It is recorded multiple times in the old testament that when people went through a loss, submission, or even repentance it was a common act to clothe themselves in sackcloth and lay in ashes. It was a symbol of deep emotional turmoil that was so intense a composed exterior would not be deemed as appropriate (examples can be seen in Daniel 9:3 and Esther 4:1-2).
In the verse we’re focusing on today, Isaiah informs us that through God’s anointing he has been sent to bestow (or give) a crown of beauty in place of those ashes. It’s an act and an instruction and through it we can see the awesome wonder of God’s kindness, power and glory.
Teachings of God’s kindness stretch right through to the end of the Bible in Revelation 21:4 that says “He will wipe every tear from their eyes”. God feels what we feel and he wants nothing more than for us to be free and whole in Him.
Think of a time where you felt totally wrapped up in the pain & angst of some kind of wrongdoing whether that was to you or from you. A time where you felt like nothing could be made better. A time where it was so hard to hold on to hope. Maybe you even feel like that right now. God is the ultimate hero who you can always count on to change a situation because of the power & authority he holds.
The act of placing a crown of beauty in place of ashes is permission-giving, yes, but it’s even more than that. 2 Corinthians 3:18 says
“And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”
In the face of God’s radiant glory, we are transformed into that. As we contemplate the splendor of God’s glory and encounter the grace He provides with truly unveiled faces, mourning and repentance in it’s previous forms are no longer necessary. They are no longer appropriate. Isaiah is prophesying life through the Spirit of the Lord our God - and living completely and utterly with Him and through His Spirit means that there is no place for tears because of the magnificence of the one in whom we believe.
Think again back to that time where you were ‘covered in ashes’ and God moved you forward out of it.
What beauty has God given you in place of those ashes?
Thank God for what he’s given & what he’s taken away.
We invite you to join us as we journey slowly and prayerfully through Isaiah 61 - line by line over forty days.