 22:6 describes such a worm and gives us this picture of Christ. (cf. Isa 1:18)" (Morris 73).

Knowing how two red socks transformed one load of laundry, I have long looked at this verse differently.  Yet, now that I have wrestled to understand how "double dyed" I am by my sin and how scarlet dyes were created in Bible times, I am even more in awe of how impossible it is for me to be "white as snow" without Jesus' sacrifice.

It makes me wonder what more God will teach me the next time I encounter this same Scripture.

*Blue Letter Bible Lexicon

No comments:

Post a Comment