The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn; To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified. (Isaiah 61:1-3 KJV)
Ashes have always served as a symbol of mourning. Ashes are applied for mourning the dead; both a physical and spiritual death. A man will die physically one time. A person does not die over and over again but succumbs to his own physical death just once. Upon physical death every man will be ushered into the eternal realm to face God once either for judgement or a rewards ceremony for His saints.
Each man is born on this earth physically alive but spiritually dead because of sin which naturally resides in his heart. Spiritual death requires each man to personally seek God for His supernatural work in bringing about new spiritual life in his heart. Acknowledging spiritual woes to God signify a time of deep personal desperation and mourning over the sinfully dead condition of his heart. In the Old Testament covering one’s self in ashes was a public sign or cry of a repentant heart for the nature of sin dwelling in one’s heart and life. It is coming in spiritual desperation with humbleness before a perfect and righteous God. Man cannot come before the holiness of God with the presence of sin ruling in his heart. Therefore, He must genuinely seek God’s righteousness rather than continuing to be ruled by the darkness of his own sin nature.
The focus in a humbled and quickened alive man shifts from viewing his own sinful heart to feasting upon the goodness and mercy of God who now resides within his softened heart. This change in focus is not just a glance at the goodness of God, a mental assent to thinking upon God, a change in direction every now and then, or a yearly spiritual pilgrimage in mourning for sin, but it is always a perpetual change in focus from the wicked nature of man to the holiness and righteousness of God. It is eyeing a permanent and eternal freedom and being in right fellowship with God rather than continuing to dwell in desperation circumstances filled with spiritual distraction found in communion with god and captivity to man’s innate sinful nature from birth.
God promises to freely give all mankind spiritual beauty for ashes. Those seeking a permanent change in their life choose to have fellowship with God rather than carrying on a dark and deadly relationship with the god of this world. Seeking eternal fellowship with God through a genuine repentance in the heart brings both a remarkable inner and outer spiritual beauty to the repentant man. It is putting on the attractive robe of God made possible through Jesus Christ and casting away the filthy and unlovely garment naturally available from the god of this world.
God says not only will He provide beauty but He will comfort those who mourn. Gods comfort is not a comfort that lasts for a moment or endures for a time. God’s comfort is a constant comfort which lasts forever.
God promised joy would definitely come to replace a season of mourning in His saints:
Verily, verily, I say unto you, That ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice: and ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy. (John 16:20 KJV)
There are many biblical examples of men and women coming humbly and covered in ashes, before God. Both as a matter of initial salvation, which is gaining a right spiritual position with God, along with enjoying a daily practical or continued fellowship with God. Once regenerated in the heart, mankind has right spiritual standing with God, but he must choose to continually maintain right fellowship with God by seeking daily to rid any accumulated debris and pollution of sin, which naturally accumulate, blocking or obstructing sweet fellowship with God.
Here are some biblical examples of men weeping bitterly and applying ashes for possessing a right spiritual position with God through salvation, or calling out to God with a humble and repent attitude for sin in keeping in daily fellowship with God.
- Daniel communed with God with a sweet humble spirit of continued fellowship even as he was in captivity (Daniel 9:3 KJV).
- The Jewish people sought out God in desperation (Esther 4:3 KJV)
- Job was in utter straits and miserable but continued to persevere despite his circumstances in his close and personal relationship with God (Job 42:6).
- Jonah warned the people that Ninevah would be overthrown and the people believed God. They humbly fasted in sackcloth and ashes (Jonah 3:4-6 KJV.
- Tamar put ashes on her head, and tore her garment and was desperate (2 Samuel 13:19-20 KJV)
- Jeremiah called out to his people to gird themselves with sackcloth, and cover themselves with ashes and to weep bitterly about their sin (Jeremiah 6:26 KJV).
Many people today are seeking to be remorseful for their sin (often according to their own terms) by offering God a personal sacrifice of giving up of something of their own choice, whether it be a food or a practice of some sort, as they enter into the traditional season of observing Lent. This is a tradition many people engage in like clockwork each year as Spring hovers on the horizon and the Passover and celebration of Easter is nearly at hand, being forty days away as observance of Lent begins.
Scripture records that Easter is a celebration of Jesus being resurrected and arising spiritually alive from his grave of physical death. Easter is a celebration of new spiritual life. This new life is available to all mankind because Jesus Christ, through the supernatural power of God, permanently defeated the sting of death ushering in the reality of eternal spiritual life by His resurrection fro the grave over death.
However, for those celebrating Lent, it is a time of seeking remorse for their personal sin and the offering of a sacrifice for their sin. This is akin to placing God upon the cross over and over again for a rampant or uncontrolled sin nature which God already has power over and has defeated once for all. Seeking genuine remorse for sin is a spiritual change in direction that does not happen every year. It is a new spiritual nature bringing salvation to the heart along with a daily edict at work in the regenerated heart which is ruled by the spiritual force of God rather than the dark nature from the god of this world.
It has been said that celebrating Lent is linked together with women who were weeping for Tammuz outside the temple in Ezekiel 8:12-14. Genuine weeping for repentance would take place inside the temple in the presence of God. Therefore, it was a tradition generated by man and steeped in paganism and idolatry rather than observing true worship of God.
This celebration was an abomination to the holiness of God in Old Testament times as well as today in New Testament times.
I encourage you, if you have grown up observing lent that you dive deeply into God’s Word concerning His requisite for continuing this tradition or practice. Anything that God desires and requires mankind to observe and do as part of his spiritual walk and fellowship with Him can be substantiated and validated through scripture. God often authenticates His desires for mankind by collaborating it both in the Old and New Testament. Be a Berean (Acts 17:11) and dig into God’s Word concerning the practice of Lent. If you choose to follow this celebration, there should be a clear directive from God substantiating this ancient practice written in His Word applicable for today.