5 You meet him who rejoices and does righteousness, who remembers You in Your ways. You are indeed angry, for we have sinned— In these ways we continue; and we need to be saved. 6 But we are all like an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags; We all fade as a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.” (Isaiah 64:5–6, NKJV)
Far from confirming the false teaching of total depravity and a “sin nature” inherent in humanity, this passage explains the sinfulness of a rebellious nation. Neither does it teach that we can do nothing that impacts our salvation. Israel had turned from God’s ways to idolatry, eliciting God’s wrath (“we have sinned,” v. 5). Indeed, even after repeated warnings, Israel continued in the ways of sin instead of turning back to God’s “old paths, where the good way is” (Jer. 6:16; Isa. 65:2-3). The people needed to be saved. None of their sacrifices pleased God; in their sin they were unclean like a defiled garment (Isa. 1:10-15). It was their sins (not some “sin nature”) that separated them from their God (Isa. 59:2). Like Israel, God’s people can still turn away from God’s way, become defiled in sin, and face divine wrath. God spares the one who “rejoices and does righteousness” (v. 5; Acts 10:35). But, those who practice sin are like a dead leaf, blown away by the wind. So, rejoice in God’s salvation and walk in “true righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4:24).