“All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.” Isaiah 64:6
The prophet Isaiah knew how to draw a crowd, didn’t he? Filthy rags, shriveled up like a leaf, swept away by sin…not the most encouraging sermon, is it? But God had a message for His people, and He appointed Isaiah to deliver it: Sin defiles the soul. Sin is dirty and filthy; and sin makes us dirty and filthy.
This is anything but a popular truth. Many want to believe that they are just good people who do bad things sometimes. But this is simply not biblical truth. And the most unloving thing we can do as believers is water down God’s wrath against sin or to try and make sin more palatable in any way. I do not mean to suggest that Christians should run around pointing out everyone’s sin. What I do mean, however, is that as Christ followers we must purpose to deal with sin truthfully and biblically – first in our own life, and also in the lives of others that God puts in our path.
Why is it so important to see the truth of how sin defiles? It is because this understanding awakens in us our need for a Savior. Why do you think God devoted centuries to the Old Testament practices of worship in the Temple, complete with rituals, feasts, and animal sacrifices when He Himself says in Psalm 51:16 that He does not take pleasure in sacrifices and burnt offerings, and in Hebrews 10:4 that it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sin? Why have His people worship in a way that was futile and powerless to save them? It was to show them, and the world, that no man, by his own might or will, can ever do enough, be enough, or give up enough to meet the righteous standard of God. Why? Because sin completely and totally defiles.
But wait! Don’t feel too sorry for old Isaiah. This isn’t the end of the story. This truth applies only to those who have not been washed in the blood of the Lamb through faith in Him. God had another message to send through Isaiah. In Isaiah 61:10 He says, “I delight greatly in the LORD; my soul rejoices in my God. For He has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of His righteousness…” That, my friends, was a prophecy of what was to come in Jesus. No more filthy rags, no more futile worship. Salvation was coming!
Yes, sin defiles…but Jesus saves. In Him we are new creations, no longer clothed in filthy rags but in His own righteousness. What a beautiful exchange!
God, thank You for the righteousness that You have given me in Jesus. You could have left me in the filthy rags of sin, but in Your kindness and grace You chose to seek me and save me, exchanging my filth for Your righteousness, my sin and shame for Your salvation. Help me to always remember who I am in You. In Jesus’ name, amen.