I am thankful to Rev. Ralph Thornley for his devotion this morning.
Daniel 9:3 - Then I turned my face to the Lord God, seeking him by prayer and supplications with fasting and sackcloth and ashes.
The word Lent does not appear in the Bible and neither does the word Bible. However, repentance with ash goes all the way back into the Old Testament. The text above refers to Daniel’s great confession when he heard that Jerusalem was to be trodden down. Sackcloth was normally a coarse cloth made of goats hair, it was very rough and uncomfortable and the people indicating their mourning and repentance would sprinkle ash upon themselves and lay prostrate on the ground. This was a very private thing, a sign of total humility and absolute dependence upon the grace of God. Repentance was something taken very seriously and should still be so today.
David says in Psalm 66:18 “If I had cherished sin in my heart the Lord would not have listened.”
The earliest record of ash and sackcloth being normal Christian practice dates back to the 8th century and was eventually abolished by the reformation between the 15th and 16th centuries. Perhaps something was lost when the practice was removed. Apart from a sign of mourning and repentance it reminded people that they were only in this world for a season. A remnant of that ancient practice is to be found at the Ash Wednesday service. People are invited forward to have ash placed on the forehead with these words “Remember man/woman that thou art dust and to dust thou shalt return.” It is a reminder to us of our total dependence on God. It is also a time to look seriously into one’s own heart and lay before God things that you wished were not there.
That is what Lent is all about – a time of reflection and repentance.
Prayer: Most Gracious Lord help me as I echo the words of your servant David. Create within me a clean heart and renew a right spirit within me. In Jesus Name I pray. Amen