The State of the Church, Part 22

In our day we see a lot of activity under the guise of the Lord’s name. But we must never forget that the Lord is holy, holy, holy and He hates sin even of the heart. We have arrived at the point in the professing Church in America where the externals are thought to be sufficient without attention to the heart. We have arrived at the point, perhaps long ago, where our righteous acts are as filthy rags or garments (Isaiah 64:6). In conservative circles these things are thought about, but still mostly in an external way. We might agree that the so-called righteous acts of the liberals are as filthy rags, but they are liberal. We might even see this as true of other denominations, but we have a hard time seeing ourselves in the mirror of Scripture because our mirror is clouded with the fog of self-love and self-righteousness. In other words, our pride has blinded us to the point we cannot see our own pride. The uncleanness of our pride has blinded us to what is really unclean and so we think we are clean while we are filthy.

The literal meaning of this verse is something that is not nice in our sterile society. We think of our sins as making us unclean, but Isaiah 64:6 in its Old Testament context is brutally hard on our pride if the Lord is pleased to open our eyes. “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.” Notice the assertions and how they are connected in this verse. 1. All of us have become like one who is unclean. 2. All of our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment. 3. All of us wither like a leaf and our iniquities like the wind blowing a leaf takes us away.

The Israelites to a person had become unclean. In modern thought the idea of being unclean is something that a little soap and water along with the application of some deodorant will fix quite nicely. The thought in this text is something far different. It is the thought of being ceremonially unclean. When a person was unclean in this way, that person was apart from God and the Assembly of God. This thought is also seen in the New Testament in John 18:28: “Then they led Jesus from Caiaphas into the Praetorium, and it was early; and they themselves did not enter into the Praetorium so that they would not be defiled, but might eat the Passover.” The Jews were in the act of lying to get Jesus legally murdered and yet they did not want to enter into the Praetorium because there were Gentiles there and it would make them defiled or unclean. If they were defiled or unclean, they would not have been able to eat the Passover. They were not concerned about the sin of their hearts, but they were concerned about being ceremonially clean. If they were unclean, they could not take part in their religious rituals.

Let us look deeper into this issue from parts of Leviticus 15:19-27:

‘When a woman has a discharge, if her discharge in her body is blood, she shall continue in her menstrual impurity for seven days; and whoever touches her shall be unclean until evening. 20 ‘Everything also on which she lies during her menstrual impurity shall be unclean, and everything on which she sits shall be unclean. 21 ‘Anyone who touches her bed shall wash his clothes and bathe in water and be unclean until evening. 22 ‘Whoever touches any thing on which she sits shall wash his clothes and bathe in water and be unclean until evening. 23 ‘Whether it be on the bed or on the thing on which she is sitting, when he touches it, he shall be unclean until evening… 26 ‘Any bed on which she lies all the days of her discharge shall be to her like her bed at menstruation; and every thing on which she sits shall be unclean, like her uncleanness at that time. 27 ‘Likewise, whoever touches them shall be unclean and shall wash his clothes and bathe in water and be unclean until evening.

In Isaiah 64:6 the literal rendering of “filthy garment” is really “menstrual cloth.” What Isaiah is telling us, therefore, is that the righteous acts of the people were the same as tying that which was unclean on us. Instead of being righteous acts, those did nothing but make us unclean and separate us from God. If we are wrapped in a menstrual cloth, then all that we do is unclean and separates God from us even more. Our hearts are unclean in the professing Church and all the outward things that appear as good to us appear to God as if they were wrapped in a menstrual cloth. Anything touched by a woman in her menstrual period made it unclean and it had to be purified. Instead of making things holy or instead of pleasing God with good deeds, when under judgment all we touch and do is filthy and vile to God because we are as unclean as a woman’s menstrual cloth was in Old Testament times.

We have to enter into the mind of the Old Testament to understand what is going on here. To do that I will quote several verses in an effort to bring out the meaning of Isaiah 64:6 and apply it to our hearts:

‘Or if a person touches any unclean thing, whether a carcass of an unclean beast or the carcass of unclean cattle or a carcass of unclean swarming things, though it is hidden from him and he is unclean, then he will be guilty. 3 ‘Or if he touches human uncleanness, of whatever sort his uncleanness may be with which he becomes unclean, and it is hidden from him, and then he comes to know it, he will be guilty (Leviticus 5:2-3)

When anyone touches anything unclean, whether human uncleanness, or an unclean animal, or any unclean detestable thing, and eats of the flesh of the sacrifice of peace offerings which belong to the LORD, that person shall be cut off from his people (Leviticus 7:21).

20 ‘But the man who is unclean and does not purify himself from uncleanness, that person shall be cut off from the midst of the assembly, because he has defiled the sanctuary of the LORD; the water for impurity has not been sprinkled on him, he is unclean (Numbers 19:20).

The unclean person is not just a little dirty, but is one that is guilty of uncleanness. Even touching an unclean thing or person made the person unclean. We see why the Jews did not want to enter the Praetorioum as that would have made them guilty and banned from any religious ceremony. They would have to have been cut off from the people as a whole which was to set them outside the camp or apart from all the others so that the others would not become unclean. At times there was even a final cutting off from the people and the person was not to come back. If an unclean person came to the tabernacle, he was to be made clean by purification. If s/he continued to be unclean and went through the ceremony, it was an extreme violation and that person defiled the very sanctuary of God.

What Isaiah was communicating to the people in his day must be communicated today. When people are under the judgment of God, they are unclean. This is like a person in the Old Testament with a menstrual cloth wrapped around him and yet does not see it as unclean. All that he does is in violation of the laws of God and all that he does, whether outwardly good or not, is unclean. All that person did in his uncleanness, rather than make him right with God, only defiled the sanctuary of God and made it even worse for himself. Surely it can be seen how a person like that would be carried away with sin as a wind blows a leaf. All that a person like that did was sin and even worse than a person who did not try to be religious. This person violated God in an especially unholy manner.

Until a church or the professing Church at large wakes up and sees that it is wrapped in a large menstrual cloth, all that it does will do nothing but bring more judgment upon itself. It is unclean and in its uncleanness it is adding more and more works in an effort to rid itself of its uncleanness and yet all it does is unclean. Each soul in one sense and the church in another sense is a temple of the living God. There is nothing we can do as those who are unclean that does not defile the temple of the living God. As those who are unclean all of our religious deeds and all of our righteous acts are like a menstrual cloth that separated people from God. Are we so blind that we do not notice that God has turned His face from us? Of course He has because we are full of the world and unclean things. Of course He has turned His face because we have the love of the world in us rather than His love in us. Of course we are under His judgment when we love the methods of the world rather than following His Word.

We can be wrapped in the externals of Reformed theology but without a changed heart we have wrapped ourselves in menstrual cloths and are unclean. We can have conferences and teach Reformed theology forever, but until our hearts are purified and contrite our very conferences and services will be as those with menstrual cloths on their hearts. We may think that by bringing the creeds of historical theology into the churches and seminaries that revival is coming, but without clean hearts all that we do is like wearing Old Testament menstrual cloths. We may try for unity in all sorts of ways, but unless it is with people who are pure in heart we are uniting with that which is unclean. We can try to drum up all sorts of interest in historical revivals and prayer meetings, but until we seek the Lord for broken and contrite hearts all that we do is simply unclean. Until our hearts are broken and contrite in truth, the Lord will not turn His face toward us and return. We are involved with so many things instead of the main thing of hearts that are broken from our pride and self-sufficiency. It is easy to continue on with business as usual seeking reputations in denominational circles, but it is far harder to seek the Lord for a broken heart. To seek the Lord for a broken heart means we have to see the pride and wickedness of our own hearts and to repent before the Lord. A broken heart is beyond our methods and so it and the presence of the Lord are very rare in our day.

What we must learn from this is that our hearts must be clean for anything we do to be clean. If our hearts are defiled then all that we do is defiled. The professing Church is under the judgment of God; He has turned His face and has turned it over to a hardened heart. Because it is defiled in the core of its being, all that it does is unclean and vile to God. It has turned to man-centered methods, methodologies, and outward Christian practices while indeed tacking the name of God on to its methods and methodologies. But its heart has not been cleansed and so all of its methods and methodologies are from unclean hands and hearts. The biblical method is to seek the Lord for grace in order for our hearts to be turned back to Him and for His face to be turned back to us. While we seek large numbers and buildings large enough to hold them, our hearts are still far from Him which means that even our outward successes are as impressive to God as menstrual rags. The Word of God brings light to our hearts. It may not always be pleasant to see what is there, but it is still true. We can either hide our eyes from the light or we can bow to God asking for grace to turn from our pride and self-centeredness. We must have grace or we perish.

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