Isaiah 1.18



1.   There is a word that has entered into the vocabulary of a number of our young people in the last couple of months.  It’s the word “parley.”

2.   Originally come into the English language from French about 600 years ago, the word “parley” refers to holding “an informal conference with an enemy under truce, as between active hostilities.”[1]  I want to speak to you this morning about God’s kind of “parley,” which is a bit different than our normal conception of a “parley.”

3.   Those of us who are a bit older remember the Paris peace talks that were held during the Vietnam War.  Those peace talks were most definitely not examples of what we normally think of as “parley,” because those discussions were extremely formalized and ritualistic diplomatic discussions, with both sides spending months haggling over the shape of the conference table that would be used, if you will remember.  As well, there was no cessation of fighting in southeast Asia during the Paris peace talks half a world away.

4.   What God’s kind of “parleying” has in common with this word “parley” that some of you have recently become familiar with, as well as with the Peace Talks that were conducted in Paris during the Vietnam War, is that two parties who are at war, two who are actively engaged in hostilities, two who are enemies, are sitting down to reach some type of agreement which will end the conflict.

5.   Please, make no mistake about the fact that you and God are at odds.  The apostle Paul points out that even he, one of the most religious Jews of his day, was among those who were God’s enemies prior to being reconciled to Him.[2]  Therefore, do not be so confident as to assume that you, too, are not also reckoned to be God’s enemy.

6.   Oh, yes.  Keep in mind that you are a child of Adam, and that by Adam “sin entered into the world.”[3]  So, what does that have to do with you?  By that one man’s sin you were made a sinner.[4]  Thus, you are not only a sinner by inheritance, you are also a sinner by personal choice and by continual practice.  You are so sinful that even your best efforts at doing good are no good in God’s eyes.  Scripture says, “But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags.”[5]

7.   That means you are condemned in the sight of God.[6]  It also means that the wrath of God abides on you.[7]  Finally, it means that the sentence imposed upon you because of your sinful nature and your sinful deeds is death.  “The wages of sin is death,” Romans 6.23.  The death which is spoken of in this context is not physical death, but spiritual death, an eternity of torment in the lake of fire.[8]

8.   To address the situation you now find yourself in, estranged by your sin from the God Who created you, having no hope and finding yourself without God in the world,[9] I want you to turn to the Old Testament book of Isaiah.

9.   “Isaiah has always been considered the greatest of the Hebrew prophets and is known as the evangelist of the Old Testament.”[10]  “The opening chapter of the book graphically illustrates the moral and spiritual condition of the degenerate nation at the time Isaiah began his ministry.  The nation, he warns, can avoid her inevitable judgment only if she, by genuine repentance, turns from her present course back to the Lord, who in vain invites the sinful people, ‘Come now and let us reason together,. . .though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.  If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land’ (1:18-19).”[11]

10. “Divine pardon, according to Isaiah, is conditioned on sincere repentance which manifests itself in the forsaking of sins and in righteous conduct.  Hence, the prophet admonishes the sinful people:  ‘Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil; learn to do well; seek justice, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow’ (1:16-17).”[12]

11. “The prophet condemns mere religious formalism divorced from right moral and ethical conduct (vv. 1-15).  In this Isaiah and his contemporary Amos are in accord, namely, that genuine religion and morality are inseparable.  The nation had come to believe that her punctilious attention to ritual and mere ceremonialism could atone for her sins however great.  Isaiah denounces her as ‘rebellious,’ ‘a sinful nation,’ ‘a people laden with iniquity,’ ‘a seed of evil-doers,’ ‘children that deal corruptly,’ whose ‘whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint,’ but who, nevertheless, continues in a perfunctory observance of religion, presumptuously assuming that this makes her acceptable before God.  It is from this outward formalism as well as sinful disobedience that the prophet seeks to call the nation.”[13]

12. Our text for this morning is verse 18 of Isaiah chapter 1.  Please stand and read along silently while I read aloud:  “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.”

13. Speaking pointedly to you here today who are not Christians, are you not sinners?  Are you not open to charges of religious formalism?  Do you not attend church without any real heart or soul worship of God?  Are you not laden with iniquity?  You young people, are you not children that deal corruptly?

14. For the next several Sunday mornings, if the Lord wills, I will make application of our text to you.  For our consideration this morning I would like you to focus your attention with me on the first portion of the verse, “Come now.”  “Come now . . . saith the LORD.”

15. There you sit, dead in trespasses and sins,[14] incapable of saving yourself from the punishment God has ordained for sins,[15] waiting for the end of your life and judgment day, laying up treasure for yourself while you are not rich toward God.[16]  Doomed you are, just waiting for your time to run out, like a man sitting on death row awaiting execution of his sentence.  But wait!  From God comes the demand to dialog.  “Come now.”

16. What is this demand from God to dialog?  Is it a request to “parley?”  It is something like a “parley,” except this is no request.  It is in another way unlike a “parley”; there is no cessation of hostilities.  What, then, do we have here?  What do these first two words in the verse tell us?  Five observations:



1B.    The Hebrew word translated “come” is a verb, a simple active verb.[17]  But it is also an imperative verb.[18]  But what is an imperative verb?  Imperative is defined as “of the nature of or expressing a command.”[19]  What we have here is a command issued to you.

2B.    Isaiah 53.6 declares, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way.”  And is that not an apt description of you?  You like to go your direction.  You want to do what you want to do.  Independent and autonomous is what you are.  Always standing apart.  Always off to the side.

3B.    You think it is your independent streak and your desire for breathing room that makes you the way you are.  You comfort yourself that you are just your own man, and no one controls you.  You are a free spirit, that’s what you are . . . you would like to think.  But I will tell you what the problem really is.  It is not that you are just your own man, or that you “do your own thinking.”  No.  “. . . your iniquities have separated between you and your God.”[20]

4B.    That is the real problem.  That is why you stand afar off.  And that is why you have been summoned by the command to “come.”  And make no mistake about it.  This verse is not a request.  This verse is not an invitation.  This verse is not a plea.  This verse is a command!  This verse is a demand!  Of course, your natural inclination is to rebel, is to refuse, is to reject . . . and to continue on your way to Hell.



1B.    “Come now . . . saith the LORD.”  It is one thing to mindlessly, habitually, unconsciously, routinely, automatically, robotically, instinctively rebel and refuse and reject the commands and demands that reach your ears.

2B.    Even when you comply with the commands and directives and orders given to you by those in authority over you, whether it be parents or teachers or employers or the police, you are still in heart rebellion.  It is possible to do what you are told with your body while resisting and turning away in your heart, is it not?

3B.    But keep in mind that this is not a summons from your mother.  This is not a summons from your father.  This is not a summons from the pastor or the police or the pope.  This is not a summons that is necessarily complied with by means of an obvious physical action.

4B.    This is a summons from God.  Did you hear me?  Are you listening?  It is God Who says to you, “Come.”  The psalmist wrote, “Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, thou understandest my thought afar off.”[21]  So, do you not think God knows what you do, and what thoughts are running through your mind, and what the condition of your heart is?

5B.    You have strayed far from God in sin.  You are prone to wander and go your own way.  Sometimes you drift away unconsciously, but at other times you make conscious and decided choices to go your own way, a way that is not God’s way.  But now you have been issued a summons.  You have now been given an order, and the directive, the demand, the command has come from God.  What will you do?



1B.    Let us be mindful of what God said in preceding verses:  “To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me? saith the LORD: I am full of the burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts; and I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of he goats.  When ye come to appear before me, who hath required this at your hand, to tread my courts?  Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination unto me; the new moons and sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with; it is iniquity, even the solemn meeting.  Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hateth: they are a trouble unto me; I am weary to bear them.  And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood.”[22]

2B.    Yes, He spoke those words to the people of Judea and Jerusalem.  But the reasons that evoked hostility toward them are the same reasons He is hostile toward you now.  A pretense of religion.  Prayers that are meaningless.  Even the most solemn attendance at public worship meetings is iniquity.  Understand that He wearies of you.  His patience wears thin.  It has come to the point that when you spread forth your hands He hides His eyes from you, and when you pray and pray He will not hear.  His soul hates the celebrations that you love.

3B.    I find it amazing that so many so-called Christians these days are so blind to what the Bible says about God, as if the God of the Old Testament is somehow a different God than the God of the New Testament.  Please understand that this One Who dwelt in the midst of the thunder and lightning on Mount Sinai, as He gave the Law to Moses, is the same God Who sits on His throne in heaven today.  This is the God Who visited a wicked world with the great Flood.  This is the God Who rained down fire and brimstone on Sodom and Gomorrah.  This is the God whose anger was kindled against Uzzah and smote him that he died for his error.[23]

4B.    This is the God of majesty and might.  This is the God Who is fearful and terrible.  This is the God Who inspires fear and trembling in all but the most stupid of men.  It is this God Who is your adversary.  It is this God Who is your enemy.[24]  It is this God Who has summoned you.  Will you obey?



1B.    God is not angry just to be angry.  He holds no hostility toward you for no good reason.  Though He is sovereign and in no way accountable to you or anyone else, this does not mean He is arbitrary.  There are reasons for His anger.  There is cause for His judgment.  There is rationale for His wrath.

2B.    You see, God is holy.[25]  When He created the universe and all that herein is He created it sinless and clean and pure, and then He pronounced that it was “very good.”[26]  But when Adam sinned he sinned against God and defiled God’s creation.  Being descended from Adam, you have inherited his sinful nature, which is inclined against God, and you commit sins against God and further contaminate His creation.  So, on both counts, God is wronged by you, personally, individually, responsibly.

3B.    It is not at all unusual for sinners to question and doubt the seriousness of their offenses against the thrice holy God, but there is a very easy way to evaluate the seriousness of your sins from God’s perspective.  Examine what punishment He meets out against those who sin against Him.  Determine what the punishments are for wronging Him.

4B.    What do you discover?  In both Ezekiel 18.4 and 18.20 we read, “The soul that sinneth, it shall die.”  And this death is not a reference to physical death, but eternal spiritual death in the lake of fire.  Did you notice that the seriousness of the sin was not mentioned?  The heinousness of the sin was not mentioned, either.  Nor was the damage caused by the sin referred to.  Just keep in mind that, since your soul has sinned, your soul will die.

5B.    Here is the reasoning:  To sin against God in any way is to sin against a being of such holiness, such majesty, Who is so magnificent and sublime, so high and exalted, that a crime of unimaginable seriousness, a crime of infinite criminality, a crime of infinite proportion is committed by sinning against Him in any way, demanding a punishment that suits the crime.

6B.    However, since no man can be punished with a punishment of infinite intensity, which would be suitable for such a crime as sinning against God, the punishment must therefore be a punishment of infinite duration to be a suitable and just punishment for the crime of sinning against God.  So, an eternal torment in the lake of fire is the only suitable, the only fit, the only proper, the only proportionate, the only just, punishment for sinners.

7B.    Ponder this when you consider your response to God’s summons, my friend.  God owes to you swift and sure wrath.  He would be good and righteous and just if He immediately, and without notice, opened the jaws of Hell to swallow you up, and commenced your eternal punishment right now.  And He could do that if He wanted to, since Proverbs 27.20 tells us that Hell is never full.  There is always room for one more sinner.

8B.    Therefore, when you consider what you will do, how you will respond, what your reaction will be, to this God Who summons you, Who is admittedly hostile toward you, and Who has been grievously wronged by you, it would be good for you to step lightly and do what He tells you to do.



1B.    Keep in mind that this is not just a command to “come.”  It is a command to “come now!”  To come later is not obedience.  To come when you decide to come is not obedience.  To come with reluctance is not obedience.  To come casually is not obedience.

2B.    When God, Almighty God, the Creator of heaven and earth, summons you to come, when you come and how you come is important, is significant, and determines whether or not you have obeyed.

3B.    It is also important that you obey intelligently.  Mindless religion is foreign to the Bible and obnoxious to God.  God is so opposed to mindless religion that when a sinner is converted to Jesus Christ, God sets upon the renewing of that person’s mind, so his mental capacities will improve.  “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.  And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God,” Romans 12.1-2.

4B.    I mention that you should obey intelligently because this summons from God is not a summons to Jesus Christ.  This may surprise you, but pay attention to what God is calling you to come to.  He is not calling you to reconciliation, for that is not possible with an unawakened sinner.  He is calling you to the place of preparation.  This is, to remind you, a demand to dialog.  If you will obey God’s demand to dialog, you will then be summoned to Jesus Christ.



1.   There is much confusion in the world today about what is needful for a sinner to get saved.  A great deal of the confusion would be cleared up if preachers would simply pay attention to what God says and to what Jesus says.

2.   Jesus does not call all sinners to Him, if the Word of God is understood to be without internal inconsistency.  He specifically said, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest,” in Matthew 11.28.  Thus, the sinner is first challenged to labor and be heavy laden by his weight and burden of sins.  Then he is called by Jesus to come to Him for life and cleansing and forgiveness.

3.   We find the same true in the text before us.  God is not, in Isaiah 1.18, inviting sinners to be reconciled to Him.  He is summoning sinners to a dialog of their sins. 

4.   If you will dialog with God about your sins, there is good promise that you will be reconciled to God through faith in Jesus Christ, your sins will be as white as snow, and they shall be as wool.

5.   The issue you before you at this moment, my friend, is not whether you will come to Christ, but whether you will obey God’s summons to dialog, whether you will parley the way God parleys with a sinner.

6.   As you sit there, you may be thinking to yourself, “What am I being summoned to do by God?”  My response is, that does not matter at this point.  What matters at this point is that you are being summoned by God.  Will you obey?  Will you respond?  Will you come?  It is an act of will that God wants from you at this point.  Will you, as an act of will, decide to obey God’s summons to come to the table to consider what He wants you to consider? 

7.   If the answer is “No,” then you cannot be saved from your sins.  If the answer is “Yes,” then you can be saved from your sins, and perhaps you actually will be saved from your sins.


[1] Webster’s New Universal Unabridged Dictionary, (New York: Barnes & Noble Books, 1996), page 1412.

[2] Romans 5.10

[3] Romans 5.12

[4] Romans 5.19

[5] Isaiah 64.6

[6] John 3.18

[7] John 3.36

[8] Revelation 20.13-15

[9] Ephesians 2.12

[10] Hobart E. Freeman, An Introduction To The Old Testament Prophets, (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1968), page 191.

[11] Ibid., page 192.

[12] Ibid., pages 192-193.

[13] Ibid., page 193.

[14] Ephesians 2.1

[15] Romans 5.6

[16] Luke 12.21

[17] John Joseph Owens, Analytical Key to the Old Testament, Volume 4, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1989), page 4, and J. Weingreen, A Practical Grammar For Classical Hebrew, (New York: Oxford University Press, 1959), page 100.

[18] Owens, page 4.

[19] Webster’s New Universal Unabridged Dictionary, (New York: Barnes & Noble Books, 1996), page 959.

[20] Isaiah 59.2

[21] Psalm 139.2

[22] Isaiah 1.11-15

[23] 2 Samuel 6.7

[24] Romans 5.10

[25] Leviticus 11.44, 45

[26] Genesis 1.31

Home   Sermons   Sermon Outlines   Christmas Outlines   Easter Outlines  Funeral Outlines   Who Is God?   God's Word   Tracts   Q & A  Missionaries  Feedback  Dr. Hymers' Website  

Order this sermon on tape: or Mail/Phone