"Wash ye, be ye clean"

Chrysostom's interpretation of Isaiah 7:16-18

Forgiveness is a collaboration!

Dec 7/20 2012, 29th Thursday after Pentecost. Hebrews 7:1-6


Forgiveness is a collaboration! To ask forgiveness without repentance is a non-starter, and disobedient to God, Scripture, and common sense. We must remember this especially when attempting to be delivered from habitual sins. We may be making an incompetent effort, but without the effort, there is no forgiveness. The proper understanding of forgiveness from God is total cleansing - the eradication of sin, by the grace of God, in response to our effort and entreaty.


This is the meaning of St John Chrysostom's inspired words about Hebrews 7:1-3 (http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf114.v.xvi.html  - The Thursday reading, for the 29th week after Pentecost, is Hebrews 7:1-6)


[7.] For better were it to be defiled with unclean mud than with sins; for he who is defiled with the one, washes it off in a little time, and becomes like one who had never from the first fallen into that slough; but he who has fallen into the deep pit of sin has contracted a defilement that is not cleansed by water, but needs long time, and strict repentance, and tears and lamentations, and more wailing, and that more fervent, than we show over the dearest friends. For this defilement attaches to us from without, wherefore we also speedily put it away; but the other is generated from within, wherefore also we wash it off with difficulty, and cleanse ourselves from it. “For from the heart” (it is said) “proceed evil thoughts, fornications, adulteries, thefts, false witnesses.” (Matt. xv. 19.) Wherefore also the Prophet said, “Create in me a clean heart, O God.” ( Ps. li. 10.) And another, “Wash thine heart from wickedness, O Jerusalem.” ( Jer. iv. 14.) (Thou seest that it is both our [work] and God’s.) And again, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” ( Matt. v. 8.)

Let us become clean to the utmost of our power. Let us wipe away our sins. And how to wipe them away, the prophet teaches, saying, “Wash you, make you clean, put away your wickedness from your souls, before Mine eyes.” ( Isa. i. 16.) What is “before Mine eyes”? Because some seem to be free from wickedness, but only to men, while to God they are manifest as being “whited sepulchers.” Therefore He says, so put them away as I see. “Learn to do well, seek judgment, do justice for the poor and lowly.” “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: and though your sins be as scarlet, I will make you white as snow, and if they be as crimson, I will make you white as wool.” ( Isa. i. 17, 18.) Thou seest that we must first cleanse ourselves, and then God cleanses us. For having said first, “Wash you, make you clean,” He then added “I will make you white.”


The entire passage in Isaiah the Saint is interpreting bears repeating; it is very important, because in our modern, entitlement crazy and spiritually lazy age, very many people passively expect God to forgive them their sins. The Saint is teaching that this passage tells us the way to spiritual perfection, which is only possible is we strive to be clean (and put away evil, learn to do well, etc (vs 16,17), and then God, by His grace causes the perfection - we become "as white as snow".



"Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil;  (17)  Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow.  (18)  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.  (19)  If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land:  (20)  But if ye refuse and rebel, ye shall be devoured with the sword: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it." (Isa 1:16-20)




Priest Seraphim Holland 2012     St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas


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