The Spirit of the LORD God is upon Me … to console those who mourn, to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness … – Isaiah 61:1, 3
To more fully understand the meaning of this phrase, we must also consider the context in which we find it: Isaiah 61. This entire chapter is a prophecy foretelling 1) God’s plan for the nation of Israel, and 2) the arrival of the Messiah and how His arrival was destined to impact the world. God had a great and glorious purpose for man when He created him. Of all created beings, man alone was created with the capacity to share in God’s life and to partake of the Divine nature. But he could enjoy this privilege only as he voluntarily chose to live a life centred in God.
Isn’t it beautiful that God says He can give you beauty for ashes? We love that. I think we concentrate on the beauty, but unless you give Him your ashes, you don’t get the beauty. There is a substitution plan here. There is a plan where you give Him your ashes. Then He, in return, gives you His beauty. We hold onto our ashes and wonder, Why doesn’t my life change? Where is His beauty? Well, where are your ashes? You held on to them and He couldn’t give you His beauty.
What are ashes? Ashes, I believe, are the wounded parts of our lives. Everybody has wounds; everybody has ashes–and all kinds of them. Sometimes they happen with a family member. There can just be every kind of a thing–a mate, your children, your job, your church. Ashes happen every place. Everybody gets wounded.