In Isaiah 64:4-5, Isaiah describes the nature of the unsaved man. “For since the beginning of the world men have not heard, nor perceived by the ear, neither hath the eye seen, O God, beside thee, what he hath prepared for him that waiteth for him. Thou meetest him that rejoiceth and worketh righteousness, those that remember thee in thy ways: behold, thou art wroth; for we have sinned: in those is continuance, and we shall be saved.”

These words are true of all unsaved people…we had no desire to hear from the Lord, neither did we desire to understand Him.  We looked away from Him.  We were sinners.  Addressing the condition of the unsaved man, Isaiah goes on to say, “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 64:6).  Let’s break that verse down to see what it says about the natural man.

WE ARE ALL AS AN UNCLEAN THING – In our natural state, we are all polluted and defiled.  This is used in a Levitical sense as we read in Leviticus 5:2, “Or if a soul touch any unclean thing, whether it be a carcase of an unclean beast, or a carcase of unclean cattle, or the carcase of unclean creeping things, and if it be hidden from him; he also shall be UNCLEAN AND GUILTY.”  Isaiah is telling us that we are all in the same condition that the Law considers ‘unclean and guilty.’  As being unclean, we needed to be cleansed.  The Lord Jesus, speaking to His disciples while washing their feed said concerning their faith said in John 13:10, “He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit: and YE ARE CLEAN…” 

ALL OUR RIGHTEOUSNESSES ARE AS FILTHY RAGS – The word ‘righteousnesses’ refers to righteous acts.  All of these attempts to win God’s approval and appease Him for their sinfulness is like a filthy rag before the Lord.  It is easy to see why the Lord has no appreciation for man’s efforts to save themselves.  He sent His Holy Son, Jesus, to die for our sins.  For anyone to refuse this precious gift of salvation through faith in Christ as sin bearer and try to work for their salvation is an affront to the Lord.  The Lord Jesus said emphatically in John 14:6, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life: no one cometh unto the Father, but by me.”  There is only one way to the Father for salvation and that is through the Lord Jesus.  Nothing else will do.  Unclean people can only produce unclean rags.

WE ALL DO FADE AS A LEAF; AND OUR INIQUITIES, LIKE THE WIND, HAVE TAKEN US AWAY – We all fade and wither like leaves in the fall.  We can compare this to what we read in Isaiah 40:6-7, “The voice said, Cry. And he said, What shall I cry? ALL FLESH IS GRASS, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field: THE GRASS WITHERETH, THE FLOWER FADETH: because the spirit of the LORD bloweth upon it: surely the people is grass.”  We also read in Psalm 103:15-16, “As for man, his days are as grass: as a flower of the field, so he flourisheth. For the wind passeth over it, and it is gone; and the place thereof shall know it no more.” It is the unsaved man who has no roots that is blown away by the wind of the judgment of God.  Grass and flowers in the spring and summer have a particular beauty, but it doesn’t last.  That is true also of the natural man without Christ.  He may put up a good front and appear to be glorious, but when the Lord blows upon it, to test of what matter it is…the unsaved man is taken away to judgment. 

Dear reader, if you are one who is trying to earn salvation by works of your own…those works of righteousness are filthy rags before God.  Filthy rags cannot clean.  In fact, filthy rags will only make it worse.  Isaiah 64:6 should serve as a grave warning to all who are looking for salvation in anything other than faith in the Lord Jesus.  Acts 4:12 is very clear, “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.”  (CC)  (506.6)