“The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion- to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor.” Isaiah 61:1-3
We live in a fallen world. This isn’t the garden and the hearts of men are not always seeking God’s righteousness. We see storms come and go, some big others smaller and others still seem to overwhelm beyond big and encompass us like a tropical hurricane storm. Maybe you are currently surrounded by the stormy blue skies filled with dusty thunder heads and you can feel the ache in the air as it moves towards you. Maybe you are right in the middle of the chaos surrounded by flashes of lightning and thunder paralyzing every muscle in your body. The ache of the rain and hail pounds on your head as you struggle to move forward in hopes of finding a way out. Or maybe, you are now on the other side of the storm and you see the aftermath that has settled all around you and you cannot even wrap your head around where to begin to pick up the pieces as the mourning and grieving begins to set in.
Trying to find words to express the pain or hurt that life can bestow on you is often overwhelming and more seemingly unsuccessful. Trying to struggle through expressing the grief, depression, and brokenness of loss tends to come up empty-handed. So often I think we put on our strong brave happy face on and walk out into the world wishing for just a moment the brave front could be taken down without fear of rejection or judgement or worse pity.
In Old Testament times mourning was often met with ashes being heaped upon their heads (Ezekiel 27:30 and 2 Samuel 13:19). It was an outward way of showing mourning, they did not have to have on their happy face and pretend things were fine. They embraced grief in an honest gut wrenching way. Here in Isaiah he is talking about all those who are mourning, the ash in their hair will be smoothed away by a Savior and in place He will put beauty on their heads. This word Isaiah uses for beauty can be defined as a head covering much like a tiara or garland. Next, oil was often used in celebrations and festivities, and here the Redeemer will pour joy out over the mourners’ heads all the while replacing the garment made from sackcloth they wore in their mourning with a beautiful garment that expresses praise.
What a beautiful image!
Picture this: you can come to foot of the cross before, during, or after any size storm completely covered in mourning and grief. You can bow down on your knees with tears flowing form your eyes to the King of Kings all while wrapping yourself in sackcloth garments with ashes covering your head and cry out to Him! He will gently bend down and meet you face to face taking your face into His soft hands and smooth away every last speck of ash out of your hair. All while gathering up every last tear you cry and softly placing them in His bottle (Psalm 56:8). He will lovingly look into your eyes and place a beautiful crown where the ashes once overtook. He will then rain oil of joy on you as He takes away your mourning and then covers you with the finest garments of praise. You can look into the light of His face and simply trust Him and bask in His protection and restoration.
Take a minute or two to really get ahold of what Jesus will do. He adores you and patiently waits longing to have relationship with you. Our Creator, the one who knit us together, wants us, the creation, to talk to Him! He wants us to focus on Him! We have access to the King of Kings! Why would you not want to talk to Him, fellowship with Him, Praise Him? No matter what you are going through He can and He will smooth away every ash and He will take away all mourning all while restoring you in garments of praise!