Daily Dose, Jan. 17 — All Things New

The spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me;
he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed,
to bind up the broken-hearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and release to the prisoners;
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour,
and the day of vengeance of our God;
to comfort all who mourn;
to provide for those who mourn in Zion—
to give them a garland instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
the planting of the Lord, to display his glory. (Isaiah 61:1-3)
I get weary of the news cycle. I often don’t watch the news - local or national - on TV. It just seems that there’s plenty of bad news to go around. When I do tune in, it often leaves me in a bad mood or, only somewhat halfheartedly, asking Jesus to just come quickly and make it all go away. If I’m not careful, the “news” can all seem so bad that it casts a dark shadow over my soul. Like soot. Like ashes.
In Biblical times, it was a common sign of sorrow and mourning to cover oneself with sackcloth and ashes. The sackcloth was made of a coarse material and was uncomfortable to wear. The ashes signified ruin and desolation. If we were to look on someone in this state, we certainly wouldn’t describe them as beautiful.
As carriers of the good news of God’s love and Christ’s salvation, we get to reverse that practice. The prophet Isaiah said as much, as he seeks to proclaim good news, to reach out to the brokenhearted, to free those who are bound, and to bring comfort to those who are mournful.
As we recognize God’s love for us and seek to live faithfully, being guided by the Holy Spirit, we get to continually exchange beauty for ashes. I encourage you to do this in your own life. Recognize where God has freed you, comforted you, healed you. That’s beauty where there used to be ashes! Let’s all partner in the work of Isaiah and help our world to exchange beauty for ashes. Exchange bad news for good news, and turn the cycle around. --Rev. Brad Greene