“Come now, let us reason together,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool (Isaiah 1:18).”
Now here’s a name you don’t hear anymore: Scarlett. It of course was made famous by the novel and movie “Gone With the Wind.”
My guess is most native English speakers know that scarlet is a shade of the color red, although they may not know it by appearance. They may know its sister, crimson, better.
Wikipedia, that great online encyclopedia which I warn my academic students never to trust as a reliable source, has a variety of usages for the term scarlet. (Please note, though, that outside of academia, I consider Wikipedia a generally good starting point for fact checking.)
Scarlet is red, moving toward orange. In addition to crimson, it also goes by the names torch red, flame and fire brick.
As a cultural item, it has many representations. For example, it is used in academic dress in both the United Kingdom and the United States. The British “Redcoats” of the American Revolution actually wore scarlet tunics.
Children may know scarlet from their games and reading. The game “Clue” has a character called “Miss Scarlet.” The comic book character The Flash sometimes is called “The Scarlet Speedster.”
What actually drew me to the color recently was its usage in a familiar biblical story. The legendary tale concerns the fall of the city of Jericho to the ancient Israelites. The story is recorded in the second chapter of Joshua .
The Israelites had sent some spies to check out the land, and they were hidden by a woman named Rahab. She had heard what God had done for these people in bringing them out of Egypt. Rahab kept them from capture and lowered them down through a window of the city wall so they could escape.
In return for her kindness to them, Rahab asked the spies for protection when the Israelites conquered the city. The spies told her to hang a scarlet cord in the same window through which they escaped. This would be a signal to their own soldiers to avoid harming her and her loved ones.
The protection afforded Rahab by a ribbon with the shade of red made me think of the symbolism in it all: Jesus shed his blood, also a shade of red when it flows outside the body, so that our sins could be washed away by it. In essence, his red blood helped us escape our sins and their consequences just as Rahab’s scarlet cord helped her to escape the wrath of the Israelites. Indeed, the Scriptures tell us that the shedding of blood is a necessity for forgivness and cleansing (Hebrews 9:22)..
The old hym tells us that the red blood of Jesus turned my heart into another color, representative of purity:
What can wash away my sin?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.
What can make me whole again?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.
O precious is the flow
that makes me white as snow;
no other fount I know;
nothing but the blood of Jesus
His blood turned my flaming red soul, burning scarlet from my iniquity, into one that is holy white. If I were a Crayola Crayon, I would be called “Titanium White”.
Titatium is strong, yet light. It is corrosion resistant. The effect of the blood of Christ is similar. His blood is carried in my heart lightly, yet keeps it from wasting away because of the effects of sin.
Sin gave me a grievous heart wound (Psalm 109:22). Other people with the same kind of wound aren’t the answer to my healing. In fact, they may add salt to it.
How ironic that it is the crimson blood of Jesus which obliterates the scarlet sin in my heart. Red upon Red equals white.