Today I was rereading lesson 7 in the Beth Moore study, Breaking Free: Making Liberty in Life a Reality in Christ. This lesson is on obedience. Psalm 119:105 was part of the lesson’s reading. “Your word is a lamp to my feet, and a light to my path.” She reminds us that in this couplet the first part, “lamp to my feet”, speaks of the present step- this moment. The second part, “a light to my path”, speaks of the immediate future, the steps just ahead of us. God’s word is designed to give us guidance for now and the immediate future. And, of course, God tells us what the ultimate goal is. But there is so much uncharted territory between our immediate future and the ultimate goal that we can’t see. Her point is that we must trust God and stay in His Word each day.
Also, this past week as I was reviewing another lesson in this series, I was directed to Isaiah 1:18, one of my favorite scriptures. I don’t remember what the lesson’s specific point was on this verse, but one thing that God had shown me a while back was that in this couplet, too, there is a subtle but important difference. In the first one, He says “though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be like snow.” “Be like snow”. Snow is white, clean, and pristine (at least when newly fallen!). But, it is only a covering, not a true change. The second couplet says “though they be red like crimson, they shall become like wool.” Wool is more substantive than snow in its whiteness. I had pondered why God would give two metaphors here. As I have meditated on this, it has seemed to me that He is giving us metaphors for the two kinds of righteousness that we as Christians receive.
First, when we believe in Jesus, we receive imputed righteousness, the righteousness of Christ, put upon us and through which God now views us. It’s a covering for our sin, in the same way that snow covers the landscape, but doesn’t change what lies beneath.
Then, if we are obedient (and the scripture from Isaiah 1 goes on to talk about the necessity of and benefits of obedience!), then we receive a second kind of righteousness, imparted righteousness, that is truly a transformation of our sinfulness. We “become like wool”.
While much of the Bible is quite poetic and beautiful in its phrases and words, they are not there merely to sound pleasing to our ears. They are there to tell us something about God’s character and interactions with His people or about ourselves. We need to pay attention to subtleties as we read, especially if the Holy Spirit is prodding us to deeper curiosity and study about something specific in the Bible.