Editor's note: This is the sixth post in a special Christmas devotional series, focusing on Isaiah 61:1-3.
A Crown of Beauty instead of Ashes
By Phil Altmeyer, Executive Director
“…to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes.” Isaiah 61:3
In ancient times, people sprinkled ashes on their heads as a sign of mourning and repentance. Jeremiah called the Israelites to “gird on sackcloth and roll in the ashes” because disaster was coming. After God speaks to him out of the whirlwind, Job says, “I abhor myself and repent in dust and ashes.” Ashes were also used as a reminder of mortality, recalling the dust from which Adam was created and to which we all return.
In a physical sense, ashes are what is left over after something has been consumed by fire. An item reduced to ashes is not just broken and in need of a little repair; it is destroyed. Bringing something back from the ashes takes a miracle.
For Starla, who came to the UGM Center for Women and Children directly from jail, ashes looked like an orange jumpsuit, handcuffs and shackles. She was tempted to remain in those ashes because she believed that is what she deserved. But God says, It’s not about what you deserve. It’s not about what you’ve done. It’s about what I’ve done for you.
We do not need to live in the ash heap of our shame and regret. John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” God says, I have seen and accepted your repentance; I will replace your crown of ashes with a crown of great beauty.
Starla is now living a whole new life – purified from all that lies behind – and her beauty is evident as, with unveiled face, she reflects the glory of Christ who lives within her.
So many of the men and women who come through our doors are living in the ash heap of shame and regret, believing that their sins are beyond forgiveness, but the gospel of Jesus Christ promises, "Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool” (Isaiah 1:18).
Worth Thinking About: Are you holding onto shame in your life because you think it’s what you deserve?
Take Action: Confess. Tell all your secrets to God and possibly to another safe person.
Join Executive Director Phil Altmeyer as he explores the reasons Christ came to earth in this free Christmas devotional.
Read the rest of this devotional series:
- A Front Row Seat to Holiness
- What's the "G" in UGM?
- Recovery: a Story of Brokenness and Healing
- Jesus Came to Proclaim Freedom for the Captives
- Jesus Came to Comfort Those Who Mourn