Day 2 – Sackcloth and Ashes

2 Chronicles 7:14 is a popular passage with many devout Christians:

If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. 2 Chronicles 7:14 (ESV)

These words, expressed by King Solomon during the dedication of the first Jewish temple, have provided a powerful call to prayer for God’s children in the midst of corrupt spirituality—as well they should.

There is one aspect of Solomon’s prayer, however, that has been lost throughout the centuries: the imagery.

In that Middle East era, grief, humility, and repentance were marked by tearing one’s clothes, donning an uncomfortable sackcloth, covering the head with ashes, and abstaining from food and drink. In a world in which clothing choices were limited, the representative statement was extreme. Extreme circumstances required a strong response.

In the Old Testament, we find many stories of personal or corporate repentance with sackcloth and ashes. And God responded! When the Jews were threatened with destruction during the time of Esther, many of them cried out to God in this way. Daniel fasted while wearing sackcloth and ashes during Israel’s exile in Babylon. Even the pagan city of Nineveh found reprieve from judgment when they responded in this way.

I am not suggesting that we reclaim the ancient practice of fasting with sackcloth and ashes, but that we adopt the attitude of the ancients as we pray for our nation. And while going without food for a day might seem like an extreme way to approach God with a humble heart, we must remember that extreme circumstances require extreme humility.

Our nation is at a crossroads as a massive power play is at work. If we want to see the kingdom of God at work, we must put off our prideful attitudes and humble our hearts before the Lord. This means taking our eyes off the shortcomings of others and bringing our honest selves into His presence.

Personal Reflection: Am I willing to embrace an attitude of true humility in light of all that is happening around me?

Prayer: Lord, please show me how You would have me respond to the perilous state of our nation.

Bible Reading:

Esther 4

Daniel 9:3-15

Jonah 3:6-10