God wants to give us beauty to show forth His glory. Everything God did in Christ Jesus was for the glory of His church, His people, you and me.
The prophet Isaiah spoke about these things saying:
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 NIV
What are these Ashes?
Ashes are literally residues of combustion. You may have been burned in business, academics, finances, or marriage, and usually, after such disheartening experiences, you are left clutching ashes.
Ashes symbolize and provoke an attitude of repentance.
The Israelites, when they repented from their wicked ways, would throw ashes on their heads as a way to show to God and man that they are sorry and are genuinely repentant of their wayward ways. After this, they would wash off and come out renewed. Until you repent with an attitude of genuineness, you will remain in your place of ashes.
So I turned to the Lord God and pleaded with him in prayer and petition, in fasting, and in sackcloth and ashes.Daniel 9:3 NIV
Ashes of Repentance
If you are genuinely remorseful, you will be in a place of ashes and this may not mean that you literally throw ashes upon yourself, but that your heart attitude is the same as the one who has to throw ashes upon themselves to show it to the world.
You may not in certain circumstances need to show outwardly your ashes, but God who sees the heart knows whether you are genuinely repented or not, whether you have ashes indeed. Repent toward God and only He can genuinely deliver you from the situation you find yourself.
Ashes of Suffering from Injustice
The story of Tamar, the daughter of King David, is a very touching one. This blossoming young virgin found herself in a place of ashes not as a result of her own wickedness or transgression or even carelessness, but as a result of evil meted to her by her own half-brother. She found herself in a place of ashes by no circumstance of her own making.
Tamar put ashes on her head and tore the ornate robe she was wearing. She put her hands on her head and went away, weeping aloud as she went.2 Samuel 13:19 NIV
You can read the rest of the story in 2 Samuel 13.
You sometimes may not find yourself in a place of ashes as a result of things you have done, but probably as a result of what has been done to you.
Sometimes the problems you are passing through in life have dealt you your ashes.
You may have been betrayed by very close friends, set up by business colleagues, locked up in prison for a false allegation, or taken advantage of because you are weak. Whatever way your ashes might have come, the Lord wants to exchange your beauty for ashes.
The Case of Job
So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord and afflicted Job with painful sores from the soles of his feet to the crown of his head.Job 2:7 NIV
The man called Job in the Bible did not suffer because of what he did wrong. In fact, he suffered because of his righteousness. Sometimes in life, being good can attract some kinds of suffering but that is not to keep us from continuing to do good. It is to take us from one level of doing good to a greater level.
Yes, Job was righteous, but he was self-righteous. You can tell from his words and the tone of his arguments with his friends. His righteousness was based on his works, not grace, and God wanted to teach him a lesson in justification by faith and not by works. That was why God allowed him to have that experience; to be tested.
One thing God was sure about was that Job would never deny or renounce his faith in Him. Job passed the test and God rewarded his ashes with beauty and lifted him from the heap of ashes and dung to a heap of wellbeing and nourishment.
Even though Job went through the worst experience anyone could ever handle, but in the end, it was to show forth the glory of God.
The Case of the Man Born Blind
Jesus spoke something about a man who was born blind and who remained so for 38 years or his life. When Jesus came to heal this man, He was asked who or what was responsible for this man’s condition. Jesus answered that the cause of the man’s condition was immaterial but rather, it was for God’s own glory.
You may be going through a sorrowful experience now but there is a beauty coming your way in the end.
Trouble in the World
Sometimes you are hated for doing nothing wrong at all. You will always have trouble in the world so there is no point looking for peace in the world because the peace the world gives is only temporary and flawed.
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”John 16:33 NIV
Jesus has overcome for your sake and switched your ashes for beauty. Do not look for peace or comfort in the world, the peace you have in Jesus will surpass everybody’s understanding and expectation for Jesus is the Prince of Peace.
Give God Your Ashes Now
God does not want us to perish but to come to repentance and so He is patiently waiting on you to give up your sinful ways and cry out to him in those ashes.
No time is too late for God, and He is not slow as we measure slowness in our eyes. If you call upon Him now, He’ll respond such that you’ll wonder why you hadn’t taken the decision earlier. God is never late. If you can only give up your ashes, you’ll receive beauty in their stead.
The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.2 Peter 3:9 NIV
You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness;
therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions
by anointing you with the oil of joy.”Hebrews 1:9 NIV
Do not be self-righteous, but love righteousness in all sincerity. Without this integrity of repentance your transformation may not happen and even it if does, it would not be complete and it will be short-lived.
Let your character not be deceitful in private but decent in public. God dislikes deceitfulness and duality of nature. If you’re neither hot nor cold, God will spit you out. This means that God will cut you off from His eternal inheritance and cause you to remain in your ashes forever. It also means that you will be ultimately destroyed in the second death, where there are everlasting ashes.
Why not escape the reality and certain destruction of all sinners in the lake of fire today and genuinely repent to God and confess Jesus as your personal Lord and Saviour. Then you will activate the blessing and grace through faith in Jesus Christ to leave your place of ashes and enter your place of beauty.