But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags. And we are all do fade as a leaf and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.
Wow, this verse it tough to remember. I think it is because I have heard so many translations of it…and for a long time I thought it ended at the word “rags!”
Let’s take a look at it and see if that helps us memorize it! Many evangelists will tell you that this verse should be a memory verse for evangelizing. The first half basically calls us unclean, and compares our righteousness to filthy rags. What this is saying is that in God’s eyes, even the things we do which seem to be “right” (or quite possibly do, in a literal sense meet the requirements of the law) are nothing more than a filthy rag to him. Why is this? Because our hearts are deceitful and wicked, (Jer 17:9). Even the things we do that seem “right” are not done out of a pure heart and a love for God. Our righteousness, when it comes from ourselves is abominable to Him. Any self-sufficiency we have is downright insulting to the One who holds all things together and provides all. To believe that we have anything inherent in ourselves to impress God with is unreasonable and, in fact, punishable by death…for it is sin.
Think of the folly of this line of thinking: Do you ever think God looks down at a large skyscraper or a strong weightlifter, or billions of dollars in a bank account and thinks, “Wow, that is impressive!” Certainly not! It’s absurd to believe that the Creator of all would be impressed with anything at all that creatures do! The God that accepts human offerings of sacrifice or religion is an idol, created by the minds of men who deny truth in unrighteousness (Romans 1:18). Reason with me, please! If there is a god, he could not be coerced or moved by human will, else he would not be God! And there is a God – and He is not compeled by men! He wills and does as he pleases! (Eph 1:4-5)
How about the second half, maybe that tempers the previous haunting thought a bit…we all do fade as a leaf? What? This sounds like we are considered weak, and dying vessels. Our iniquities (sin, lawlessness) take us away like the wind takes away a leaf. Think about this, leaves don’t even FIGHT against the wind. I don’t think I am taking the analogy too far by saying we are no different when it comes to SIN before coming to a relationship with God through Christ. How powerless we are! Keep in mind who controls the wind and has power over weather! (Luke 8:24). Even in Job 1:12,19, you can see that it is the Lord who grants that power to Satan if He sees fit to bring Him glory that way.
What a pride-crushing concept! How can a man ever please God then? By being brought In Christ, by the Holy Spirit. When His righteousness is what shines through us (Mt 5:16, 2 Cor 4:6-7) we cannot help but please Him, because He is perfect, and He is always pleased with Christ, and only with Christ.