Read: Daniel 9:3
“Then I turned to the Lord God, to seek an answer by prayer and supplication with fasting and sackcloth and ashes.”
Today is Ash Wednesday, the start of Lent. In the Bible, “sackcloth and ashes” are a sign of repentance, especially in the time of the kings and prophets in this Old Testament. The king was responsible for the moral climate of God’s people in keeping the covenant God made with Moses. The moral failures led God to send numerous prophets over the centuries to challenge the king and call for repentance.
The moral failing of God’s people fell into two broad categories. In the northern kingdom, called Israel, the sins were in keeping fidelity with the one true God. As God’s people lived among and married pagans, some began to believe in and worship more than one God, and live as the pagans did. The northern kingdom of Israel fell quickly and was enslaved by its enemies.
In the southern Kingdom, called Judah, the sins were about corruption and injustice. The wealthy and powerful ruled. The compassionate commands of God’s word, to take care of the poor, orphan, widow, and foreigner in the land, were neglected and ignored. People were being exploited and denied justice. God sent many prophets to challenge these corrupt ways of injustice and unrighteousness.
In both cases repentance by the king in response to the prophetic word meant a time of national mourning and humility. Sackcloth, not fancy robes were worn by kings, and ashes, a symbol of destruction, were used to show repentance. The Bible tells us that many of the prophets were rejected; they were threatened, imprisoned, beaten, and often killed. People hate being called to repent and change.
Our Ash Wednesday ashes represent humility, repentance and mortality. This year in addition to having ashes, we have small sackcloth squares marked with a cross to use. We can carry one with us, or keep it in a place where we will be reminded of our Lenten walk with Christ. How will you observe Lent? Some will “give up” something for Lent, others ADD something for Lent, like a specific daily prayer time, Bible reading, or loving helpful service. Also, come to our Wednesday Lenten video program and pizza, 6-7 pm, you’ll like it.
Shalom, Pastor Rob