-to be caught in the act of committing a misdemeanour, with the evidence there for all to see.
Sayings like this intrigue me. We all know what they mean but most of us have no idea where they came from. We all know that “caught red-handed” can be defined as “caught in the act” or “guilty” or “sloppy painter”. Where really did the phrase come from? Sifting through the fact and fiction of European history, “caught red-handed” likely originated from the land of kilts and bagpipes, Scotland. Scottish documents of parliament use the term as early as the fifteenth century simply to describe the deed of being caught in the act. A murderer caught with blood on his hands was quite literally “caught red-handed”.
What the Scots don’t know is that some guy named Isaiah had referred to the term “red-handed” several thousand years before they ever wrote their documents of parliament. Look what Isaiah has to say.
“Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD:”
- ISAIAH 1:18A
This verse comes in the middle of a chapter where God is lamenting the blatant wickedness and unfaithfulness as well as the hollow sacrifice worship that his beloved nation offered him. God was disgusted and frustrated, for good reason. He, after all, was and is the definition of perfection and he was in a love relationship with an adulterous generation. But look what we find there, the Lord proposes a debate to judge the people. He says “let us reason together” this word means “dispute”. So God proposes a debate of sorts. A debate is 100% about reason. Who best presents the soundest logic, wins. Our courts and judicial systems are built on the cornerstone of reason. A debate is 100% self-focused; to push your own agenda and beliefs. A debate is to find truth, or prove truth, for the purpose of enforcing truth. So it all sounds so legitimate, so democratic and fair. Nevertheless, God is not a God of strict legitimacy; and certainly not a God of democracy and fairness. Look what God’s opening statement is to the debate;
“…though your sins are like scarlet,
they shall be as white as snow;
though they be red like crimson,
they shall be as wool.”
- ISAIAH 1:18B
Isn’t that mind-boggling? Israel was caught red-handed. They had been caught in the very act of defying God’s law. In fact, every sin committed is caught red-handed by an all-seeing God. But God’s reason is absolutely stunning. Caught with blood splattered hands and faces, God offers to clean them; to wash them white. He recognizes the facts. To be caught red-handed is to stand no chance at all in the court of law. Hard evidence like that is nearly impossible to defend.
Fellow sinners, we too are caught red-handed. The evidence smeared all over our hands. Blood dried and caked on; running, always running, trying to not be caught. If we just let the Judge judge us, we will find ourselves clean. Washed whiter than snow; and whiter than wool.