Isaiah 64:6 seems to say: even your best deeds are dirty and worthless. But I don’t think this is what Isaiah means. The “righteous deeds” Isaiah has in mind are most likely the perfunctory rituals offered by Israel without sincere faith and without wholehearted obedience. In Isaiah 65:1–7 the Lord rejects Israel’s sinful sacrifices. They are an insult to the Lord, smoke in his nostrils, just like the ritual “obedience” of Isaiah 58 that did not impress the Lord because his people were oppressing the poor. Their “righteous deeds” were “filthy rags” (64:6, KJV) because they weren’t righteous at all. They looked good but were a sham, a literal smoke screen to cover up their unbelief and disobedience.
"But we should not think that every kind of 'righteous deed' is like a filthy rag before God. In fact the previous verse, Isaiah 64:5, says 'you [God] meet him who joyfully works righteousness, those who remember you in your ways.' It is not impossible for God’s people to commit righteous acts that please God...
"Why do we imagine God to be so unmoved by our heart-felt attempts at obedience? He is, after all, our heavenly Father.
What sort of father looks at his daughter’s homemade birthday card and
complains that the color scheme is all wrong? What kind of mother says
to her son, after he gladly cleaned the garage but put the paint cans on
the wrong shelf, “This is worthless in my sight”? What sort of parent
rolls his eyes when his child falls off the bike on the first try? There
is no righteousness that makes us right with God except for the
righteousness of Christ. But for those who have been made right with God
by grace alone through faith alone and therefore have been adopted into
God’s family, many of our righteous deeds are not only not filthy in God’s eyes, they are exceedingly sweet, precious, and pleasing to him."
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