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Beauty For Ashes - Rev Funke Ewuosho
Isaiah 61:1-4 says: “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon Me, Because the LORD has anointed Me To preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives, And the opening of the prison to those who are bound; To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, And the day of vengeance of our God; To comfort all who mourn, 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; That they may be called trees of righteousness, The planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified.” And they shall rebuild the old ruins, They shall raise up the former desolations, And they shall repair the ruined cities, The desolations of many generations.”
Let"s take a closer look at the first part of verse 3: “To console those who mourn in Zion...” That implies that there would be those who are mourning in Zion - the house of God! Mourning is not necessarily a negative or an evil thing. Jesus said those who mourn are blessed, because they shall be comforted. (Matt.5:4). When Nehemiah heard about the deplorable state of Jerusalem; that its wall was broken down and its gates were burnt with fire; he “sat down and wept, and mourned for many days... fasting and praying before the God of heaven.” (Neh. 11:3,4). The Bible actually says it is better to go to the house of mourning than to the house of feasting and, the heart of the wise is in the house of mourning. (Eccl. 7:2,4).
The focus isn"t the mourning but what will be accomplished in the end - comfort! “To all who mourn in Israel, He will give beauty for ashes, joy instead of mourning, praise instead of despair. For the Lord has planted them like strong and graceful oaks for His own glory” (Is. 61:3 NLT). The Message Bible says, God will rename them “Oaks of Righteousness; planted by God to display His glory”. Psalms 102:16,17 says: “For the LORD shall build up Zion; He shall appear in His glory. He shall regard the prayer of the destitute, And shall not despise their prayer.”
It is not what happens to you that matters but how you come out of it. “So the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come with singing, with everlasting joy on their heads. They shall obtain joy and gladness, sorrow and sighing shall flee away. I even I am He who comforts you.” (Is. 51:11,12). The Bible says they shall return... I like to tell the devil, “I will be back”; and I won"t come back the way I left but stronger and more powerful! The ransomed of the LORD shall return and come with singing, with everlasting joy. Psalms 126:1-6 says: “When the LORD brought back the captivity of Zion, We were like those who dream. Then our mouth was filled with laughter, And our tongue with singing. Then they said among the nations, “The LORD has done great things for them.” The LORD has done great things for us, And we are glad. Bring back our captivity, O LORD, As the streams in the South. Those who sow in tears Shall reap in joy. He who continually goes forth weeping, Bearing seed for sowing, Shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, Bringing his sheaves with him.”
Like they say, “tough times never last, but tough people do!” The pain, the tears, the devastation, the set-back, etc; isn"t everlasting but the joy that would come out of it is everlasting. “For His anger is but for a moment, His favour is for life; weeping many endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning” (Ps. 30:5). You must be determined to come out of your mourning better than how you were before you went in. “Instead of your shame you shall have double honour, and instead of confusion they shall rejoice in their portion. Therefore in their land they shall possess double; everlasting joy shall be theirs.” (Is. 61:7). The Bible tells us that the Lord blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning. The Lord restored Job"s losses; He restored what was captured from Job. The Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before! (Job 42:10).
It is not how you started that matters, but how you finish! “Though your beginning was small, yet your latter end would increase abundantly.” (Job 8:7). God says in Jeremiah 29:11 “I know what I"m doing. I have it all planned out - plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for.” (The Message Bible). Isn"t it comforting to know that we serve a God who knows what He is doing? When Joseph submitted himself to the dealings of God, he must have trusted that God knew what He was doing. What of Daniel, when he was being thrown into the lions" den? What of the three Hebrew guys, when the king commanded that the fire be made seven times hotter and they were thrown into it? These folks must have believed that God sure knew what He was doing! God says “I know what I am doing. I have it all planned out...”. The Amplified Bible says, “to give you hope in your final outcome.” I like that phrase: “your final outcome.” The Bible says “Sorrow is better than laughter, for by a sad countenance the heart is made better. The end of a thing is better than its beginning, the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit.” (Eccl. 7:3,8). The Apostle Paul said “our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” (2 Cor. 4:17, 18).
Your problem is just the beginning of something greater in God! It does not have to be a stumbling block for you but should rather be a stepping stone to greater heights. When Jesus heard that Lazarus was sick, He told His disciples that the sickness was not unto death but for the glory of God. (Jn. 11:14). That is, death wasn"t going to be the final outcome, but the glory of God! Remember, the Bible says we are the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified. Jesus told Martha that if she would believe, she would see the glory of the Lord. (Jn. 11:39). A man was born blind and they asked Jesus whose fault was it that he was born blind. Jesus said it was neither the man"s sins nor his parents" but that the works of the Lord be revealed in him. (Jn. 9:1-3). We must not be focussed on what the devil is doing or on the negative things around us; but rather be focussed on what God can, and wants to do in that situation. Jesus went on to say; “I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day, the night is coming when no one can work.” That should be our own attitude too - a commitment to participating with God in what He wants to do! We don"t just sit around, rather we must rise up and start participating with God if we would see our situation turn around, and see God turn our mourning into dancing. Surely, God wants to console those who mourn in Zion by giving them the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; so that they may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that the Lord many be glorified - that is their final outcome! Job said, “But He knows the way that I take; when He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold.” (Job 23:10).
Isaiah 61:4 says, “And they shall rebuild the old ruins; they shall raise up the former desolations and they shall repair the ruined cities, the desolations of many generations.” Who are the “they” that shall do these things? The same ones who mourn in Zion of course! That means, they are going to get involved with God in the recovery and restoration process. God wants to give them beauty for ashes. Ashes are the left-over or aftermath of a devastation. After a fire, you have ashes, rubbles, ruins, etc. The Message Bible says, “They"ll rebuild the old ruins, raise a new city out of wreckage, they"ll start over on the ruined cities, take the rubble left behind and make it new.” Hallelujah! God can make something out of that total wreckage. He can turn your mess into a message. He can make a testimony out of your tests! “For the LORD shall build up Zion; He shall appear in His glory.” (Ps. 102:16). Isaiah 60:15 says, “Whereas you have been forsaken and hated, So that no one went through you, I will make you an eternal excellence, A joy of many generations.” Amen!
Don"t allow yourself to be completely overwhelmed by your problems. It is okay to weep, but you must also rise up and begin to build! Nehemiah wept and mourned many days but he also did something else; he fasted and prayed in his mournful state. (Neh. 1:4-11). And God heard his prayers; “He shall regard the prayer of the destitute, And shall not despise their prayer.” (Ps. 102:17).
God gave Nehemiah favour with the king and Nehemiah was given the permission to go back to Jerusalem, to rebuild it. Nehemiah invited others to join him, he said to them “You see the distress that we are in, how Jerusalem lies waste, and its gates are burned with fire. Come and let us build the wall of Jerusalem, that we may no longer be a reproach.” And the people replied; “Let us rise up and build.” Then they set their hands to this good work.” (Neh. 2:17,18). So, Nehemiah and the people rebuilt the wall of Jerusalem!
David had a situation in which the city of Ziklag where he lived was attacked and burnt with fire by the Amalekites. They also took captive all the women and children while David and his men were away, fighting. David and his men wept until they had no more strength to weep. David was greatly distressed because the people spoke of stoning him. The Bible says, “But David encouraged himself in the LORD his God”. He also inquired of God as to what step to take. God said to David “Pursue, for you shall surely overtake them and without fail recover all.” David and four hundred of his men pursued the Amalekites and they recovered all that the Amalekites had carried away. (1 Sam. 30:1-20).
Your attitude to what happens to you and your disposition to your trials, will determine greatly how you come out of it. It is easier to sit around weeping than it is to rise up to begin to “rebuild the old ruins, raise a new city out of wreckage, start over on the ruined cities and to take the rubble left behind and make it new.” You don"t need to run away from your problems, if you do, you will face them again. You must learn to face them! David ran towards Goliath. Someone said, if the devil is after you, you are probably facing the wrong direction – turn around and face him! The Bible says David attacked the Amalekites from twilight until the evening of the next day. “So David recovered all...”
(1 Sam 30:17-18). That is the attitude and disposition that will recover all; as opposed to the one that sits down and wonders why things are going wrong. David said, “I have pursued my enemies and overtaken them; Neither did I turn back again till they were destroyed. I have wounded them, So that they could not rise; They have fallen under my feet. For You have armed me with strength for the battle; You have subdued under me those who rose up against me.” (Ps. 18:37-39). A lot of folks ‘down tools" when they are going through challenges in their lives. That should not be the case if you would see God turn your captivity around. “Those who sow in tears Shall reap in joy. He who continually goes forth weeping, Bearing seed for sowing, Shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, Bringing his sheaves with him.” (Ps. 126:5-6).
Even in your tears, you can still sow and in your weeping, you can still be bearing seed for sowing; that is the guarantee for a joyful harvest! A farmer who didn"t put any seed in the ground, has nothing to look forward to. God said, as long as the earth remains, seedtime and harvest shall not cease. (Gen. 8:22).
Do you maintain a positive attitude despite of what you are going through? The Bible says you should count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience in you and when patience has run its full course, you will become mature and complete lacking nothing. (Jas. 1:2-4). The Apostle Paul admonishes us to rejoice again and again! (Php. 4:4). Nehemiah 8:10 says, “for the joy of the LORD is your strength.”
“And in that day you will say: “O LORD, I will praise You; Though You were angry with me, Your anger is turned away, and You comfort me. Behold, God is my salvation, I will trust and not be afraid; ‘For YAH, the LORD, is my strength and song; He also has become my salvation."” Therefore with joy you will draw water From the wells of salvation.” (Is. 12:1-3). No wonder David couldn"t hear from God until he first of all encouraged himself in the Lord. If you didn"t first encourage yourself in the Lord, before trying to inquire from Him, you would only hear from your pain, your hurt, your bitterness, your confusion, etc; but definitely not from God! But, how do you encourage yourself in The LORD? Jesus told his disciples “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (Jn. 16:33). The Amplified Bible says, “I have deprived it of power to harm you and have conquered it for you”. What you listen to and meditate upon, will determine if you would have joy and peace or not; the choice is yours. You could focus on the negative, like the Bible says in Lamentations 3:19-20: “Remember my affliction and roaming, The wormwood and the gall. (or bitterness) My soul still remembers And sinks within me.” But you could also turn around and focus on the positive - “This I recall to my mind, Therefore I have hope. Through the LORD"s mercies we are not consumed, Because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness. “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “Therefore I hope in Him!” (Lam. 3:21-24). The Psalmist commands his soul to bless the Lord and not to forget all of His benefits
(Ps. 103:2). When you meditate on the benefits of the LORD you would be encouraged and have enough motivation and strength to come out of it victoriously. “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Php. 4:6-7).
Are you going to come out bitter or better? Joseph came out better; he told his brothers: “But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive. Now therefore, do not be afraid; I will provide for you and your little ones.” And he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.” (Gen. 50:20-21) Joseph"s brothers were afraid that now that their father was dead, he would hate them and fully repay them for all the evil which they did to him. Job was another example. The Bible says, “And the LORD restored Job"s losses when he prayed for his friends. Indeed the LORD gave Job twice as much as he had before.” (Job 42:10). Jesus commanded His disciples to love their enemies, to bless those who curse them, to do good to those who hate them and to pray for those who spitefully use them and persecute them. (Matt. 5:44). 1 Peter 3:9 says “not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing.”.