All Our Righteous Acts Are Like Filthy Rags

64: 5-12

   DIG: Why do the Jews realize that they must confess their sin before Jesus can return? Why does the faithful remnant need mercy? What is the difference between mercy and grace? How does Israel confessing her sins in 59:1-15a parallel her confessing from 63:7 to 64:11?

   REFLECT: Was there a time when all your righteous acts were like dry leaves or filthy rags because you lacked humility or did not call upon the name of the LORD? What did you do? In that case, what hope do you have that He will relate to you with mercy and grace (Rom 3:21-26)? Learning from Isaiah, choose one area of your own prayer life, which might benefit from attention: repentance, faith, zeal, relationship, boldness, humility, contentedness, or concern for God’s honor. How will you strengthen this area?

    These verses contain Isra'el’s prayer at the end of the Great Tribulation that brings about the Second Coming of Yeshua Messiah. The actual words of this prayer are found in four key passages of Scripture, first, in Psalm 79:1-13, secondly in Psalm 80:1-19, thirdly in 53:1-9, and 63:7 ending here. Isra'el will finally recognize her hopeless condition. The spiritual scales fall from her eyes and she will see that it was ADONAI bringing her to a place where she could no longer rely upon the antichrist or herself, but instead, the only place left for her to look was up - to Him.

    You come to help those who gladly do right, who remember Your ways (64:5a). Come is in the perfect tense, showing a future action so certain, that Isaiah views it as already taken place. The believing remnant now remembers that God’s favor in the past was based upon their righteousness (Deut 28). But instead of being righteous, Israel confesses that she had continued to sin against God’s ways. And because of her great sin, which continued for centuries, God was justifiably angry (64:5b).

    So they ask the question: How can we be saved (64:5c)? The answer is of course, to confess their sin and to cry out to the LORD for mercy (64:8-12). They see themselves as totally unclean. All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags (64:6a). Unclean was the leper’s cry. It spoke of unfitness for the fellowship of God, and exclusion from His people (Leviticus 13:45). The word filthy here indicates rags that soak up menstrual blood. Bodily fluids were considered a defilement, because they were the outflow of a sinful, fallen human nature. They will see themselves as very mortal at the end of the Great Tribulation. We all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away (64:6b). Just as an old, dry shriveled up leaf is helpless before the wind, so we can be held captive by sin and are no more able to choose our direction than a leaf in the wind. The sin seems to take on a life of its own (James 1:13-15). We think we can control it, but it ends up controlling us. Even worse, it cuts us off from God. The Psalmist declares that the wicked are like chaff that the wind blows away (Psalm 1:4).

    They also admit that no one calls on Your name or strives to lay hold of You (64:7a). The evidence of their hopeless condition will be that no one is even concerned enough about their spiritual condition to cry out to the LORD for help. Finally, they understand that God has hidden His face from them, and made them waste away because of their sins (64:7b). Rabbi Shaul wrote about how God gives sinners over to the sin they have chosen (Romans 1:18-24). So all their scheming had only gotten Israel a covenant with the antichrist who had the faithful remnant pinned down at Bozrah (63:1-6). It took a lot of pain and suffering but at last she had a moment of spiritual clarity and confessed her sin of rejecting Yeshua Messiah (64:5-7). After admitting her sin, she will then cry out for mercy (64:8-12).

    LORD, You have cared for us, your children, as a loving Father, providing discipline, direction, and encouragement. When earthly fathers fail us, You remain steadfast, molding us with everlasting love.

    The final part of the prayer by the faithful remnant is a confession of trust in the LORD. But now, ADONAI, You are our Father. We are the clay, You are the potter (Romans 9:20-21); we are all the work of Your hands (64:8 CJB). When the remnant finally has spiritual eyes to see, they will be like obedient children, and as submissive as clay (29:16, 45:9). She sees God as her Father and herself as the work of His hand. He is the Potter, the one who creates. When a man makes a pretty vase, in a sense, he is the father of it because he created it. The LORD is Israel’s Father in the sense that He is responsible for her existence. It is as though the believing remnant were saying to God, “Although our sin cannot be denied, neither can the fact that You are our Father.

    Paul makes this distinction in his speech in Athens: For in Him we live and move and have our being. As some of your own poets have said: We are His offspring. Therefore, since we are the LORD’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone – an image made by man’s design and skill (Acts 17:28-29). For believers today, ADONAI is our Father by creation, but mankind lost that image. You and I can become the children of God (John 1:12) only through adoption (see my commentary on The Life of Christ Bw – What God Does for Us at the Moment of Faith). All the people in the world are not brothers and sisters. There are only two families in the world; the family of God and the family of Satan. If you aren’t in one, you’re in the other. You will either be eternally blessed or eternally condemned depending on your spiritual family.

    But now the believing remnant prays for ADONAI’s anger to cease and to look upon them as His own. They will ask forgiveness of their iniquities: Do not be angry beyond measure, O LORD; do not remember our sins forever. Oh, look upon us, we pray, for we are all your people (64:9). The faithful remnant had already suffered the wrath of God for the last three-and-a-half years of the Great Tribulation. Two-thirds of them had died (Zechariah 13:8). Now they plead for mercy that their well-deserved discipline not be carried out beyond measure. This is a major theme in Isaiah. God’s judgment will fall on sinful people; there is a point where it cannot be averted. Nonetheless, judgment is not an end to itself. It’s ultimate purpose is to restore the of people of ADONAI to purity (4:2-6, 30:18-22, 54:7-8). Therefore, the faithful remnant, like the psalmist who said: Hear my voice when I call, O LORD; be merciful to me and answer (Psalm 27:7), will pray that God remembers them in light of His unending love, not in light of their unending sin (79:8). They had changed, and so can we.

    ADONAI wants us to be just like Jesus. Isn’t that good news? You aren’t stuck with today’s personality. You aren’t condemned to be the thing that you dislike about yourself the most. You are tweakable. Even if you’ve worried each day of your life, you don’t have to worry the rest of your life. So what if you were born to be negative. You don’t have to die that way.

    Where do we get this idea that we can’t change? Where do we get the statements like, “It’s just my nature to worry,” or “I’ll always be pessimistic. I’m just that way.” Well who says? Would we talk like that about our bodies? “It’s just my nature to have a broken leg. I can’t do anything about it.” Of course not. If our bodies fall apart, we look for help. Shouldn’t we do the same with our hearts? Shouldn’t we seek first aid for our sour attitudes? Can’t we ask for treatment for our selfish tirades? Of course we can. Jesus can change our hearts. He wants us to have a heart like His (from Just Like Jesus, Nashville: W Publishing Group, 1998).

    Earlier, Isaiah declared that Jerusalem would no longer be spoken of as abandoned or the LORD’s land be spoken of as desolate, but rather Zion would be called My delight is in her and the Land married (62:4a). Here, the believing remnant is acknowledging the fact that Jerusalem had been made desolate by the Gentile nations after three-and-a-half years warfare between the Jews and the antichrist (see the third stage, the Fall of Jerusalem in Kh – The Eight Stage Campaign of the Battle of Armageddon), and between the antichrist and ADONAI. Your sacred cities have become a desert as a result of the attacks from the antichrist; even Zion is a desert, Jerusalem a desolation. Our holy and glorious Temple, where our fathers praised You, has been burned with fire, and all that we treasured lies in ruins (64:10-11). As a result, the Temple was still defiled.

    All the hopes and anxieties of the faithful remnant are finally summed up in two questions: After all this, O LORD, will You hold Yourself back? Will you keep silent and punish us beyond measure (64:12)? The word after suggests a chronological order of time . . . like, after these things happened. But the Hebrew word after means in response to such events. Can God keep silent in light of the fact that the Gentiles have devastated the Land and the Temple during the Great Tribulation? In that Isra'el had confessed her sins in general and her national sin of the rejection of Jesus Christ in particular, could ADONAI keep silent after all this? The answer is simply no.

    Therefore, the events of Chapter 62:1 through Chapter 63:6 are going to be brought about by Israel’s national confession of sin. The remnant declares that God’s sacred cities have become a desert; even Zion is a desert. Even Jerusalem had become a desolation. But back in Chapter 62:4, the LORD had said that Israel would no longer be called Abandoned, but will be called My delight is in her. So the change from Abandoned to My delight is in her, is going to come about by Israel’s national confession of sin at the end of the Great Tribulation, and as a result, the Second Coming of the Messiah.


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