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…
For we are all become as one that is unclean, and all our righteousnesses are as a polluted garment: and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away. This is the language indeed of an intercessor, of one who speaks as representing the nation, and tries to speak as the nation should speak. But such a man must get at the knowledge of the condition of the nation by a deep and true estimate of his own real self. There is no sign of conscious separation of himself from his people. Right reading of his own life alone enables him to read theirs. And this is true for us also. No man who fails to apprehend the "plague of his own heart" will ever properly realize the evils of his own times. Pharisee-souls can never know the real sins of their age. Sincere and humble souls find themselves - as they know themselves - the measure of the men around them, as they stand in God's sight.
I. THE SINCERE MAN FINDS HIS GOODNESS IS SEARCHED. A man's own goodness is no more than a crust put over a state of uncleanness. Before God a man sees it to be no more than a crust. A man's own goodness is a dainty garment, which makes a brave appearance. Before God a man sees that it does but cover a foul person, and the foul person has polluted the dress. There is no place where we find out the worthlessness of our own goodness like the place of prayer.
II. THE SINCERE MAN IS IMPRESSED WITH his OWN FRAILTY. It is not that he finds life fading; the thing that oppresses him is that he can never keep at a high level of goodness; he is always fading from his standards; he can no more keep on in goodness than the leaves can keep on the trees all autumn and winter through. One writer says, on the expression "we fade as a leaf," "This means that sin brings with it the curse of God, and deprives us of his blessing, both for the body and the soul, so that the heart is dissatisfied and distressed."
III. THE SINCERE MAN RECOGNIZES JUDGMENT INFLICTED. The past calamities of life are read aright, and seen to be a man's iniquities taking him away from peace and prosperity. There is no standing steady for any of us who keep in our sins. If we cannot find out how our iniquities can be taken away, we shall be sure to find that our iniquities will take us away. When we are truly humbled under God's hand concerning ourselves, we are fitted to make confession before God in the name of our nation. - R.T.
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.