View Full Version : A comment on a comment- Filthy Rags of a Leper

07-23-2006, 08:19 PM
I'm commenting on "Filthy Rags of a Leper".

I was bumped off (you are not logged in- after logging in) and can't find the thread I was on, so I'll post this as a stand-alone.

"Nothing we have is of any value to God: Isa.64:6 But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags."

I hope you don't mind my making a clarification here. The reason is that people can take what is being said out of context. Please don't think I'm inferring you don't know these things. This is more of a footnote for the sake of people who might read it and think, "God sees us a bag of rags? How loving is that?"

This is a contextual saying regarding people's "approach to God", not their value to God. In the context of the entire book of Isaiah, it was about ritual cleanliness- not how important we are to God, or how beautiful we are to God.

In the Old Testament God didn't say of Job, "Look at this filthy rag!" but he praised him before the angels. "Have you pondered my servant Job...none are as righteous..." Job barely knew God and theology, and was simply doing the best he could with what he knew at that time in the world he was living in. And at one point Job gets angry and rails that God is "shooting me with his arrows..." "Let him come down and fight..." (Paraphrase) So, this righteous man had some rather unspiritual moments, and yet God praised him. Likewise he praised David and others. So God always sees the good in people's hearts.

Through Isaiah and other prophets, God was saying that "religious observance" is not making me happy. And in fact he said he hated their offerings which were being multiplied. In fact the rich would use them as a "Get out of Jail card"

God is very clear that he gets no kicks out of us killing goats and oxen. This is repeated in both Psalms and the Prophets and in a conversation that God had with Moses in the Law, where God says that he will "Write his Laws on their hearts...and minds" and establish a New Covenant with the house of Israel.- Not based on keeping the Law, but God's righteousness.

In Isaiah 53 God specifies that his Messiah will sprinkle the nation from guilt, justifying many. So, our trying to establish "OUR" righeousness is an offense to God who the prophets says "The Lord is our righteousness"

This is not a comment in a box that is pulled out of the air, but a culmination of a lesson that began in Isaiah Chapter 9 "For unto us a son is born...and his name shall be...Mighty God...and the government shall rest upon his shoulders..." (The Messiah)

God's righteousness (established through the Messiah) supercedes all attempts we make to establish our own. Not that we are ugly things in his eyes. That is not what this is about- but the way some might read it.

God makes a contrast- in that religious observance (doing rituals) didn't make people clean of heart. And religious observance could only take us to the point of "the filthy rags of a leaper"

Jesus constantly made reference to "Value" regarding people. "Are you not of much more worth than many sparrows..." saying, "Not one falls to the ground apart from your father in heaven" "Every hair on your head is counted..." God knows us and sees value in us- worth. The act of trying to "earn God's love" is offensive in that God freely gives love and we cannot buy what we are freely given.

Paul indicates God will praise our good works. Jesus says we will be called, "Thou GOOD and FAITHFUL servant..."

The most profound statement on value is made in Luke Fifteen. In fact Jesus uses three illustrations to send home the point that ALL humans, males and females, have value to God. They may be lost or found -but their relative value is unchanging. "This is MY SON who was lost, but is now found..."

The story of the Prodigal Son was about two brothers of the same father (Representative of God). Just before this lessons, the Pharisees were offended that Jesus was talking to people they saw as being beneath them. They had made two classes..."Us righteous folk" and "Sinners".

In their narrow thinking all people fit into these two categories, and so they justified not eating with "sinners" And they were offended that Jesus both ate and drank with "sinners".

So Jesus illustrates the heart of God concerning mankind. He has only two children and loves them both. His children are Self-Righteous Strivers who think they've earned a place in God's kingdom by their striving. The older brother said, "I've SERVED you all these years and yet you never gave me...to celebrate." His life was dour and serious. He went through the right actions for all the wrong reasons.

The Father said, "All I have is yours and you could have..." In other words God the Father was saying to this religious son at home "Your Religious Striving does not make you my son! You don't have to earn my love and approach me as a servant. Don't you get it? You are my son and by relationship you already have my love and provision..." (Paraphrase)

In a sense you could say the eldest son's striving was as the filthy rags of a leper because it is offensive to a giver of a gift to pay them for it. It is offensive because it implies the giver is giving with strings attached. "You'll pay and pay..." which defames the love of God.

The lost son represents everyone else in the world, living somewhat off the mark, but hardly very spiritual, and having little clue who God really is. He can't imagine his father loves him. When he's near starvation because he can't even find pig slop to eat, he finally decides it's time to check out religion (go home). He says, "I will say to my father I am no longer worthy to be called your son...make me one of your hired servants..."

Again, he offers his father "Filthy Rags of a Leper" - working to earn his father's favor. God has a clean robe and rings waiting for the prodigal. This signifies that at the moment someone turns to God he gives them rule and authority (sonship-whether male or female)- not a servant's quarters.

The Prodigal says, "I am not "Worthy"= I have no worth. He is saying, "I have no intrinsic worth to God" if you follow the metaphor. And God is saying the opposite- "This MY SON who was lost" From a father's perspective this Prodigal had instant worth.-inate, you don't have to earn it. He was always a son, and no father wants to turn his kid into a slave, at least not God the Father. In God's eyes he was always a son.- value is intrinsic just like a lost Gold Coin. It's value doesn't disappear because the women couldn't find it. (The second illustration of our value)

Jesus could have given the Father seventy sons all in different places. But in wisdom he divided the world into "TWO" categories here, because in general, we lean toward being self-righteousness or sinning. People try to be religious, but mostly they are trying to "BUY" God's love and favor. Self-righteous striving is and was the father of all religious crimes- crusades, inquisitions...etc.

Those in the world numb pain in sin. But both sons had equal value and both were lost to varying degrees.

If anyone is an God's enemy it is not by God's choice or because God doesn't love them. "For God is unwilling that ANY should perish...that all would be saved." This is not a NT thought but mirrors what God said through Ezekiel in chapter 33- that he takes no delight in the destruction of the wicked, but would rather they turn and be saved.

Sorry for this lengthy footnote, but I think it might some understand that verse in Isaiah a little better.


08-02-2006, 06:30 PM
Some beautiful thoughts, here, Nate. You need to write an article about this! :)

08-08-2006, 11:34 PM
Thanks so much for your kind words. I'm rather overwhelmed with the amount of things on my plate at the moment to go through the whole submissions thing.

At the same time, I think you are right in that the message is important. Everything we feel about ourselves is tied into how we think God sees us. (Adan and Eve hiding behind trees- self righteous trees)- We see ourselves through a thousand filters, and most of them aren't that good.

The way we look at others is somehow connected to this same thing. Jesus made people who were considered "Sinners" feel comfortable around him. Some people fail to notice that and likely think it was because he basked them in warm rays of peace. I think it was more conventional. He went to their picnics, played with their kids, and likely wasn't at all confrontational- "Hey did you accept me as your savior yet?"

Obviously he didn't compromise his standards- the fear Christians have- but I think he came across as actually liking people and seeing the good in people and making that obvious to them, which was contrary to what the "moral" people of the times were doing- and something Christians have difficulty with. I'm not saying they can't see good in people, but are so focused on making the point "We need a savior" in which case they overstress- "you are a sinner" that they fail to make the case that God actually sees beauty in people, and sees the good they've done (such as the widow's mite) They are so conflicted about having to appear holy and compelled to take a moral stance on everything, they risk not being human and becoming a walking billboard that projects- God doesn't like you, which is contrary to the truth "God so loved the world..."