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Beauty From Ashes

One of the themes in the Old Testament prophets is that God will rescue his people from their exile. God is clear that he sees his people's suffering and that he won't let it continue forever. This is all part of his bringing the kingdom of God to earth.

Isaiah 61: 1-3

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, 2 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, 3 and provide for those who grieve in Zion— to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.

Joel 2:25-27

“I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten— the great locust and the young locust, the other locusts and the locust swarm— my great army that I sent among you. 26 You will have plenty to eat, until you are full, and you will praise the name of the Lord your God, who has worked wonders for you; never again will my people be shamed. 27 Then you will know that I am in Israel, that I am the Lord your God, and that there is no other; never again will my people be shamed.

We find the same ideas continuing in the New Testament, but with the kingdom of God fulfilled in Jesus. And, the New Testament writers are also telling us that the kingdom is being made here on earth. Our troubles here are temporary because a new heaven and new earth are coming.

Matthew 16:33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

James 1:2-4 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

Of course, entire books have been written on this topic. I'm just showing a representative sample of scripture.

I wanted to start with this song and these pieces of scripture because I've been finally starting to think of what is going to happen after quarantine. I know that other people have been talking about our "new normal" and how it can be a better normal. Sometimes it's hard to see how.

I look around the world, and I'm not sure I see good things coming. I see the ashes of this pandemic. 50,000+ people have died in the US of coronavirus, devastating their families. My dad's cousin died yesterday, and they can't have much of a service because of quarantine restrictions. There are people protesting continued quarantine restrictions because they are hurting financially while lifting the restrictions will hurt other people physically. And I think we've all been hurt emotionally. Ashes.

Yet, God says that he can bring beauty from ashes. We can dance among the ruins. But, it won't be easy. A lot of us are going to need therapy. That will certainly help the mental health sector of the economy.

Somehow, we have to weather this election season. This won't be easy. Those who support Trump are quite fervent, while many of us who reject him and his rhetoric are equally passionate. But, we have to run this country together.

And the coronavirus isn't going to go away just because the governors say it's OK to eat at restaurants again. The epidemiologists are saying that we could have small waves for quite a while and perhaps a second large wave in the winter. Wearing masks might have to be second nature for us.

I have faith, though. God rarely does miracles of this magnitude these days. He expects us to do the work. I believe we can see beauty rise from these ashes. Our counties, states, and country can make this work. Coronavirus will not destroy us. And that will be the miracle.

Are you willing to work at it? I am. I know many others who are. The way I see it, we don't have much choice.


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