Started in on Isaiah this morning. No beating around the bush with this prophet. No “setting up” what’s to come. Nope, he comes out of the gate fast and furious. Decrying rebellious children (Isa. 1:2). Calling out a “sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity” (1:3). Quickly diagnosing the problem, “the whole head is sick, and the whole heart is faint” (1:5).
Religious but rotten. Vain offerings (1:13a). Sacred assemblies infected by systemic sin (1:13b). Enough to weary an omnipotent God (1:14b).
And so, through His prophet, God calls His rebellious children to repentance. Beckons them to turn back to Him, to come and “reason together.” Promising them a way in which sins like scarlet can be white as snow; “though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool” (1:18). A way made possible by a gracious God, but only accessible if “you are willing and obedient” (1:19a).
Then, the prophet turns his attention to the city. Jerusalem. Zion. A composite portrayal of individual pride and rebellion. A collective whole demonstrating the effects of sin. Once a faithful city, now “a whore”. Once the dwelling place of righteousness, but now an inn for murderers. Once shining as precious silver, now dull and compromised by deep rooted impurities. No collective conscience. No awareness of justice. Widows left to languish. (1:21-23).
And what captures my attention this morning is the LORD of host’s remedy for this unfaithful city.
“I will turn My hand against you and will smelt away your dross as with lye and remove all your alloy. And I will restore your judges as at the first, and your counselors as at the beginning. Afterward you shall be called the city of righteousness, the faithful city. Zion shall be redeemed by justice, and those in her who repent, by righteousness.”
(Isaiah 1:25-27 ESV)
Smelt away your dross. Remove all your alloy or, more literally, your tin. Dross and tin. That’s what I’m chewing on this morning.
Before God can restore justice, before He can re-establish righteousness, before the city could be faithful again, the LORD turns up the heat and deals with the dross and the tin. Revealing the impurities, removing the hypocrisies.
Bringing to the surface the deep-rooted scum of sin so that it might be removed. Exposing the fake piety of intertwined religion and idolatry; the weak alloy of sacred appearances mixed with worldly affections. Removing the tin which, though possessing a somewhat shiny appearance, has none of the properties or realities of silver able to reflect the glory of God. Having dealt thus with the dross and the tin, God is able to restore judges and counselors, justice and righteous wisdom.
And I’m thinking that what God said He would do in ancient Jerusalem is still operative, even in today’s church. Permitting times when the heat is turned up in order to deal with the dross and the tin. The impurities and the hypocrisy. The secret sin and the facade of righteousness. Searching the soul, knowing the heart, testing the thoughts, in order to expose and deal with the “grievous way” so that He might lead us “in the way everlasting” (Ps. 139:23-24).
Redeemed by justice, the justice of the cross where Christ, once for all, atoned for our sin — paying the price we could never pay to remove the dross. Redeemed by righteousness, the righteousness that comes by faith. True righteousness, not tinny self-righteousness. Christ’s righteousness credited to our account. God’s righteousness becoming more of who we are through the Spirit’s sanctifying work. Authentic, enduring righteousness replacing the dross and the tin smelted away and removed by God’s loving discipline.
Don’t like the heat. But wanting the doss and the tin to be dealt with.
And that too an evidence of His abounding grace. Tested and purified for His everlasting glory.