“We are all like an unclean thing,
and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; we all fade as a leaf, and our
iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away” (Isaiah 64:6)
The things of this earth are often not what we think
they are, and in Scripture we encounter the direct command that we are not to
judge others - ever. Jesus very clearly said, “Judge not,
that you not be judged; with the same measure you use, it will be measured back
to you” (Matthew 7:1). The reason for this command is that we
often do not know what the intentions of others really are. Because it is
difficult for us to think outside of our own experiences, we are wrong about
people far more often than we know. And there are other problems which add
to the confusion – we tend to desperately hide from others, even from ourselves, and we
have attempted to fool God, as well. Deception, including self-deception, is
unfortunately the way of this world. We hunger to know and to be known, and yet
we continue to hide from those who long to give us love. Many, perhaps all of
us in one way or another, pretend to be something we are not.
You’ll be interested in the story of how the “Nobel Peace Prize” came to be. Alfred Nobel, who created
the Nobel Peace Prize, had previously invented and made a fortune from what is
called “dynamite,” which is seventeen times more powerful than the gunpowder
that preceded it. It changed warfare – forever. With dynamite, a single bomb,
instead of killing just a few people, could kill hundreds. Shells and bombs now
blew up buildings, homes, bridges and factories. Cities were burned to the
ground through Nobel’s invention. It may be that history will decide that more
have died from dynamite than from atomic bombs.
Nobel had patents on his invention and there were hundreds of
factories all over Europe for the manufacture of dynamite. No matter how
careful the workers and managers were, sometimes their product simply blew up,
killing hundreds of people at a time. Nobel built his factories in impoverished
locations, places that provided an endless supply of desperate, expendable
workers. Thousands were killed by the blasts and thousands more were ruined by
the chemicals that created dynamite, which got into the ground water and misted
into the air. The workers ate, drank and breathed this terrible substance.
History might have declared Nobel to be the monster who was
responsible for the death of millions, except for a mistake. In 1888, his
brother died, and the reporters of European newspapers got the wrong brother –
they thought it was Alfred Nobel who had died. The headlines said, “The Merchant of Death is Dead!” Nobel was shocked to
read his own obituaries and he suddenly understood how history would see him.
He reacted in an interesting way. Like so many, he wanted
to be liked, and he created the Nobel Peace Prize as a way to change people’s
minds about how history would remember him. And it worked. The name “Nobel” is now synonymous with peace, not war. Nobel, who
invented dynamite, now re-invented – himself!
Through the centuries, others have worked hard to change
their image. I remember studying church history in college, discovering
that many leaders in the little city-states of Italy during the Middle Ages,
made a decision similar to Nobel’s idea. After a lifetime of literally torturing
and murdering their subjects and others under their control, and declaring war
on their neighbors, they decided to be liked; and so they beautified their
surroundings. Buildings, roads, bridges and other edifices were built by petty
tyrants who hoped they would be loved in the future for what they did. And they
made sure that statues were built to honor them for their accomplishments.
Today’s Scripture is interesting. It was addressed to
Israel, a nation that was clearly and truly created by God. A people was made
out of one good man, Abraham, who, because of his faith in the Lord, was
identified by God as a righteous person. That’s what it says in Genesis 15:6 –
“he (Abraham, also known as Abram)
believed in the Lord, and He accounted it to him for
righteousness.” By the time of our verse for today in the Book of
Isaiah, Abraham’s descendants also wanted to be considered righteous, and tried
to be that way outwardly. Unfortunately, however, they did not look to the Lord
as Abraham did, and as a group they became unrighteous in God’s sight. As the
prophet Isaiah confessed in relation to his people, “We
are all like an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags;
we all fade as a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away”
(Isaiah 64:6). A whole people was pretending to be righteous, but they were not.
Do you believe in the Lord? Do you really believe that
your food and everything else you have comes from Him? Or do you think your
have food because you worked hard and used your paychecks to buy it? Do you think highly of your own cleverness? To what extent have you
misused the lives of others in order to reach your goals? Do you "judge" others that don’t seem as successful as you are?
Do you feel that your “faith” in God or your religious belief system makes you
better than other people? It's time to look into the mirror of our souls and
discover who we really are.
Paul the Apostle picked up the cry of Isaiah in his
writings. Isaiah wrote to Israel, a people who had become intent upon keeping
what they thought of as the Law of God. They did not understand that the real
Law is not some outward thing, but is a God-given tool, designed to help us
understand, as Abraham did, our need of the Lord. Paul had been a person of the
Law, but he became, like Abraham, a man who “believed in
Paul came to recognize that when we are in Christ we have “died” to the Law, “so that we live
in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter”
(Romans 7:6). He then asks, “Is the Law sin?” Is
it a bad thing? And he answers, “Certainly NOT! On the
contrary, I would not have known sin except through the Law;” and he went
on to confess his own sin, the sin of “covetousness”
(wanting what is not yours – Romans 7:7 & forward).
God's Law, as revealed in the Bible, is wonderful and
beautiful, but we often do not understand its true purpose. It reveals that we
are sinners, in need of Him. We do not somehow become perfect when we receive
Christ. Instead we are forgiven, and embark on a lifetime journey of being
changed into what we were meant to be, from before the foundation of the world.
God has a plan for your life and it’s a good one. You will LIKE what He has in
store for you. Let’s trust in the Lord, so our "iniquities"
will not take us "away."
Thank You, Lord, for the gift of faith. We trust in You
now. In Jesus Name. Amen.