The “Filthy Rags” Hoax Revealed
Am I wrong, or has the modern day church developed an aversion to obeying the commandments of God? It seems like whenever I talk of obeying (or even trying to obey) God’s commandments, people are all-too-quick to resort to commonly-used phrases like “You don’t want to be legalistic!” or my (not so) favorite:
“ALL OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS IS AS FILTHY RAGS!”
I’m just going to be honest with you. It really bugs me when people recite this verse in this way because, whether they know it or not, it cheapens and trivializes the value and importance of righteous acts.
I try not to let it get to me. I know that they are merely parroting the verses that they were trained to use by (usually) well-meaning people to faithfully defend their traditional interpretations. We’re all guilty of that from time- to- time.
Still… it gets under my skin. Here’s why:
They are “faithfully” taking this verse way out of context.
So, let’s look deeper, shall we?
But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.
Isaiah prophesied to an idolatrous, adulterous nation.
From the very start of the book of Isaiah, we find the prophet addressing a sinful, backslidden and idolatrous nation. Israel was meant to be a light to the Gentiles… a guide and example to those who would come to seek the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
But, instead of INFLUENCING the nations, they were INFLUENCED BY the nations.
Rather than obeying God’s command to completely avoid the customs of the pagan nations they displaced (as well as the surrounding nations), Israel stubbornly disobeyed and embraced them anyway.
These were the people Isaiah prophesied to – a people who would go through the motions of “serving” God through sacrifices and sacred feasts, only to unify themselves with pagan gods on the side.
Like a Husband to an Adulterous Wife
Just like a man views an adulterous wife who flatters him with empty words and deeds, so God viewed His people. Their token acts of affection and showy performance were about as valuable as a used menstrual cloth.
Indeed, they honored God with their lips, but their hearts were far from Him (Isaiah 29:13).
Righteous “acts” from an idolatrous people are repulsive to God.
To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me? saith the LORD: I am full of the burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts; and I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of he goats.
Here, we see our God, not expressing disgust for the feasts and sacrifices He had instituted long before, but viewing the “righteous acts” of worship from His people as something worthless and abominable.
In God’s eyes, adultery nullifies worship
According to the passage above, spiritual adultery (idolatry) in our hearts diminishes (or even nullifies) the value of our worship to the Most High. Even “extravagant praise and worship” will not impress Him, if we hold on to other “lovers” in our hearts.
“Other lovers” are all around us!
What were the “other lovers” in those days?
Why, they are the same “other lovers” we have today!
This statement is not “too extreme” – take a look around you!
The enemy has sowed his seeds everywhere, making it very difficult for the professing christian to live a normal life. It seems that one cannot partake in today’s culture and customs without being touched in SOME WAY by idolatry and paganism.
God’s View of Idolatry Today
Never has the Cry of “Come out from among them and be ye separate” been so strong! Let’s check out that verse in its scriptural context.
Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? And what agreement has the temple of God with idols?
There is a cost for not heeding this warning, people. Please pay attention!
But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.
Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.
These are New Testament Scriptures… and there are PLENTY more to be found in the Old Testament!
When the Day of Judgement (or your day of death) comes, the blood of Jesus will not save you if you are counted among those listed above (notice that idolatry is included in that list).
God offers a solution!
But wait – God offers the solution… in the Old Testament, no less!
Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil; learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow.
But look! He’s saying “Wash YOU, make YOU clean; [you] put away the evil of your doings from before my eyes…”
Man, that sounds like “Repent” to me!
God does not “reason” with the unrepentant – only with those who have “put away the evil”
God’s terms for their “reasoning together” were dependent upon whether or not the people actually repented!
Just wait… look at the following verses.
If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land; but if you refuse and rebel, you shall be devoured by the sword”; for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.
Many may think that, by teaching this, I espouse a “salvation by works” doctrine; nothing could be further from the truth! However, I’m a BIG FAN of believers acting like they’re saved!
Are you betrothed to the Messiah? Then STOP acting like a whore!… BTW: I’m speaking to myself here, too!
If you repent, turn to God and follow His commands… all-of-a-sudden, your acts of righteousness are no longer “filthy rags!”
Your righteous acts will clothe you
The Word says that your righteous acts will actually CLOTHE YOU in the age to come!
And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.
Do you actually think that you’re going to be clothed with “menstruous cloths” in the age to come?? Man, I hope not!!!
The “process” does not excuse sin
So the question that is probably rolling around in your mind is… “Do we have to be perfect?”
We are BEING CHANGED into His perfection – and, where we fail, His grace WILL come in and apply His righteousness to “fill in the gaps.”
But, let me ask this question… is that ever an excuse to sin (willfully or otherwise)?… EVER???
I hope your answer is a resounding “NO!”
So what do we do? Practice!!
You have to remember … PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT!
Little children, let no one deceive you. He who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous.
Listen, I may be a little too “straight forward” for some of you, but I’m not going to deceive you and tell you that “Jesus is our righteousness, so we don’t have to worry about obeying” or “You don’t have to obey God’s commands unless the Holy Spirit reveals them to you.”
People who believe this are deluded and ignoring a TON of Scripture.
And if you think the Holy Spirit is going to lead you WITHOUT telling you to follow God’s commands, you are way off the map.
Paul himself said:
But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.
I agree with Paul. We should constantly attempt, put forth effort, and strive to be righteous, just as He is righteous!
You PRACTICE righteousness BECAUSE you are saved!
By now, you should have a clearer idea of our responsibility, as children of the King, to obey His commands!
Does that scare you a little? That’s good!
It’s called “the Fear of the Lord!”
But take heart, Kingdom Child…
For a righteous man may fall seven times and rise again, but the wicked shall fall by calamity.
Don’t buy into the complacent, lazy mindset of the modern-day “church” that looks for any and every excuse to avoid “trying” to be like the Father that they profess to know!
DO acts of righteousness! Separate yourself from the world system while you’re doing them!
Your reward will be great in heaven, and when you look back, you’ll realize that it was His “grace” that enabled you to do it all along!