Verse of the Day Devotion. Isaiah 64:6
“For all of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment; And all of us wither like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.” – Isaiah 64:6
At the end of chapter 63, Gods people lament for it appears that He is absent or inactive regarding His people. “Why, O LORD, dost Thou cause us to stray from Thy ways, And harden our heart from fearing Thee? Return for the sake of Thy servants, the tribes of Thy heritage. Thy holy people possessed Thy sanctuary for a little while, Our adversaries have trodden it down. We have become like those over whom Thou hast never ruled, Like those who were not called by Thy name.” Isaiah 63:17-19. Isaiah wishes that God had left his heavenly home long ago, had split open the solid curtain in the sky that hides him from human view, had come down to earth in his full glory, and had caused all of nature to quake. The idea of ‘quaking’ because of the Lord is also mentioned in the Book of Judges. “LORD, when Thou didst go out from Seir, when Thou didst march from the field of Edom, The earth quaked, the heavens also dripped, Even the clouds dripped water. The mountains quaked at the presence of the LORD, this Sinai, at the presence of the LORD, the God of Israel.” Judges 5:4-5.
Then in chapter 64 we read, “Oh, that Thou wouldst rend the heavens and come down, That the mountains might quake at Thy presence, As fire kindles the brushwood, as fire causes water to boil, to make Thy name known to Thine adversaries, That the nations may tremble at Thy presence! When Thou didst awesome things which we did not expect, Thou didst come down, the mountains quaked at Thy presence. For from of old they have not heard nor perceived by ear, Neither has the eye seen a God besides Thee, Who acts in behalf of the one who waits for Him.” Isaiah 64:1-4. Isaiah, the one who was praying, wanted God to intervene on behalf of Israel. He remembered God’s great work for Israel in the days of the Exodus. Here, He also remembers how the LORD shook Mount Sinai when Israel camped there on their way from Egypt to the Promised Land. And those who wait on God’s work will see Him act on their behalf.
Then Isaiah changes his focus. “Thou dost meet him who rejoices in doing righteousness, Who remembers Thee in Thy ways. Behold, Thou was angry, for we sinned, We continued in them a long time; And shall we be saved?” Isaiah 64:5. Isaiah here answers the question, what kind of man does the LORD answer in prayer?” In essence He meets with those who ‘rejoices in doing righteousness’. Those who remember God in all His ways. And then Isaiah said they have not followed His ways. ‘Behold, Thou was angry, for we sinned, We continued in them a long time.’ He made it clear that God’s people had sinned, and he asked the question, ‘Shall we be saved?’ And then Isaiah continues in our focus verse. “For all of us have become like one who is unclean, And all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment; And all of us wither like a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.” Isaiah 64:6. Isaiah declares their righteous deeds can be compared to filthy rags. The term “filthy rags” is quite strong. The word filthy is a translation of the Hebrew word ‘iddah’, which literally means the bodily fluids from a woman’s menstrual cycle. And the word rags is a translation of ‘begged’, meaning a rag or garment. Therefore, these ‘righteous acts’ are considered by God as repugnant as a soiled feminine hygiene product.
Then Isaiah takes it a little deeper. “And there is no one who calls on Thy name, Who arouses himself to take hold of Thee; For Thou hast hidden Thy face from us, And hast delivered us into the power of our iniquities.” Isaiah 64:7. The idea here, connected to their sin being as filthy rages, is that they have become so corrupt, they did not call on God or worship Him in sincerity. Their iniquities have essentially overcome their desire to worship God in the way they should.
And then Isaiah calls on God for His mercy. “But now, O LORD, Thou art our Father, We are the clay, and Thou our potter; And all of us are the work of Thy hand. Do not be angry beyond measure, O LORD, Neither remember iniquity forever; Behold, look now, all of us are Thy people. Thy holy cities have become a wilderness, Zion has become a wilderness, Jerusalem a desolation. Our holy and beautiful house, Where our fathers praised Thee, Has been burned by fire; And all our precious things have become a ruin. Wilt Thou restrain Thyself at these things, O LORD? Wilt Thou keep silent and afflict us beyond measure?” Isaiah 64:8-12. Isaiah is in a desperate place; he needs the mercy of God because the justice of God condemns him. In his appeal for mercy, he first reminds God that He is their Father and then pleads for mercy for himself and God’s people. Isaiah declares that God is the potter, and we are the clay. It is like saying, LORD we are like clay in Your hands. Deal gently with us, and mold us according to Your mercy.
Let us all, as Isaiah did, not just call out to God regarding ourselves and our needs but let us call out to God for what our brothers and sisters in Christ need as well. Let us pray that we all desire a greater relationship with our Father God, and we acknowledge our sins, ask for forgiveness, and move forward in the life He has called us to live. And let us pray that our righteousness will no longer be as filthy rags, but will be a light to many in the hope of bringing some into the fold.
William Funkhouser MDiv, ThD, Founder and President of True Devotion Ministries.