Thursday, July 2, 2015

He gives us beauty for ashes

Beauty for ashes God hath decreed!
Help He provideth for every need;
What is unlovely He will restore;
Grace all-sufficient: what need we more?

God gives for sadness "garments of praise";
Stars for our twilight, strength for our days;
Hope for tomorrow, care for today,
Light for our footsteps all of life's way.

Beauty for ashes, gladness for tears,"
Sunshine for darkness, faith for our fears;
Peace for our turmoil, concord for strife,
Heaven at evening--then endless life!

These are the words from a song written by Grant Tullar.  He wrote from the perspective of some prophetic words about Jesus, which are recorded in Isaiah 61.  In that scripture, there is the phrase, "to appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness."  It was this scripture Jesus quoted in Luke 4, telling his listeners, "Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing."

In biblical days, people who were in sadness or distress, would sit in a pile of ashes, as a symbol that their lives were in turmoil. The ashes, as the remaining residue of a fire, would indicate the people were facing total calamity.  It is also noted that the ashes can be a symbol of going "through the fire" and the purification which fire brings. 

Both in the Bible passages mentioned, and in the words of the song, there is a praise to God for his work in restoring sinful man to Himself.  It is God that provides help to meet every need, and restoration of those whose lives have become unlovely.  Tullar is writing an echo of the truth of the Scripture, that it is by God's grace these things are accomplished, therefore we are in need of nothing more. 

I especially like the terminology of the second verse of the song, "God gives for sadness, "garments of praise."   Even when we have arrived at the low point of life which sadness brings, God replaces that with garments of praise, designed specifically for us.  It shows us our need when facing difficult times by leaning on God to supply strength , hope, care, and even His light to point us in the right direction.

Verse three shows the contrast of the things God uses to take the place of our defeat and our sadness. They are replaced with beauty, gladness, sunshine, faith, peace, concord, and ultimately heaven. I point you once again to the question at the end of verse one, "Grace all-sufficient: what need we more?"

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