Yesterday’s blog post examined how Isaiah reacted when he found himself looking at the unimaginable glory of Jehovah (Is. 6:1-8). The first words out of his mouth were, “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” (v. 5). Isaiah’s immediate focus on his own sinfulness, even before he acknowledged the sinfulness of his fellow Jews, is unique. Man generally tends to ignore or downplay our own sinfulness:
All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes… (Prov. 16:2a)
Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil. (Prov. 3:7)
We should consider how the Almighty himself views sin. It would do us good to have a better understanding of this so that we can work on seeing ourselves the way God sees us. When we do that, we will likely be better motivated to repent and turn to him for help and guidance.
The Bible teaches that sin is lawlessness (1 John 3:4), i.e., breaking the laws of God. Indeed, sin cannot exist without violating some biblical precept or principle. As Paul pointed out:
What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.”
But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead. (Rom. 7:7-8)
Coveting would not be a sin if God had not first condemned it as wrong in Scripture. Such is the case with every sin.
The question before us is why would sin – any sin – be so terrible that it would make Isaiah think of himself as so unclean that he could not be in the presence of God? This is a good question because, in our view of sin, there are “big sins” and “little sins.” The “big sins” tend to be murder, adultery, and the like, while the “little sins” include telling “little white lies” that don’t harm anybody and actually might spare someone’s feelings. Surely God would not consider a “little sin” like that to be worthy of eternal condemnation in hell, right?
Consider this passage:
What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin,
as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one;
no one understands; no one seeks for God.
All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.”
“Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.” “The venom of asps is under their lips.”
“Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”
“Their feet are swift to shed blood;
in their paths are ruin and misery,
and the way of peace they have not known.”
“There is no fear of God before their eyes.” (Rom. 3:9-18)
Question: how many of the sins listed above have applied to us personally in our lives at some point? How many of them perhaps still apply to us today?
“…all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin…None is righteous, no, not one…” All of us sin (Rom. 3:23). At some point before we became Christians, we were not righteous.
“…no one understands…” We did not understand our true spiritual state and needs. In fact, there are still things which pertain to God, ourselves, and the spiritual which we do not understand.
“…no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless…” Friend, has there ever been a time in your life when you did not seek after God or turned aside from Him? It’s been that way for me. Have you ever had unrepentant sin reign in your life and therefore become worth nothing to the cause of God and his plans for you? I have.
“…no one does good, not even one.” It’s true that the New Testament in several places does call human beings “good” in a certain sense (Matt. 5:45; 12:35; 22:10; 25:21, 23). The same Greek word which is translated “good” is used to describe Joseph of Arimathea and Barnabas (Lk. 23:50; Acts 11:24). God did inspire Paul to speak of how one would dare even to die “for a good man” (Rom. 5:7). However, none of us are good on the same level as God’s goodness…and this is because we have all sinned and have fallen short of his glory.
“Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive…The venom of asps is under their lips…Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.” Several sins come to mind. Gossip, swearing vulgarities, taking the precious name of the Lord in vain, lying, insults…who reading this has never been guilty of any of these sins at some point, or perhaps in some ways might still be guilty of them?
“Their feet are swift to shed blood…” True, most if not all reading this might not be murderers in the sense that we have taken someone’s life. However, remember that God said, “Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him” (1 John 3:15; cf. Matt. 5:21-22). Have you ever in your entire life hated someone? I have. Most have at some point.
“…in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known.” Have you ever ruined someone’s day…or week, month, or year? Has someone ever done that to you? Have you ever ruined someone’s life, or have someone ruin yours? Have you ever been a short-tempered, contentious, argumentative person whose family members and co-workers have to metaphorically “walk on eggshells” around you to avoid setting you off? If so, then you’ve brought ruin and misery to others who are in your path. You do not contribute to peace in the home, job, and within the church. You certainly do not know the way of peace. Many are like this. At times I have been guilty of this myself.
“There is no fear of God before their eyes.” Christian, have you ever purposefully, deliberately sinned? Have you known that doing or saying ________________ was a sin according to the Bible but you decided to go ahead and do it anyway? I have, and many others have as well. What was your reasoning for doing so? Speaking for me, my thought process went something like this: “I know God doesn’t want me to do this, but it’ll be okay. After all, I’m a Christian. I’m a preacher. I do lots of good. I do this, this, this, and this for God all the time. And really, this thing I want to do which I know is sin…it’s not like I’m Hitler ordering the Holocaust or anything. It’s really not that big of a deal. God won’t send me to hell over something small like this. It’ll be okay.” Do you know what’s missing from such a mindset? The fear of God. Many have admitted to me that they’ve thought similarly.
Self-examination is always a good thing, brethren (2 Cor. 13:5). Do we see ourselves, and especially the sins we commit, the same way God sees us?