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…to grant to those who mourn in Zion – to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he may be glorified. They shall build up the ancient ruins; they shall raise up the former devastations; they shall repair the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations. -- Isaiah 61.3-4
The Spirit of the LORD was upon Jesus to preach His Kingdom gospel - a gospel that meant binding up what was broken, freeing the captives, and proclaiming jubilee (Luke 4.18-19).
The Isaiah scroll moves from that wonderful Messianic picture (Isa 61.1-2) into two verses about those who mourn (v3-4). Jesus said that those who mourn were blessed and shall be comforted (Matthew 5.4). Isaiah 61.3-4 describes that transformation.
Mourners are given a new headwear, new oil, new garment, new identity, and new purpose. The headdress and oil show the physical transformation from a season of mourning to a season of celebration and gladness. The garment of praise shows deeper transformation whereby the spirit is uplifted and strengthened. Mourners are called oaks of righteousness to the glory of God and given the task of building up what had been devastated for generations.
How do we treat those who are in seasons of mourning? Do we sadly pat them on the shoulder and say, “There, there,” while privately shaking our heads before others? Is there a power deeper than empathy that we can employ?
I believe God transforms our mourning in the most powerful ways. May we be a people who seek that transformation in our mourning and the mourning of others.