I (pastor Drew) have a love-hate relationship with spaghetti. On the one hand, spaghetti is delicious, and—as I discovered in my early 20s—nearly impossible to botch in the kitchen (though not impossible). On the other hand, spaghetti is a mess. Get a drop on your shirt, and you have mere moments before it becomes a permanent addition to the ensemble. Forget to clean a bowl, and the sauce transmogrifies into culinary plaster. Spaghetti is a mess. Point and case, now, as a father, my wife and I have a designated “spaghetti-bib” for our son. The spaghetti-bib is much like our son’s other bibs aside from covering the entirety of his body in a plastic shield. Spaghetti, as I’ve said, is a mess, and cleaning up a mess comes with a cost.
What holds in the case of spaghetti holds for messes of a very different sort as well. Long ago, the people of Israel made a mess of their relationship with God. God’s people broke their vows of servitude and loyalty and sought after other gods and pleasures. Eventually, God spoke through the prophet Isaiah a most terrible rebuke:
Oh sinful nation, people weighed down with iniquity, brood of evildoers, depraved children! They have abandoned the LORD; they have despised the Holy One of Israel; they have turned their backs on him (Isaiah 1:4).
In fact, the people of Israel had made such a mess of their relationship with God that He told them not to bother worshiping Him until they had cleaned up their act (Isaiah 1:11-15).
Yet as angry as God was, and as bad as Israel had messed things up, hope and mercy remained:
“Come, let us settle this,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are scarlet, they will be as white as snow; though they are crimson red, they will be like wool” (Isaiah 1:18).
God offered to Israel the chance for a clean slate. He would wipe away their sins and iniquities and remember their arrogance and treason no more. But Israel, as I said, was a mess, and cleaning a mess comes with a cost. In this case, the cost was high indeed:
Yet he himself bore our sicknesses, and he carried our pains; but we in turn regarded him stricken, struck down by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced because of our rebellion, crushed because of our iniquities; punishment for our peace was on him, and we are healed by his wounds (Isaiah 53:4–5).
You and I are born messy people. Moreover, cleaning up that mess comes at a hefty price. But the price of our forgiveness is not one we are asked to bear. On the shoulders of our Savior, the wrath of God came thundering down. The once-babe lying in a manger paid the price for our mess to make us white as snow. And white snow is, most certainly, the best snow.