Filthy Rags (Weekly Devotions 8 of 52)

Photo Take by Cherie

Have you ever felt as if God wasn’t listening? Have you ever felt separated from Him? Did you desire that intimate relationship with God to be restored? I have felt this many times in my walk with Him. And I have seen this in many people’s lives as well, as I work with those who are hurting—those who are struggling with depression, anxiety, fear and insecurity, rage, relationship difficulties or even self-destructive behaviors.

Well, I have learned in my many years of walking with the Lord that I usually feel separated from Him when there is something wrong within my heart. It’s not God who moved, but me! It’s as if I closed the gate and built the wall between God and myself. And this wrongness within my own heart not only separates me from Him, but it can also lead to all the consequences listed above if that ugliness is not handled in the manner God intended. Listen to what the prophet Ezekiel had to say in 36:16-17:

Again the word of the Lord came to me. “Son of man, when the people of Israel were living in their own land, they defiled it by their conduct and their actions. Their conduct was like a woman’s monthly uncleanness in my sight.

And listen to what Isaiah 64:6a has to say along these same lines:

All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags.

According to the NIV Study Bible the term “filthy rags” refer to “the cloths a woman uses during her period, a time when she is ‘unclean.’”[i] In other words, as the verse says, “all of us have become like one who is unclean [when we have sin hidden in the depths of our hearts], and all our righteous acts [in other words, our fine sounding arguments and wonderful pretension that there is nothing wrong deep within our hearts] are like filthy rags [like the cloths a woman uses during her menstrual period].”

Now if that doesn’t cause us to be repulsed and disgusted by the sin hidden in the depths of our heart (which can be something as simple as holding on to hurt, pain, anger, bitterness and unforgiveness, I don’t know what will. But it is important to know that this is how God sees our sin. Our sin is like filthy rags, (like the clothes used during a women’s menstrual cycle) in the sight of God. That’s why He doesn’t want to meet with us because our hearts are not only unclean, but absolutely disgusting! That’s why you and I, at times, can feel separated from God.

So, since it has to do with us and not the Lord, as to where the problem lies, what do we do to restore our fellowship with Him? How do we open that gate and tear down the wall within our hearts which is separating us from Him? We need to take time to meet with Him and ask Him to search our hearts. In other words, we need to be honest with ourselves. We need to ask Him to search our hearts and to show us any filthy rags that we are holding onto. This is something that has become a way of life for me. This is why Ezekiel 36:16-17 jumped off the page during my morning devotions. It is a reminder to me of how easily and quickly I can yet again hold onto something unpleasing to God—some hurt, or pain, or anger—which can quickly turn into bitterness and unforgiveness in my heart, which as we just learned are filthy rags to Him. And the moment that I choose to hold on to these things I separate myself from God. This is why I feel as if He isn’t listening. But it wasn’t Him who moved—it was me!

And as I take the time to meet with God (even though I don’t feel as if He is listening) and I honestly search my heart, He has always been faithful to show me what is unpleasing to Him. As He does this, I immediately admit that sin to myself, I confess it to Him and I repent of it by choosing to no longer hold on to it. It is at that moment that my relationship with God is restored and I once again feel His awesome presence!

Is there something hidden deep within your heart that is separating you from God? Take the time to meet with Him and ask Him to search your heart and show you what it is. As He does, be willing to admit it to yourself that you have sin hidden deep within. Remember, you aren’t fooling God; He knows what is hidden deep within. The only one you are fooling is yourself! Then as you are willing to be honest with yourself confess it to God and repent of it by changing your ways. As you get your heart right with the Lord your intimate relationship will be restored. I guarantee it! I’m looking forward to your comments.

 

Adapted from the new updated and expanded edition of Go in Peace Biblical Discipleship Curriculum, which will be released January 2012. Watch for more information which will be posted here  http://www.sunflowerpress.net/resources.html by January.

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[i] NIV Study Bible, Study Notes on Isaiah 64:6.

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