Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down,
that the mountains might quake at your presence—
2 as when fire kindles brushwood
and the fire causes water to boil—
to make your name known to your adversaries,
and that the nations might tremble at your presence!
3 When you did awesome things that we did not look for,
you came down, the mountains quaked at your presence.
4 From of old no one has heard
or perceived by the ear,
no eye has seen a God besides you,
who acts for those who wait for him.
5 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?
6 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.
I believe that justification by faith is the foundational truth of Christianity. You cannot know true rest and peace until you are convinced you can never be made right in God’s eyes by your own works of righteousness.
If you don’t understand the perfect righteousness of Christ that is yours by faith, you will lead a life of toil and sweat. You’ll spend your days trying to please God through legalistic, hopeless attempts to establish your own righteousness. But the truth is, you’ll never have any righteousness to bring to the Lord!
No doubt you are familiar with the passage in Isaiah that says all our righteousness is as filthy rags in God’s sight (see Isaiah 64:6). This does not mean God despises our good works — not at all. We should do good works, but if you think your good works merit your salvation, that they allow you to stand holy before God, then they are nothing but filthy rags!
You may feel good because of the good works you do and even enjoy a moment of victory whenever you resist temptation. You feel righteous, that God’s favor is on you. The next day, however, you fail. You fall back into a sin and suddenly you lose all your joy. You think the Lord is angry with you and wonder if you have lost your salvation.
It is a roller-coaster ride of emotional highs and lows — of up-and-down, hot-and-cold, sin-and-confess — according to how good or bad you think you have been on any given day. It’s a life of misery because you are trying to please God in your flesh!
Beloved, no righteousness of the flesh will ever stand before God. Even the best people among us, the most moral, godly saints, have fallen short of God’s glory. None of us can ever be accepted in the Father’s eyes by our good works. We are accepted by Him only as we are in Christ!
“For ye are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). When we turn to Jesus with saving, self-emptying faith, we become one in Christ. Being “in Christ” means God credits Jesus’ righteousness to us. All our sins are washed away because of His work, not ours!
7 There is no one who calls upon your name,
who rouses himself to take hold of you;
for you have hidden your face from us,
and have made us melt in the hand of our iniquities.
8 But now, O Lord, you are our Father;
we are the clay, and you are our potter;
we are all the work of your hand.
Old Spanish saying seen in a potter’s studio in Spain:
“God made the first pot and it was man.”
9 Be not so terribly angry, O Lord,
and remember not iniquity forever.
Behold, please look, we are all your people.
10 Your holy cities have become a wilderness;
Zion has become a wilderness,
Jerusalem a desolation.
11 Our holy and beautiful house,
where our fathers praised you,
has been burned by fire,
and all our pleasant places have become ruins.
12 Will you restrain yourself at these things, O Lord?
Will you keep silent, and afflict us so terribly?
HERE is “He didn’t throw the clay away” — Michael English.
HERE is “You are the potter, and I am the clay” — Judy Moore.