Beauty For Ashes: What Does God's Promise Mean?

One of our favorite passages in the Bible comes from Isaiah 61:3… 

to grant to those who mourn in Zion—

    to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes,

the oil of gladness instead of mourning,

    the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit;

that they may be called oaks of righteousness,

    the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified.

Throughout the Old Testament, ashes were used in the mourning process. The people of Israel would cover themselves in ashes to grieve abuse (2 Samuel 13:19), physical pain (Job 2:8) or repentance from sin (Jonah 3:5-7). Ashes were never associated with joy, happiness or life.

But then Isaiah introduced a new plan… 

God was going to bring His Messiah into the world. All their heartbreak would be turned to cheer, and the ashes on their heads would be traded in for a beautiful crown.

The flowers are in the background to remind us that it’s here and not yet here. Jesus has come and gone. But He’s also coming back.

Roman numeral LXI:III means 61:3 and it’s front and center. That’s the promise God has left for us and it’s what we cling to. God knows that we can get tired or that tragedy can strike and leave us deeply sorrowful.

Like the people of Israel, there are many times where we sit in ashes… 

Friends or family passing away.

Bad news from a doctor.

Fired from a job.

Failing grades at school.

His remedy is the same now as it was then — He made a promise. He will take our death and exchange it for life. There is beauty ahead. 

And it will come out of the ashes.