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…
Three applications of the prophet's language —
I. TO MAN, AS HE IS A SINNER. Man's condition through sin is the primary idea. "Our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away."
1. The fading leaves are separated from the source of their life and growth and beauty. They are no longer in vital union with the root of the tree. They may hang for a while, but are sure speedily to fall. Any passing gust may carry them away. The soul of man through sin has, lost spiritual with God, the source of its true life, and has become faded and shrivelled through the separation.
2. The fading leaves yield no response to, receive no benefit from, the natural influences that act upon them for their life and growth. The prophet says of Israel, "There is none that calleth upon Thy name, that stirreth up himself to take hold of Thee."
3. The fading leaves, as they fall from the tree, are out of their true sphere, and exposed to all degrading forces. The prophet has in his mind leaves that had faded unnaturally, and that should still have lived in greenness and beauty upon the tree. Lying on the ground, trampled down by man and beast, when they should have been waving high like a warrior's plume. Man through sin has fallen from his true sphere. He is the sport of evil passions, subject to all degrading and hurtful forces. The emblem of his condition is a faded, fallen leaf, whirled about by the winds, trampled down and tossed about by man and beast.
4. The fading leaves are practically useless and worthless. They are of no value to the tree, nor yet to man. A sinner is one who renders no true and intelligent service to his God, and brings no real benefit to the great tree of humanity.
II. TO MAN, AS HE MORTAL. In man, as in nature, the same law of decay is acting.
III. TO MAN, AS HE IS A CHRISTIAN BELIEVER. Reversing the picture, and excluding the prophet's application, there is hope and consolation spoken by the fading leaves.
1. The fading ]eaves have fulfilled the purpose of their being and life. The Christian, whether he fade soon or late, has not lived in vain.
2. The fading leaves are clothed with the richest and most varied colours. The Christian, us life is closing, often shines with a spiritual richness and lustre never seen before.
3. The fading leaves tell of the infinite skill and care of the Creator. Wonderful is the interest God takes in His people. "Not one faileth to the ground without your Father."
4. The fading leaves do not perish. They come back in other forms, and serve other uses. The Christian can take higher and surer ground. He shall live again, live the being he now is, live never again to fade.
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.