Filthy rags

Isaiah was a strange guy by today’s standards.

Walking around naked for three years is not something you do these days. I wasn’t something generally seen then either. But God told him that he had to go around naked and barefoot for that time, as a sign that the Assyrians would lead the Egyptians into captivity naked and barefoot.

But in a society where manual workers would strip naked to do their work, nudity would not be as shocking as it would be today.  In 1 Samuel 19:24 (From the ESV)

And he too stripped off his clothes, and he too prophesied before Samuel and lay naked all that day and all that night. Thus it is said, “Is Saul also among the prophets?”

Going naked did not seem that unusual for a prophet.

I am blogging here about something shocking in Isaiah, but it isn’t to do with nudity.

As in the last blog, if you are easily offended, stop reading here.



Still here? I shall assume that you are not easily offended.

The passage I have in mind from Isaiah is from Chapter 64 verses 5 and 6:

You meet him who joyfully works righteousness,
those who remember you in your ways.
Behold, you were angry, and we sinned;
in our sins we have been a long time, and shall we be saved?
We have all become like one who is unclean,
and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.
We all fade like a leaf,
and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.


“All our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.”. the Authorized Version has the translation filthy rags for polluted garment. The Hebrew is more direct. It has עִדָּה, iddah, where the English translations have polluted or filthy. The Hebrew word means menstruation. What Isaiah is saying is that our sins atre like a used sanitary towel.

I told you there was going to be something uncomfortable here. This is not something we talk about, even in a society which has adverts for Bodyform and Always on prime time TV. (Though after the 9pm watershed.

But it is worse than that. In ancient Jewish society a woman was not allowed into corporate worship if she was on, or just after her period. This was a big taboo. it even barred menstruating women from God.

What is the most disgusting thing you can think of? God says your sins make you worse than that. It is not that we should not be doing good works, God meets with those who cheerfully do good, despite the fact that our best cannot ever be good enough,

God wants to meet with us, God loves us. God wants to forgive the sins that make the best we can do more disgusting than the most disgusting thing we can imagine. It was in his plan from the beginning to become human and take away all of our badness, because God js like that. The desire to forgive us runs through his nature.

Do you want to be forgiven? This is what God says through Isaiah again, using the same ides of red for sins and white for clean, (Chapter 1 verse 18.

Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.

Come to God. Be forgiven. Have your guilt taken away. Be clean.

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