Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes – Job 42:6
A common practice during Biblical Times was the renting (tearing) of one’s clothes and the wearing of sackcloth and Ashes. Sackcloth was a heavy garment made from the harsh material of goat hair. Ashes were typically made from burnt wood. The wearing of sackcloth and sitting in Ashes could signify:
- Jacob thinking Joseph had died tore his clothes in agony and put on sackcloth and mourned many days (Gen 37:34).
- Mordecai hearing of the decree to annihilate the Jews tore his clothes and put on sackcloth and ashes (Esther 4:1).
- The people of Nineveh hearing of God’s pronounced judgment on the city, believed God, repented and wore sackcloth and sat in dust and fasted (Jonah 3:3-8).
- Jesus referenced if the works he had done were performed in Tyre and Sidon they would have repented in sackcloth and ashes (Luke 10:13)
The wearing of sackcloth and Ashes was often accompanied with Fasting, a symbol of emptying oneself and humility (Dan. 9:3, Is. 58:5). Some of the prophets sent by God also wore at times sackcloth as a sign of humility (submission) as well as grieving at a national level the sins of the people (Is. 20:2). Are we not Christ’s ambassador’s today (2 Cor. 5:20)? Are you clothed with humility? Are you grieved at the spiritual condition of our world?
To tear one’s fine clothes in the moment, would have shown utter displeasure with either second-hand news received or first-hand experience on display of something that would have hurt the heart. To wear such a coarse material or sit in Ashes could surely pass as an outward sign of real grief and remorse. Not only was this physically enduring but could be emotionally taxing as David experienced (Psalms 69:10-11).
Today we may not be wearing sackcloth and Ashes but there are many things in our society, homes and maybe our own lives that would demand times to grieve and show signs of a contrite heart. Today are we angered by the fall of moral standards of our society? The failure of our children, brothers & sisters? The short-comings of ourselves? How are we displaying our grief and what are we doing to ensure things will be made right?
Israel over a period of time had become such great actors in their outward signs at mourning. They would have hired mourners (Amos 5:16, Jer. 9:17, Matt. 9:23-24) and they would tear their garments but their heart was far from being repentant. God is interested in the inward signs of a repentant heart (Joel 2:13).
Is your heart torn today when you see the effects of sin in this evil world? Paul said “Oh wretched man that I am!” (Rom. 7:24). There is a constant battle between the carnal mind and the spiritual mind taking place Rom. 7:14-25. Some are losing ground in the spiritual fight (Eph. 6:12) . When we look at our congregations, families and our lives we should be deeply moved by what we are seeing. The lack of brotherly love, an unforgiving heart, indulging in prohibited sexual acts, warring factions are just a few things of many we can easily see that warrants a spiritual “sackcloth & ashes” sit down among us today. Let us examine ourselves and not just show an outward sign of grief with mere words alone but inwardly be genuinely moved to start today to take positive action at restoring godly living (2 Cor. 7:10).
Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin – James 4:17