Rising Above the Ashes

Rev. J. Loren Russell

Isaiah 61:1-3

“The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon Me, Because the LORD has anointed Me, to preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives, And the opening of the prison to those who are bound; 2 To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, And the day of vengeance of our God; To comfort all who mourn, 3 To console those who mourn in Zion, To give them beauty for ashes, The oil of joy for mourning, The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; That they may be called trees of righteousness, The planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified.”

There has never been a better time to discuss rising above the ashes than right now. The last days of Black History Month in 2023 sets the stage for this vitally important and long overdue conversation, a conversation that should challenge us to choose to dismantle racism and degradation from every system in our nation and in the world. It is also a challenge to the privileged in our society to stand up and speak out against systemic racism, even if it means that they must give up their privileges. Only when this challenge is accepted can we end racism and create a truly “United” States and “United” Nations.

In the Isaiah text, the writer speaks of someone who has the spirit of the Lord on him and given a message of good news for him to deliver to the poor, heal those who are brokenhearted, and to set the prisoners free. In the New Testament, Jesus applied this scripture to Himself and said that He is the personification and fulfillment of this prophecy (Luke 4:18-19).

If we look at the text from a practical perspective, every generation needs someone who fulfills this prophetic word. Every generation needs someone who has the Spirit of the Lord on them, ready willing, and able to give a word of hope to the poor, bring comfort to those who are sad, a promise of freedom to those who are imprisoned, and announce that the time has come for the Lord to show His kindness, punish evil people, and comfort those who are sad.

These generational messengers, like the messenger of the Old Testament, and Jesus Himself, do speak out and declare that the Lord gives beauty for ashes; ashes that represent pain, sorrow, and suffering, and a crown that represents the glory of God. The Lord has a plan for our lives, a plan to bless His people to rise above the ashes and reach the heights He has per-determined for them. You are His people. The question for His people today is the same question of old; will we heed the prophetic voice of our anointed messengers or continue to exist in the dust and ashes of our wickedness?

Each person must answer that question for themselves and decide who they are going to follow, the voice of God, or the influence of society. Only one choice makes us rise above the ashes, determine to dismantle systemic racism, destroy degradation in all of its ways, provide oil of joy for mourning, be the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness, and glorify the LORD as trees of righteousness. Our choices are first individually, then collectively. If we choose to be on the Lord’s side, we will rise above the ashes.

Be Blessed!

Rev. J. Loren Russell is an associate minister at Goodwill Baptist Church and is the spiritual leader of both LaGree Baptist Church and the Evangelical Church of God, all in the Bronx, President/CEO of The JLR Company for Church Financial & Strategic Consulting (718-328-8096), and hosts “Matters of Faith – The Radio Show” on Monday nights from 8:00 – 10:00 PM on Facebook Live. Be sure to Friend “Matters of Faith” on YouTube and email us at mattersoffaith.mof@gmail.com. Order your copy of Matters of Faith: The eBook at www.smashwords.com/books/view/993177.

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