“We your people, the sheep of your pasture, will praise you forever; from generation to generation we will proclaim your praise.” Psalm 79:13
BEAUTY FROM ASHES
Enemies ravaged Judah, the southern kingdom of Israel, which formed after the tribes split in 931BC. The land and temple lay plundered. The people lived exiled in Babylon, stripped, oppressed, and unable to see beyond their suffering. But a righteous remnant gathered, hoping in the promises of God, knowing that He often announces “new things” even “before they spring into being” (Isaiah 42:9).
To the poor, brokenhearted, captive, and mourning God promises “a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified” (Isaiah 61:3 esv).
God essentially said to the exiles, Go ahead. Put on that tiara; put on that praise, even while suffering. Your restoration draws near. The remnant placed faith in these promises, even before they “sprang forth,” and this displayed the beauty of God. He was glorified, literally “beautified.”
This promise from Isaiah 61 found some immediate fulfillment as Judah discovered beauty in the ashes of exile, and more partial fulfillment as they returned to the land years later. Yet ultimate fulfillment awaited.
RESTORATION NOW, YET COMING
Centuries later Jesus reissued these same promises from Isaiah as He came to Israel, where the people were still in rebellion against God, but now oppressed by Rome (Luke 4:16–21). A righteous remnant received Christ as Messiah, but most rejected Him. Things have not changed. Undaunted, Jesus continued, reissuing the Father’s invitation of reconciliation, which always extends to everyone who believes. Jesus came to the vandalized and victimized to declare again, Go ahead. Put on that tiara and that praise. The kingdom of God is here, yet coming. Go ahead. Repent and receive My righteousness. The restoration of shalom is here, yet coming.
The promises of God have not changed, yet believers often experience a delay in their fulfillment. Christians, along with all humankind throughout history, experience genocide, chemical warfare, colonialization, sexism, racism, economic disparity, urbanity, Churchianity, and all imaginable disasters during delays. God knows how faith and hope, how beauty can rise from ashes.
HOPE IN THE MIDST OF FLEAS
Betsie and Corrie Ten Boom were sent to the concentration camp Ravensbruck for aiding the Jews during WWII. In the midst of the camp’s horrors and atrocities, Betsie and Corrie found hope where it was least expected: in the fleas. It was because of the flea infestation that their supervisor refused to enter their barracks. This left the sisters free to teach the Bible to women in desperate need of it.
In The Hiding Place, Corrie wrote, “Betsie and I ministered the Word of God to all in the room. . . We saw women that had lost everything grow rich in hope. The knitters of Barracks 28 became the praying heart of the vast diseased body that was Ravensbruck, interceding for all in the camp—guards, under Betsie’s prodding, as well as prisoners. We prayed beyond the concrete walls for the healing of Germany, of Europe, of the world.”
Where others saw only ashes, God saw a bridge to beauty. “Betsie or I would open the Bible. . .We would hear the life-givingwords passed back along theaislesin French, Polish, Russian, Czech, back into Dutch. They were little previews of heaven, these evenings beneath thelight bulb. ..I would know again that in darkness God’s truth shines most clear.”
The kingdom has not fully come, but it is coming. It is coming through you and me as we give God praise—not just when He takes away our suffering, but also in the midst of it.
How might you glorify, or “beautify” God, in the midst of current suffering in your life?
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