The Lord has anointed me . . . to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes. Isaiah 61:1, 3
In the aftermath of the Marshall Fire, the most destructive fire in Colorado history, one ministry offered to help families search through the ashes for valuable items. Family members mentioned precious objects they hoped were still preserved. Very little was. One man spoke tenderly of his wedding ring. He’d placed it on his dresser in the upstairs bedroom. The house now gone, its contents had charred or melted into a single layer of debris at the basement level. Searchers looked for the ring in that same corner where the bedroom had been—without success.
The prophet Isaiah wrote mournfully of the impending destruction of Jerusalem, which would be leveled. Likewise, there are times we feel the life we’ve built has been reduced to ashes. We feel we have nothing left, emotionally and spiritually. But Isaiah offers hope: “He [God] has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted . . . to comfort all who mourn” (Isaiah 61:1–2). God converts our tragedy into glory: “[He will] bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes” (v. 3). He promises to “rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated” (v. 4).
At that Marshall Fire site, one woman searched the ashes on the opposite side. There, still in its case, she unearthed the husband’s wedding ring. In your despair, God reaches into your ashes and pulls out the one truly precious thing. You.
What experience in your life made you feel you had lost everything? How did God pull you out of the difficulty?
Dear God, please turn my ashes into beauty.
“The year of the Lord’s favor” (Isaiah 61:2) is a reference to the year of Jubilee, established by God in His instructions to Moses (Leviticus 25:8–28). After every six years of farming, the people were to let their fields lie fallow for a sabbath year (vv. 2–7). God intended Jubilee to take place after every seven sets of sabbath years—after every forty-nine years. During Jubilee, all slaves were to be freed, all debts forgiven, and land that had been sold was to be returned to its original owners. Scholars debate how often Jubilee was practiced as there is little mention of it in Scripture or other historical writings.
Jesus read from Isaiah 61:1–4 in the synagogue at Nazareth (Luke 4:16–19). At that time, He said, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing” (v. 21). Jesus is the fulfillment of the Law the people disregarded.