Where Are My Sackcloth And Ashes?

Friends, it’s time. It’s high time. It is time we mourned over our sin. It’s time for sackcloth and ashes, deep-rooted shame for our sin-sick souls. As a body – especially in the United States – we are chronically unmoved by sin. We don’t simply allow sin to creep in, instead, we swing the door wide open and give it a housewarming party. This is unacceptable behavior for a Christian. And it must stop.

It Begins With Sorrow

Every time I read through Nehemiah Chapter 1, I am convicted by Nehemiah’s earnest prayer and confession of the sin of his nation. When was the last time I prayed like him? When was the last time I saw the sin of my people – who are God’s people – the professing Christians, and was so burdened over it that I sat in sackcloth and ashes for days?

Easy answer. Never.

Nehemiah understood something that few of us grasp. He understood his responsibility in the sin of his nation, which were God’s people. In verse 7, he said “we have acted very corruptly against you and have not kept the commandments…” We – not “they,” we. Do you see the responsibility taken there? Instead of being like a Pharisee who said “God, I thank you that I am not like other people…” (Luke 18:11), Nehemiah understood, like Paul, that he was the foremost of all sinners. (1 Timothy 1:15).

We don’t “get” this today. I can say this with authority because it’s utterly evident. If we truly collectively realized our own sinfulness, Christians would actually be effective today. We are not. Not even close. Completely the opposite is occurring. We are woefully ineffective.

More Than Just Changing the World

Christians today are so caught up in the latest trendy cause that we believe will “change the world,” that we have forgotten the root of every problem since the beginning of time – sin. It is well past time we name sin for what it is and deal with it. Beginning in our own hearts.

I am a wretched sinner and I have ugliness in my heart that would shock most of you. It is the grace of God alone, through faith in Christ alone that I have been redeemed. But I must still die daily. (1 Corinthians 15:31) The Lord wants us to be circumcised of heart, not merely of outward appearance. All these causes that will change the world are worth zilch if we aren’t submitting our hearts to the Lord for change first. The Lord knows us. He sees what we are trying to hide from the rest of the world. And He beckons us to rend our hearts and not our garments.

And rend your heart and not your garments.”
Now return to the Lord your God,
For He is gracious and compassionate,
Slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness
And relenting of evil. (Joel 2:13)

The Consequences of Hidden Sin

I told you last week that I am leading a class through Joshua at my church. This week’s homework took us to Joshua Chapter 7. Joshua 7 is another chapter that convicts me in a gut-wrenching way every time I read it. The effects of sin are so far reaching. Well beyond anything we ever consider when we defiantly choose sin over obedience. You absolutely must read it.

Achan took spoils of Jericho after the nation of Israel was expressly instructed against it. And it resulted in him, his entire household, and all his livestock being stoned to death and burned. But here’s the thing about the account of Achan’s sin that astonishes me every time… The whole nation of Israel had to be the ones to meet out the punishment.

Take a minute and really think of this… Achan’s entire household was stoned to death for deliberate sin. That included the women and children. Take a minute and think about your best friend. The closest person in the world to you that’s not family. Now, imagine they had committed murder, you both live in a state with the death penalty, and you are a medical doctor by profession. This would be like YOU being called to adminster the poison to put your best friend to death.

Do you see the magnitude of Achan’s sin? If the entire nation of Israel had to participate in the punishment, we can safely assume he had friends in the group literally throwing stones at him and his family until they were brutally stoned to death. And then the entire nation had to watch as they were burned with fire. Friends, sin NEVER affects only the sinner. It always affects every life that the sinner touches. Their immediate family, their extended family, their friends, their church family, their employer, their co-workers, etc. Do NOT buy the enemy’s lie that your sin is isolated.

Always Opportunity for Confession

I have studied Joshua many times over the years and I just noticed something for the first time this time around. In Joshua 7:13, Israel is told to rise up and consecrate themselves “for tomorrow.” The Lord then tells them that there are things under the ban within their midst and the Lord was going to go tribe by tribe and family by family until the sin is revealed. But he gave them warning. All anyone in Achan’s family had to do was come forward at the time of consecration and the results might have been different. Consecrate means “to set apart as holy.”

Ahcan’s family chose to continue to conceal their sin while publicly “consecrating” themselves. Sounds a bit like rending their garments rather than their hearts, don’t you think? 

Friends, we are given the same invitation 1 John 1:9 says…

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)

Do not overlook this opportunity. The Lord ALWAYS makes a way of escape from temptation (1 Corinthians 10:13) We only need to take the exit ramp.

Call to Action

Run to the cross. Run in open, unashamed confession to the cross of Christ where His blood was shed, He died, and rose again to set you free from the bondage of sin. Your sin is not just your sin. Mourn over it. Be brokenhearted over it, then confess it.

Mourn over the sin of your people. We are openly sinning every single day and bearing the name of Christ. Something is fundamentally wrong. And I declare that it begins with our own, personal, defiant sin that we love more than we love the Lord who redeemed us.

Shame on us. Make today your “sackcloth and ashes” moment.

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2 thoughts on “Where Are My Sackcloth And Ashes?

  1. I never thought about God having provided Achan an opportunity to repent. But it’s always easier to hide our sin than to repent. Thank you for pointing out the dread consequences all around.

    • I had never noticed it, either, Suzanne. I love how the Lord’s Word is fresh every time we commit to study it! He goes just a little deeper every single time I sit before His Truth 😊 He’s so faithful.

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