In Isaiah 61, we are told that the Spirit of the Lord brings an exchange of beauty for ashes to those who mourn in Zion. It has always struck me that this promise is not made to the world at large, but to God’s people; those already in Zion. And the outcome of this is that these people will be recognized as oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord
Isa 61:3 To grant [consolation and joy] to those who mourn in Zion–to give them an ornament (a garland or diadem) of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, the garment [expressive] of praise instead of a heavy, burdened, and failing spirit–that they may be called oaks of righteousness [lofty, strong, and magnificent, distinguished for uprightness, justice, and right standing with God], the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.
Now an oak grows slowly and sends its roots deep, but it still experiences autumn and winter, when all its beautiful leaves are shed and it is left standing stark and naked against the freezing, stormy winds and rain. A tree in winter is a good depiction of mourning; all that once clothed it, stripped and removed. Many of the Lord’s forerunners have been through a very harsh winter season and stand stripped and bare at this juncture. Only their strong root system going deep into the Rock of Ages has kept them standing, as they have endured the buffeting. Deep within their hearts is a cry for Spring and the Sun of Righteousness with His healing rays. But as is always the case with Father God, there is an appointed time for everything, especially the change of seasons.
On Father’s Day, I was worshipping and suddenly I saw a dark grey and black whirlwind. It was moving fast backwards and forwards and I became aware that it was made up of ashes. I was reminded of another whirlwind I had seen some time ago that consisted of black, orange and royal blue butterflies and as I observed this grey mass, I felt a longing for some colour to be seen. I asked the Lord about this and He said, “Wait! First it must gather velocity and catch fire”. So I observed and finally just one tiny orange flame sprang up in the whirling grey. I could also hear a hum, almost like the sound of a bee-hive coming from the centre of the whirlwind and was given the impression of a dynamo gathering and emitting power. The tiny flame set other sparks alight until the whole whirlwind was no longer grey ash, but a column of fire.
Then the scene changed abruptly to a stick being rubbed between two hands, faster and faster, until finally it set the tinder aflame with one tiny orange spark. Then a wind came and fanned it into flame. Then the Lord said, “It only takes one spark and the breath of God to create a flame of fire”. “What will increase the speed of the process?” I asked. “Only My hands and your surrender to the process of backwards and forwards movement,” He replied. Then I realized that the whirlwind of ash represented someone’s life and what I had witnessed was the process of creating a messenger who is a flame of fire. First there is the loss and the separation and the mourning and one becomes a dry stick so to speak; without adornment and seemingly without a testimony in the earth. And then as one surrenders in this state to the will of the Lord, even as He brings one to a sense of nakedness and death and the loss of reputation before men, as the Refiner’s fire passes through and ash is all that remains after all the world holds dear is removed, then His hands begin to work to create a tiny spark in the tinder of our lives.
So Beloved, if this resonates in your heart; if you feel like a dry stick, and as you survey your life, all you see is ash, I sense the Lord wanting to encourage you that as you remain surrendered to the quick backward and forward movement and constant change in direction, a spark is about to be ignited and the Breath of God will fan it into a fiery flame. Do not look in despair and mourn your present state as you remember earlier seasons in God that seemed so fruitful and productive. You are in His hands and He is intently focussed upon transforming you into a flame of fire. YOU will receive beauty for ashes as you inwardly keep yourself in the position of holiness. It is the beauty of holiness within your heart that will be displayed outwardly as corresponding beauty and glory in exchange for the ashes your vessel has held. And let us take note what these fiery oaks of righteousness shall be busy with once the exchange has taken place:
Isa 61:4 And they shall rebuild the ancient ruins; they shall raise up the former desolations and renew the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations.
Once you have personally experienced a raising up, a clothing with beauty and the oil of joy instead of mourning, you will be responsible to effect this same change around you. You become a firestarter, a rebuilder, a renewer. Where devastation, death, ashes and mourning have hung as a pall over lives and places, you set them aflame with the fiery love of God as your rebuild the ancient ruins. Halleluyah! Now that is something to look forward to! Remember you cannot speed up the process; you can only enter deeper surrender, trusting the hand of God to bring forth HIS purposes in and through you. So come Breath of God, blow upon the tinder of our lives. Fan the tiny spark into flame and make us into messengers of fire!
Remember the old campfire song, “It only takes a spark to set a fire going – and soon all those around can warm up in it’s glowing….”