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“Beauty for Ashes”

March 6th, 2005

(Why Christians May Live in Joy)


“To console those who mourn in Zion,
To give them beauty for ashes,
The oil of joy for mourning,
The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness”

(Isaiah 61:3, NKJV, emphasis mine, RMH)


When the old Jerusalem gospel was preached on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2), the promises of the Old Testament were opened up for all men (Acts 2:39; 3:24).
Included in this theology of promise were the words of the prophet Isaiah in Isaiah 61:3 (quoted above).
The statement of Isaiah 61:3 declares that there would be consolation for those who mourn. This consolation would come in the form of something given, as bestowed by God himself, through Jesus Christ (Isaiah 61:1; Lk. 4:16-21; 7:22).

1. Beauty for ashes – The downtrodden would be the recipients of this lovely expression of promise, “beauty for ashes.” This play on words reminds one of man’s lowly origin, from ordinary chemical composition, and his/her often mournful emotional state (Gen. 18:27; 2 Sam. 13:19; Job 2:8; Jer. 6:26). The replacement here is that of God’s dignity for man’s indignity. A head-turban may well be meant in the text.
2. The oil of joy for mourning – Olive oil had cosmetic and curative properties (Ps. 23:5; 104:15). Oil is used also as a symbol for the Holy Spirit (see Exodus 30:22-38; Ps. 18:28; etc.).
3. The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness – The New English Bible reads, “a garment of splendor for the heavy heart.”

When everything seems to be going wrong–Enter, Beauty for ashes; oil of joy;
garment of praise!
Put on the promised turban today for your tomorrow.

-Robert M. Housby

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