Wednesday, February 18, 2015
As another Ash Wednesday has come upon us, we would be wise to take a few minutes to reflect on the whole ash thing.
What’s the deal with ashes?
Catholics and other denominations put them on their foreheads. Old Testament Jews sat on it, sprinkled it on themselves, rolled around on it and even ate it…but why?
There are many Bible verses that reference ashes, so let’s take a look at a few
Job 42: 6 “Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.”
Daniel 9: 3 “So I turned to the Lord God and pleaded with him in prayer and petition, in fasting, and in sackcloth and ashes.”
Genesis 18: 27 Then Abraham spoke up again: "Now that I have been so bold as to speak to the Lord, though I am nothing but dust and ashes…”
Jeremiah 6: 26 “Put on sackcloth, my people, and roll in ashes; mourn with bitter wailing as for an only son, for suddenly the destroyer will come upon us.”
Job despised himself and repented, Daniel pleaded with God, Abraham admitted that he was nothing; Jeremiah commanded mourning, all around the context of ashes. Therefore, could it be safe to assume that ashes have something to do with unpleasant things? Maybe…rather than unpleasant, however, repentance, supplication, unworthiness, mourning have to do with feeling contrite. They are all acts of a heart that sacrificially submits to the Lord.
Psalm 51: 17 My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.
Therefore, if we think about it, ashes symbolize repentance and godly sorrow. They are an outward sign of the grief we carry inside. The grief caused by sin burns us and reminds us that we are nothing…just like the ashes that cover us. Ashes remind us that only by God’s grace we are worth something…by His forgiveness we live…by His wounds we are healed; therefore, we pray and praise!
Today, then, I pray that this year (even though from my vantage point it should be called “snow” Wednesday rather than Ash Wednesday) the ashes that we carry whether on our foreheads or on our souls may serve to prepare the way to a season of Lent marked by repentance, meditation and a contrite spirit.