“. . . 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 . . .” (Isaiah 61:2-3)
May the Word of the Lord go forth and be a source of unimaginable comfort to you today, regardless of where this message finds you. God takes our messes and turns them into His masterpieces. In another words, God takes all that we have ruined and burned to the ground (turned into ashes) and restores them into things of cosmic beauty. To be sure, God’s ways are not our ways, and we catch a glimpse of this truth “In the beginning . . .”
God sent His Holy Spirit to brood over the cosmic chaos “when the earth was formless and empty and darkness was over the surface of the deep” (Genesis 1:2). And as soon as God spoke by way of the second person of the Trinity (Jesus Christ), our Triune God brought unimaginable beauty out of blackness.
This picture of the physical world provides the backdrop for the way God deals with mankind—we who were spiritually dead in trespass and sins and, by grace through faith, raised to walk in newness of life. Before Jesus shows up, we are by nature formless, empty, and the darkness of unbelief lies over the surface of depths of our hearts. Then God in Christ sends the Holy Spirit, and in an instant we become the entirely undeserving recipients of beauty for blackness.
All of our past lives are littered with God’s divine display of exchanging beauty for ashes. The ashes of defeat come in so many different ways. Yet in all of them, God uses every life experience to grow us and mature us in our faith, and ultimately, those ashes are exchanged for His beauty. The real comfort comes in knowing that what God began in us, He will carry on to completion when He brings us into our eternal glory (Philippians 1:6).
As you look back over your life, can you see the times God bestowed upon you a crown of beauty instead of ashes? Remember, the One who is the same yesterday, today, and forever will not and cannot change. What God has done in the past He will do in the present, and God is in the business of exchanging beauty for ashes in the life of the believer. Let that truth set you free to rise above every mistake, error, blunder, shortcoming, oversight, and utter failure. Know that God is working all of it for your ultimate good and His glory.
And if you forget this truth, go back to the hill Calvary and remember how God took the blackest event in the history of mankind—the crucifixion “ashes” of our Lord Jesus Christ—and turned it into the greatest blessing of beauty the world has ever known.
As I sometimes tell our congregation, if that doesn’t light your fire . . . your wood is wet!
This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!