Isaiah 61

Sunday night my husband wrote this. It is deep. It is beautiful. It is truth. 

To grant to those who mourn in Zion – to give them 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. – Is 61:3

Ashes on the head were a symbol of mourning for the Jews. Everyone in that culture recognized this as a sign of bereavement.

In Isaiah 61:3, God says he will replace that outward sign of grief with outward beauty. This beauty is evident in appearance, although it may not literally be a physical beauty. Gladness will replace mourning, and a garment of praise (that is, praise that others can see) will replace a faint spirit.

As a result, we will be called “oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord”.  

In other words, God so works in our lives that – in our grief – a beautiful, joyful gladness, bubbling over with praise, becomes evident to others.

We become known as people who are strong in the Lord.

All so that He may be glorified.

This is not something we fabricate or fake or “muster-up”.  

We would surely fail if we tried.  

Rather, He changes us, replacing the old with new. 

Which, of course, becomes apparent to others. 

Because “a city set on a hill cannot be hidden” – Matthew 5:14

Most of us have seen this in some other suffering Christians, even if we have trouble imagining it for ourselves.

Surely not me?  

Yes, this is God’s word.

That He may be glorified.

Surely we must participate in some ways. After all, accepting a gift requires active engagement.

But God gives these things to his people who mourn.  

Jesus said it has been done (Luke 4:21).

Perhaps our “receiving” includes being willing and open-minded: washing off the ashes, accepting the gladness, choosing to praise.

And then “letting our light shine before others” not “putting it under a basket” – Matthew 5:15-16

That He may be glorified.

Most bereaved parents have realized that others are watching us deal with grief.

It’s easy to be uncomfortable about that.  

In fact, some of the more pain-filled posts by grieving parents have to do with what others say or allegedly think about them.

Maybe one way of dealing with that feeling of being in the spotlight is to take hold of Isaiah 61:3. Believe it (that is, “act as if it were so”) humbly, gratefully expect God to do what he says He will do.

Even in you.

It’s possible someone could get saved at my son’s funeral, and that would be great.

But Isaiah points to a different way how – in our mourning – God is glorified and draws people to himself. It requires much more of us than one evangelistic funeral – it is Christ in you, the hope of glory (Colossians 1:27). It is walking through the valley of the shadow of death – while shining a beautiful light.  

While we are waiting.

3 thoughts on “Isaiah 61

  1. These are the words I need to hear today. But I am just not there yet. I believe God, I trust Him, I praise Him, I love Him for all He is and all He does. He puts joy and peace in my heart. I pray before going into public that I would not dishonor Him, especially in front of unbelievers, with a sad countenance. But “a beautiful, joyful gladness, bubbling over with praise” is not happening yet for me. How I wish I could defy grief and shine like that for the Lord. Maybe it is just too soon, the pain still too fresh. Please pray for me.

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