Skip to comments.Filthy Rags
Posted on 01/03/2010 8:02:52 AM PST by OneVike
"But we are all like an unclean thing, and all of our righteousnesses are like filthy rags." Isaiah 64:6
The Prophet Isaiah summed up the reprobate state into which God's chosen people had sunk. Though they had the blessing of the Law given to them by Moses, when he conversed with God on Mount Sinai, they had turned from their Lawgiver and become more wretched than the people who did not have the Law. God's chosen people were worshiping false gods. Isaiah 42:17 They were reveling in idolatry so much so that the prophet called Jerusalem a harlot that was as evil as the Sodomites. Isaiah 1:21 & 3:9.
Yet, the people had an illusion of righteousness. Many, especially the religious leaders who helped lead them into sin, professed to be "holier than thou," all the while burning incense on strange altars. Isaiah 65:3-2 However, God did not look upon their self righteousness as anything but pollution. He even told them He hated the Sabbaths and feasts that He had Himself ordained. Isaiah 1:13-14 The house of Jacob had rendered even its best acts of religious activity to nothing but apostasy in God's eyes. They were all unclean and dead like the leaves of fall, and their iniquities were like the wind that would cause them to be carried away. Isaiah 64:6.
How fitting it was for Isaiah to break into hyperbole calling such righteousness nothing but "filthy rags." What better way to call a nation into repentance, than to be brutally honest about the way they were living? In today's world, a declaration such as this would be received with such anger and indignation that many evangelical ministers would demand an apology. Many others would just dismiss such a statement as nothing but the ranting of some fundamental extremist. It must be understood, that this rebuke towards proud Judah, comes with the force of a thunderbolt. At least this is the way it should be taken when considering the context of the accusation.
It is said that "a text without a context is a pretext", and a pretext means we are searching for evidence to support our own understanding instead of searching for God's meaning. It is my opinion that many evangelicals look at this verse completely wrong. In this verse Isaiah is speaking of those who are unrighteous, not the righteous. What many evangelicals erroneously do, is claim Isaiah is saying that even his own works are nothing but filthy rags because he uses the word "our" when making the statement. So they will claim from their pulpits that even the works of righteous men are nothing but filthy rags because Isaiah counts his works with those of apostate Judea. By doing so, they demean the works of righteous men like Moses, Samuel, Daniel, Paul, John and even Isaiah who made the thunderous accusation.
Again, I must reiterate and say that, "a text without a context is a pretext." The reality of the fact is that when we uproot Isaiah 64:6 from its surrounding historical context we in essence make the epistle of James the most unintelligible book of the ancient world. If all the works of a righteous man were nothing but filthy rags, then James would in effect be saying "faith without filthy rags is dead" (2:20) and "a man is justified by filthy rags and not by faith only" (2:24) and "I will show you my faith through my filthy rags" (2:18) and "by filthy rags, faith is made complete." (2:22) Or that Christians would be enjoined to "stir up love and filthy rags." Hebrews 10:24 Also, Paul would be encouraging young men to be an example to others by "showing themselves to be a pattern of filthy rags." Titus 2:7 Then we have the lesson we learned about Cornelius who's prayers and alms came up for a memorial before God. God was pleased with His works, even before he was converted to Christ. Acts 10:4 Taken apart from all the other obvious passages that fit, this one alone should be enough to set the record straight about what God thinks of a righteous man's works.
The reality is that Isaiah is doing exactly what Daniel did years later when he confessed the sins of Israel as if he himself were the transgressor. Daniel 9:3-11 So, the passage should be considered in light of Israel's guilt as a nation and Isaiah is numbering himself among the covenant people. Though not every person is guilty of the gross sins of many, it must be noted that God punished the nation as a whole therefore Isaiah puts himself in the mix.
Imagine what is actually being said of our righteous acts under the cleansing of Christ's blood when we disparage, or at least downgrade, good works. It would be impossible to think of righteous acts as something filthy and, on the other hand, as something essential. How could filth be important or even desirable? Why would Christ judge the saints "according to their works" if He already considers our works to be repugnant? Matthew 16:27 In actuality we do the evil one's bidding by confusing the truth about Christian faith, and the works of righteous men.
If there is any lesson that could be taken out of context from this passage at all, it would be that those who are outside the Church cannot achieve works that are not filthy rags. We as Christians do what we do because we have a heart of stone that has been replaced by a heart of flesh, thus we love everyone, even those who do not return that love. Ezekiel 36:26 Just as Christ loved a lost and sinful world and died on the cross for all mankind, we as Christians, follow His example and do our works to please the Father not man. Matthew 5:16 That is the difference between works of righteousness and works of filthy rags, we as Christians are created in Christ for good works. So no man should say that the works of a born again Christian are filthy rags, because they are not.
The good works that God calls upon us to do, should be present in the life of whoever claims to be a spiritually reborn Christian. If these good works are not present, then the person in question is not a real Christian. Good works are a necessary symptom or sign of someone who has truly been saved or regenerated by the Holy Spirit. However, good works are not a prerequisite to that regeneration. According to God's perfect standards, it's impossible to be righteous, holy, discerning, or wise to perform what God calls good works until we are first born again and regenerated by faith through the blood of Christ. This is what James meant in his epistle when he wrote,
Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. James 2:7Finally, I'll leave you with this. I am reminded of the free soup kitchens that Al Capone set up in late 1929 for those who had been thrown out of work by the Depression. His soup kitchen served three free meals a day in an effort to sway public opinion in his favor. There are many men like Al Capone who do good deeds for selfish and ungodly reasons. However, without the blood of Christ to wash and cleanse them of their sinfulness, all their works are but filthy rags. Not so for the Christian who looks to Christ as his Savior. Just like Cornelius, our good works will come up for a memorial one day before God.
If you are unaware of who Christ is, or if you know who He is but would like to have a better relationship with Him, then all you need is a simple prayer and he will answer. There are no magic words or scripts to recite. There is but a simple few words you need say in your heart, "Lord Jesus", and "save me". If you are sincere, He will begin by giving you a new spirit and He will also replace your heart of stone with a heart of flesh.
I pray that those who have ears to hear will hear His voice and call upon the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen
I pray that every Freeper is blessed with Salvation, health, and prosperity this coming years. God bless you all.
This has been a message by Chuck Ness (OneVike) I will start putting my real name on all my work from now on.
please go to www.fhu.com to learn true prayer...”be still and know I am God”...it is not talking to God...pray uncessingly as the bible states is silent prayer without words...watch...as Jesus said in the garden. Then your whole life will come alive!
Thank you - that is a great post. May the Lord bless you and your family in the year ahead.
In choosing the term “filthy rags”, the translators of this passage have smoothed over and toned down the meaning of the text. The real meaning is something that is supposed to be more repulsive to God and man- like a used “sanitary napkin”, which in the context of Torah is unclean by every measure, physical and spiritual.
Very true, but could you have imagined the reaction of the Mod’s if I had used the title, “Used Menstrual Rags”?
OneVike you are in time out,
Go stand in the corner young vike.
today too much idol worship obviously and GOD is angry.
Point well taken. You quoted from accurately from the commonly used translations. My complaint is with the translator’s lack of courage to sometimes state things as powerfully as God originally did.
Point well taken. You quoted from accurately from the commonly used translations. My complaint is with the translator’s lack of courage to state things as powerfully as God originally did.
Again, I would have to agree with you. We live in such a pc world that I am often times castigated for using terminology that the Prophets of old would used frequently. They used such harsh language to drive the point home of how God saw their iniquities. However, so many today get upset when you use the original word for a donkey let alone the true description of the way God saw their unrighteous, self righteous works.
Get angry at sin, and you are accused of not loving your neighbor. Call sin, sin and you are called judgmental. compare false teachings to the works of Satan, and you are called legalistic. And this all by so called religious Christians who would rather not be judged.
I can write an apologetically laden message about any of a dozen topics and thousands will read my article. I write a devotional message that uplifts the soul and teaches God's precepts and maybe a few hundred will spend the time it takes to read it. We live in times similar to what Isaiah and Jeremiah likened to the days of Sodom and Gomorrah. The question is, can we stand in the face of evil and apathy that as they did and continue to tell the truth? Regardless of the damage our character will take in the eyes of the world, like Jeremiah, Isaiah and other Prophets of old did, we too must stand tall.
I care for the sadness I notice see in my wife's eyes, when she sees the attacks I take from secular Christians. Attacks that come when I speak the truth's of God's Words. However, God does want His message heard, so I must balance the pc worlds expectations with God's. It and it is a fine line, and while it is a line I will always balance in the favor of God, it is a line never the less.
Please allow me to seriously inquire of these scriptures:
 Jesus went unto the mount of Olives.
 And early in the morning he came again into the temple, and all the people came unto him; and he sat down, and taught them.
 And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst,
 They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act.
 Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou?
 This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not.
 So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.
 And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground.
 And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.
 When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee?
 She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.
He instructed her to do what is not possible on the face of it. Could it be that there is another teaching in the words of these scriptures? I have my own thoughts and am curious as to the thoughts of others that surely walk closer to the Lord than I.
Looking for input...
A lifelong sticky wicket, seems to me, in my experience.
Will prayerfully ponder and return . . . after some other efforts.
A filthy monthly rag, literally, in the original language.
He instructed her to do what is not possible on the face of it.
The context was the specific sin the woman was engagining in willfully and repeatedly. "You know what I just caught you in the midst of? Knock it off."
BTW, in the original Aramaic, she uses a very specific title when addressing Yeshua. The term is "MarYah". In Greek, a similar term (Kurios Ibsous) can be interpreted as Lord or King, but in Aramaic, there is no equivocation. She basically said "Lord God Almighty Jesus".
This is a statement that could only be made at the time through the direct intervention of the Holy Spirit in the woman's life. A perfect time for Yeshua to give her this instruction.
Thus endeth today's lesson. :-)
Thanks for the Ping! I don’t often get a chance to say “Thank You” to your pings as I’ve started a new job, moved to Texas, and am teaching on Galatians once a week. This week’s ping caught my eye since... well, I’m teaching Galatians :)
Thanks again for your articles, and keep on being un-PC. Without the full force of the Gospel — Jesus just becomes another self-help expert with some snappy stories.
I think you are quite right.
I guess the challenge for me is . . . we all have had habits, addictive behaviors, besetting sins, strongholds . . .
we are all weak to powerless to fix ourselves . . .
ONLY GOD, CHRIST’S BLOOD, FIRE OF HOLY SPIRIT CLEANSES AND DELIVERS, imho.
How do we facilitate that deliverance, cleansing, . . . how do we cooperate most that we GO AND SIN NO MORE?
I don’t have a fool proof answer. If you have one, I’d love to avail myself of it.
The best that works for me is to TAKE EACH THOUGHT CAPTIVE TO THE PERSON AND WILL OF JESUS ASAP—AT THE FIRST HINT of a wrong thought.