Isaiah 1:16-31

Daybreak for Students

Isaiah 1:16-31

Isaiah 1
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. — Isaiah 1:18

Lionel B. Fletcher, an Australian evangelist who preached during the first half of the 20th century, exhorted on the treasures found in Isaiah’s writing. He said this of verse 18: “We have an interesting thought here of wool that has been scoured. There is nothing lovelier in the world than scoured wool. I have shorn many hundreds of sheep. I know what it looks like, clotted together with grease. When you buy a tube of lanolin at the chemists, you will see then what it is that is contained in sheep’s wool. At first the wool is dirty and matted together; you can almost squeeze the oil out of it. But look at the wool when it has been purified; when it has gone through the scouring process. Take it up in your hand, and it will run through your fingers like feathers, so beautiful and snowy in its whiteness. That is the picture here in Isaiah. The sinner’s heart is made like scoured wool.”

Those who have used fine woolen yarn for knitting and crocheting know the satisfaction of seeing, touching, or wearing an item cast from their hook or needle. The final product is not just a credit to the maker’s workmanship, but also to the caliber of the material used. The results would be much different if made of “unscoured” wool. In fact, there would be no results at all if the wool had not been scoured, for in its natural state, sheep’s wool is unusable for crafting a garment.

We too need to be restored before we can be used. God has no wish to abandon us as unusable, and so He says that though our sins are as scarlet, we can be transformed. What a wonder that we can come penitently to Him, deserving judgment, and instead receive pardon and cleansing (scouring)! Only in God’s economy can a sin-stained life be exchanged for an untainted one.

However, some action is necessary to accomplish this change. We must come to God requesting forgiveness and be willing to follow God’s instructions. God is faithful to save any who respond this way to His call.

Has God applied His “scouring” action to your life? If not, He invites you to come to Him today. If He has cleansed you, perhaps you know someone else who needs to come and become like scoured wool. Pray that God will draw that person toward His life-saving cleansing experience.


In Isaiah’s day, wool was often colored crimson using the dye of the scarlet worm, rather than chemically as is done today. Before giving birth, the female scarlet worm permanently attaches herself to a tree trunk, providing protection to the eggs she deposits under herself. Crimson fluid stains the female’s body as she dies. The dye from that fluid is absolutely colorfast and indelible.

The meaning of the word translated reason (verse 18) is “to decide a matter in court.” It was a legal term and indicated a call to judgment. Yet instead of judgment, verse 19 presented a conditional promise to the Children of Israel: “If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land.”

Isaiah effectively used comparisons and imagery. In verses 21 and 22, he compared God’s relationship to His people to the marriage relationship. Isaiah, a married man himself, was one of many messengers (prophets) in both the Old and New Testaments who were inspired to use this analogy. In verse 25, he used the imagery of dross or impurities being removed from molten silver, and in verse 30 compared Israel to a garden which had withered for want of water.

The oak tree mentioned in verse 29 has been used as a symbol of strength not only in the Bible but all through history. However, verse 30 pointed out that the oak’s leaf would fade. Israel made idols of wood and sacrificed to them in groves of trees. God wanted them to see this was a futile endeavor. In verse 31, “tow” is the term for the highly flammable flax fibers used as tinder to start fires. The point was that if the people continued in their wicked ways, they would be destroyed.

God inspired His prophet to use examples of everyday activities so that people could easily understand His message. He wanted them to see that they had committed evils worthy of judgment, and He wanted them to repent. Verses 16-19 clearly laid out the steps God wanted these people to take.


(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
II.    The message of condemnation: the Holy One of Israel provoked, rebuking and judging
   A.    Prophecies related to Judah
       1.    God’s arraignment of Judah
           b.    Jehovah’s invitation to Judah (1:16-31)
               (1)    The plea for repentance (1:16-20)
               (2)    The degradation in Judah (1:21-23)
               (3)    The promise of restoration (1:24-31)


  1. Israel sacrificed to idols in a grove of oak trees. What did God say about this?

  2. Name three of the positive steps God wanted Israel to take.

  3. Following God’s instructions given through Isaiah would have brought blessing to the Children of Israel. What steps can we take today to bring God’s blessing to our lives?


All of mankind comes into the world stained by sin. However, we are not permanently, indelibly spotted if we turn to God through His Son, Jesus Christ.