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A question for Annagail...

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A question for Annagail...
I was reading Annagail's blog entry entitled, "Are you convinced?"

She writes of her experience with God in her life, which is of course reason enough for a person to believe. I, on the other hand, have no experience with God in my life and so have little reason to believe. Of course such a condition could change and I would of necessity have to reevaluate my non-belief, although I would not expect it to alter dramatically.

Annagail writes of the attempts of believers to do good....among other things.... to be as "filthy rags" in God's sight and I responded with this:

<<But...why must you put yourself down; "filthy rags" is not how a loving father should view his child's struggles to do good. Why believe that about the God you honor and love and obey? That is such a negative faith and it always worries me that believers feel so about themselves and their fellow believers.>>

I do not understand such denigration of believers or their attempts to do good. Does anyone care to discuss this with me?

"The Ox is slow, but the Earth is patient."
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Re: [jeanne53] A question for Annagail... In reply to
Jeanne: Hi - And anyone else reading this thread: Hi.

This is another case of misinterpretation of the meaning of an Old Testament text. It often happens that an original meaning gets yanked out of context and reinterpreted, resulting in an incongruous idea being perpetuated by well meaning believers, as I explained in a recent thread.

In this case the original prophetic line of thought goes as follows:

O that thou wouldst rend the heavens and come down,
that the mountains might quake at thy presence—
as when fire kindles brushwood
and the fire causes water to boil—
to make thy name known to thy adversaries,
and that the nations might tremble at thy presence!
When thou didst terrible things which we looked not for,
thou camest down, the mountains quaked at thy presence.

Isaiah is bemoaning the fact that God no longer seems to physically intervene in human affairs like He once did on Mount Sinai.

From of old no one has heard
or perceived by the ear,
no eye has seen a God besides thee,
who works for those who wait for him.

No one in Isaiah's time seemed to have any direct communication with any god at all, let alone the God who had given them The Law. (This feeling is very contemporary also for most people's own experience of God).

Thou meetest him that joyfully works righteousness,
those that remember thee in thy ways.

Isiah opines that God joyfully meets those who work righteousness and behave as God would approve.

Behold, thou wast angry, and we sinned;
in our sins we have been a long time, and shall we be saved?

The question is rhetorical and the answer is assumed to be in the negative.

We have all become like one who is unclean,
and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.

The King James translates thus:

But we are all as an unclean thing,
and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags;

According to the Law of Moses any garment soiled by disease was to be set apart and destroyed.

"The leper who has the disease shall wear torn clothes and let the hair of his head hang loose, and he shall cover his upper lip and cry, ‘Unclean, unclean.' He shall remain unclean as long as he has the disease; he is unclean; he shall dwell alone in a habitation outside the camp.
"When there is a leprous disease in a garment, whether a woolen or a linen garment, in warp or woof of linen or wool, or in a skin or in anything made of skin, if the disease shows greenish or reddish in the garment, whether in warp or woof or in skin or in anything made of skin, it is a leprous disease and shall be shown to the priest. And the priest shall examine the disease, and shut up that which has the disease for seven days; then he shall examine the disease on the seventh day. If the disease has spread in the garment, in warp or woof, or in the skin, whatever be the use of the skin, the disease is a malignant leprosy; it is unclean. And he shall burn the garment, whether diseased in warp or woof, woolen or linen, or anything of skin, for it is a malignant leprosy; it shall be burned in the fire.
Lev. 13:45.

Also any garment soiled by semen or menstrual blood was to be washed in clean water and the wearer remain outside the camp until evening. Menstrual blood was particularly offensive to the male priesthood who, (considering it was a natural event beyond the individual's control, still displayed a misogynistic discrimination).

"And if a man has an emission of semen, he shall bathe his whole body in water, and be unclean until the evening. And every garment and every skin on which the semen comes shall be washed with water, and be unclean until the evening. If a man lies with a woman and has an emission of semen, both of them shall bathe themselves in water, and be unclean until the evening.
"When a woman has a discharge of blood which is her regular discharge from her body, she shall be in her impurity for seven days, and whoever touches her shall be unclean until the evening. And everything upon which she lies during her impurity shall be unclean; everything also upon which she sits shall be unclean. And whoever touches her bed shall wash his clothes, and bathe himself in water, and be unclean until the evening. And whoever touches anything upon which she sits shall wash his clothes, and bathe himself in water, and be unclean until the evening; whether it is the bed or anything upon which she sits, when he touches it he shall be unclean until the evening. And if any man lies with her, and her impurity is on him, he shall be unclean seven days; and every bed on which he lies shall be unclean.
Lev. 15:16.

Isaiah therefore compares the lawlessness and self righteous, elitist, complacent, attitude of his contemporaries with "an unclean garment" in need of washing or disposal. He is not denigrating righteous behaviour; quite the opposite in fact. He has already stated that:

"God meets those that joyfully work righteousness and remember His ways".

Isaiah is saying that even the 'so called' "righteousness" of a people who have such careless disregard for God's Ways, is like a soiled garment, polluting the person wearing it. On the other hand God actually "meets with those" who do righteousness merely because they know it is the right thing to do, regardless of any possible reward from God.

We all fade like a leaf,
and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.
There is no one that calls upon thy name,
that bestirs himself to take hold of thee;
for thou hast hid thy face from us,
and hast delivered us into the hand of our iniquities.

Isaiah's argument hinges on the fact that, though they may claim to be righteous, and even think themselves to be 'righteous', they are in fact NOT righteous but contaminated by sin and hypocrisy. They are simply too far gone to be able to recognize their own sorry state.

Yet, O Lord, thou art our Father;
we are the clay, and thou art our potter;
we are all the work of thy hand.
Be not exceedingly angry, O Lord,
and remember not iniquity for ever.
Behold, consider, we are all 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 pleasant places have become ruins.
Wilt thou restrain thyself at these things, O Lord?
Wilt thou keep silent, and afflict us sorely?

Since this is all a poem Isiah gives God's answer to his rhetorical questions:

God Says in answer:

I was ready to be sought by those who did not ask for me;
I was ready to be found by those who did not seek me.
I said, "Here am I, here am I,"
to a nation that did not call on my name.
I spread out my hands all the day
to a rebellious people,
who walk in a way that is not good,
following their own devices;
a people who provoke me
to my face continually,
sacrificing in gardens
and burning incense upon bricks;
who sit in tombs,
and spend the night in secret places;
who eat swine's flesh,
and broth of abominable things is in their vessels;
who say, "Keep to yourself,
do not come near me, for I am set apart from you."

These are a smoke in my nostrils,
a fire that burns all the day.
Behold, it is written before me:
"I will not keep silent, but I will repay,
yea, I will repay into their bosom
their iniquities and their fathers' iniquities together,
says the Lord;
because they burned incense upon the mountains
and reviled me upon the hills,
I will measure into their bosom
payment for their former doings."

Thus the passage goes on, naming the indiscretions of the people and exposing their contemptuous self conceit. There is a note of hope for some however, because God has made promises to this people which He intends to keep if at all possible.

Thus says the Lord:
"As the wine is found in the cluster,
and they say, ‘Do not destroy it,
for there is a blessing in it,'
so I will do for my servants' sake,
and not destroy them all.

Nevertheless the bulk of the unrighteous will get the "wages' they have earned by their inattentive complacency:

Thus says the Lord:
"Heaven is my throne
and the earth is my footstool;
what is the house which you would build for me,
and what is the place of my rest?

All these things my hand has made,
and so all these things are mine,
says the Lord.

But this is the man [or woman] to whom I will look,
he [or she] that is humble and contrite in spirit,
and trembles at my word.

"He who slaughters an ox is like him who kills a man;
he who sacrifices a lamb, like him who breaks a dog's neck;
he who presents a cereal offering, like him who offers swine's blood;
he who makes a memorial offering of frankincense, like him who blesses an idol.
These have chosen their own ways,
and their soul delights in their abominations;
I also will choose affliction for them,
and bring their fears upon them;

because, when I called, no one answered,
when I spoke they did not listen;
but they did what was evil in my eyes,
and chose that in which I did not delight."

So true righteousness is never likened by scripture to "filthy rags". God delights in any righteousness performed by anyone. What God detests is hypocrisy. Righteous deeds performed merely to gain the adulation of others or gain advantage for oneself.

"Thus, when you give alms, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by men. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your alms may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. Matt. 6:2.

Regards Chris.
Love covers a multitude of sins. 1 Pet.4:8b.

Last edited by:

rdrcofe: Oct 22, 2017, 3:24 PM
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Re: [jeanne53] A question for Annagail... In reply to
excellent work
CHRIS I could not have done this
excellent teaching.


By the way I was in an accident riding with my wife's caregiver to a doctor when we were hit from behind by a large p/u -----Alot of bruising and sore muscles is all I got .
wont be doing much for the next few days
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Re: [m7thprophet] A question for Annagail... In reply to
Jim: Hi

Sorry to hear of your traffic incident, and on a mercy mission too. Glad to see that you seem to have suffered no serious injury. Watch out for delayed backlash symptoms though. Rear shunts can sometimes cause neck injuries and muscle strains which only later show up. Very sensibly, take it easy for a couple of days.

Regards Chris.
Love covers a multitude of sins. 1 Pet.4:8b.
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Re: [jeanne53] A question for Annagail... In reply to
Hi, Jeanne,
I think Chris did a wonderful job of explaining to you where the "filthy rags" idea comes from.
In Bible days things were looked on differently than they are now and phrases, as you know, had different meanings. I think when we look at a lot of Bible statements today we see them differently from their original meanings and don't think twice about them.

For me, the meaning is simply that there is no way I can be good enough. It is only through God's grace that He accepts me. And for that I am grateful. But everyone has to come to their own relationship with the Lord. I was in my early forties. I'd see the Christians around. They were always giddy and happy, and I thought they dressed funny. After I got over the idea of how they dressed, I wanted to be a Christian, because I wasn't happy. I wanted what they had because they were always happy; and I wasn't.

Once I became a Christian, God took over my life and started making changes! You would have to have seen it to understand. The changes He made in my life were amazing. And my life became a blessing to me. So "filthy rags" becomes a phrase to describe my life before Jesus took hold of it; but I think the phrase is accurate!
Blessings ~ Sarah
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Re: [praizeop2] A question for Annagail... In reply to
Hi Sarah.

Yes, Chris did a thorough job of explaining how the verse gets misinterpreted by many Christians and no doubt by their leaders, who may benefit from that misinterpretation.

But...Sarah, you are still putting yourself down by saying the you will never be good enough and that appears to me that you agree with the misinterpretation.

Think of a child's relationship with her father and how the thought of "never being good enough" can ruin her psyche. That is not a healthy relationship and it seems not in sync with the idea of a loving and forgiving father, which is what you tell me your God is. And that is worrisome.

I remember a poster from a long time ago, which showed a picture of a small child in poverty and on it read this message: "God don't make no trash." Despite the poor grammar, which negates the message, everyone understood what was meant.

This thought of never being good enough and doing penance for a state of perpetual sin, can't lead to a healthy mind and body, in my opinion.

"The Ox is slow, but the Earth is patient."
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Re: [jeanne53] A question for Annagail... In reply to
Hi Jim.

Sorry for the bang-wreck. Do follow up with your doctor, for I agree with Chris; quite often there are delayed symptoms and effects of such crashes... and older folks may be even more prone to troubles from them.

"The Ox is slow, but the Earth is patient."
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Re: [jeanne53] A question for Annagail... In reply to
Jeanne, your interpretation is perfect. You see exactly that I can NEVER be good enough! There has been too much sin in my life. And since God cannot look on sin (my words, Chris could say it better) I will never be good enough to see God. Enter Jesus! His death was so tragic that it covered every sin that was ever committed. All I have to do is understand that. Yes, Jesus' death covered every sin I ever committed and every sin I WILL commit. How great is our God to plan such a freedom!

And you can say to that, well then, you can just completely sin and have no consequences. No. There is an action one must take in order for that to happen. And it is a matter of will. It is a matter of recognizing that our sins do have results, but the results are a matter of our choice. Do I choose to accept the fact that Jesus blood was enough to compensate for my sins? That is the question. In order to believe that, I have to believe that Jesus was the result of Mary being impregnated by an angel (Holy Spirit).

And it is only through Jesus birth and death that I am good enough. He took my sins and their consequences and their punishment to the cross for forgiveness; and God, the Father, forgave. You see, there is a difference. In myself, I will NEVER be good enough, just as you said. But through Jesus and His LOVE for me... He loved me SO much that He was willing to take my punishment. He is the best brother I could ever have. Through Him I am worthy to be accepted by God.

I wonder if the reason you can't see it is because you never led a sinful life. (That is not the same as you never sinned. For the Bible says "All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.) So we know you have sinned. I wonder if you never went to a topless bar, or applied for a job there? Or maybe you never went home with a guy you met at a bar and had sex with him? I don't know what you have or haven't done and I don't care. It is enough for me to know that "All have sinned and ALL need forgiveness", and that means you too!

So, Jeanne, I don't see myself as putting myself down. I see it as recognizing the reality of what it means to be forgiven of sin. What a glorious situation!
Blessings ~ Sarah
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Re: [praizeop2] A question for Annagail... In reply to
Okay. I understand the distinction you are making Sarah. I am sorry life was so hard on you. I am happy that you feel secure in your faith., I have not led a sinful life, excepting of course, for the major sin of un-belief. That in most believers's minds is a very big one, which overshadows all the rest of whatever small sins I may have committed.

Gosh, I was hoping Annagail would join this discussion.

And, to all: remember to include tags with each post, so it will help with any searches that people might do.

"The Ox is slow, but the Earth is patient."
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Re: [jeanne53] A question for Annagail... In reply to
thanks for those words of kindness----you didn't need to throw in those words about being. old
iam aware I am pretty far down this trail I am on. the joints are begining to rattle when i move around a lot
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Re: [m7thprophet] A question for Annagail... In reply to
Hi Jim.

It is not like I am a spring chicken, my friend. Laugh

I may be the "baby" of our group, but this birthday I will be 64 years old, and some days I feel every year.

I don't bounce back like I used to and I was just making that point about "older" folks.

Hope you aren't aching too much.

"The Ox is slow, but the Earth is patient."
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Re: [jeanne53] A question for Annagail... In reply to
Jeanne: Hi

Think of a child's relationship with her father and how the thought of "never being good enough" can ruin her psyche. That is not a healthy relationship and it seems not in sync with the idea of a loving and forgiving father, which is what you tell me your God is. And that is worrisome.

You are quite right. Any loving Father does not withhold LOVE in order to impose OBEDIENCE. However your assumption that most Christians believe that God actually behaves that way is ill founded. Some unfortunately do, (many sects actually teach it), but that is because they actually do not understand the foundational concepts of Christianity.

The New Testament Theology of The Atonement hinges on the intermediary work of reconciliation between God and mankind through the death of Jesus Christ. Some see it as a 'substitutionary sacrifice appeasing a vengeful God'. Others, like myself, see it as a demonstration of the ultimate tolerance of God The Father in the face of the ultimate crime committed by human kind. If God can forgive us that, then God can forgive anything.

The problem with human nature is an almost universal tendency to either over estimate or underestimate our actual level of righteousness. Too 'rule-keepingly self righteous' and we are arrogantly proud of our imagined superior moral status'. Too guiltily, grovellingly obsequious and we hypocritically deny our status as 'being made in the image and likeness of God', though fallen from grace.

On the one hand we would be trying to impress on God our worthiness of reward. On the other we would be denying God's grace, love and ability to sustain us in the natural moral condition He originally designed us to exhibit.

The inspired remedy for this moral conundrum was delivered by God to mankind through the message of The Gospel.

ALL have sinned.
All are in need of repentance.
All are offered full and free forgiveness as demonstrated by Jesus Christ in the hour of his death. (Father forgive them for they know not what they do).
All then have the obligation laid upon them to likewise forgive others and make restitution by amending their ways in accordance with the teachings of Jesus Christ.
ALL are offered this but many may and do reject the offer and go their own way.

The Holy Spirit is promised to ALL who willingly enter into this 'Restored Relationship with God', for the forgiveness of their sins and restoration to a holy life in God's Service. The Holy Spirit is the spirit of Jesus Christ, who goes before us into the presence of The Father to plead our cause and be our advocate and mediator. Our 'life' is 'hidden with Him in God'. Col. 3:3. i.e protected from 'spiritual pollution and damnation' but not from the tribulations endured here in 'The World'. Jn. 16:33. Jn. 15:19, Jn. 17:15-16.

We are no longer clothed in 'filthy rags' but are 'clad in white robes' of 'saintly deeds'. Rev. 6:11, 7:9, 7:13-14, 19:8.

Regards Chris.
Love covers a multitude of sins. 1 Pet.4:8b.

Last edited by:

rdrcofe: Oct 26, 2017, 12:13 AM
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Re: [rdrcofe] A question for Annagail... In reply to
Hi Chris.

Interesting in depth commentary, as per usual. Thank you.

I will continue to think that the concept of unworthiness is detrimental to believers of any sort. Amazingly, it can be witnessed in atheists, who are overly concerned with their unworthiness in regards to living upon the planet, which is their only environment and of which they are undeniably a part. Sin against the Creator. Sin against Earth.

There is a dangerous disconnect between striving to do good and thinking that failing makes you unworthy of life.

"The Ox is slow, but the Earth is patient."