Have you ever heard a young child learn a new word, and then try and use it in a sentence, but they do it incorrectly? My daughter Phoebe is the queen of the mis-talk. When she was in elementary school I picked her up from school one day and she got in the car all excited. "Dad! I talked to a girl about church today!"
"Phoebe, that's awesome what did your friend ask?" I questioned.
Through a huge smile she said, "She had all different kinds of questions about being Catholic and stuff. But I didn't really know anything about being Catholic, so she asked me if I wasn't Catholic then what was I?"
"Well, how did you respond?"
Phoebe replied, "I told her, no. I'm not Catholic I'm a prostitute."
I paused for a second to try and let that process in my brain. To be honest, I really wasn't expecting my 8 year old to confess that she was a prostitute. After I got my brain on track I replied, "So what did your friend do?"
"She just looked disgusted and walked off."
I said, "Well Pheebs, could it be that you meant to say your not a Catholic but that you're a Protestant?"
To which Phoebe replied, "Prostitute. Protestant, Same thing."
To which I replied, "No dear. No they're not!"
Words and their meaning are paramount to truly understanding the power that they possess. One such word is found in Isaiah 61. The Hebrew word that is translated as instead is Tachath.
It's like when we exchange a gift that we received that we don't want. We can't exchange just part of it and keep some of it. Nope. It's all or nothing, which is really good news for us when we look at what Isaiah says we get to exchange it for.
In Isaiah 61 verse 3 he tells us what we exchange:
- a crown of beauty instead ashes
In ancient cultures ashes were thrown on the head when there was some form of catastrophic disaster. The ashes symbolized what was happening on the inside. Inside there was this charred ruin of dreams, hopes, and plans. Everything that you had hoped in has been ruined, destroyed, or lost. Maybe one or two marriages that crashed and burned. Maybe it was a long time dream that you finally realize is just not going to take off. Ashes.
But instead of those ashes, there is this great exchange where you get a crown of beauty! Instead of Ashes on your head, it is exchanged for a crown or garland of life. In ancient times these were crowns that were woven out of flowers and green leaves to represent joyful victory. They were placed on people that had won an athletic event. The colorful flowers, and the vibrant life of the greenery, symbolized this jubilant, "I WON!" feeling. [Not a participation trophy. I hate participation trophies] The hopelessness of ashes is replaced with the new life of hope. We get to exchange burned up hopes and dreams, new dreams found in Him. He has dreams for us that he wants us to step in to.
- Oil of joy instead of mourning
When my dad died a few years ago I cried. I cried a lot. In fact, I cried so much that my face became chapped. My eyelids, and under my eyes were chapped. It was a mild external discomfort that was incredibly symbolic of the dry chapped dessert like condition of my heart. I could have stayed right there in that dry place. I could have lived for years in a state of mourning. Anybody that tried to cheer me up I could have declared from my pit of self-pity, "you just don't understand!" And went right on being like I was. But, thankfully there is this great instead that is available. Instead of wallowing in my state of self-pity I found an oil of joy that replenished the lost moisture. It repaired the broken places.
Isaiah is not saying that we will never suffer loss or pain. Just that when we do, there is a way through it. There is joy that is possible. It really does come as we walk forward, exchanging the the feelings and emotions that we naturally have for those that Jesus supernaturally gives us.
- Garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair
Hebrew is a pictorial language. One word paints a picture rather than a definition. This word for despair has the visual image of a candle almost going out. Just barely down to that point where one little wind, one little movement or shift in the air would cause it to go out.
Have you ever been there? It's like the culmination of the last two. You have the burnt ash of lost dreams, you've cried and mourned until you don't know what else to do, and now, if one more thing happens you might lose it. Now you find yourself not really doing anything except going through the motions of life. When you can stay in this state for too long the memories of the things that God has done for you seem to erode. You used to be able to list numerous things that God has done for you but now...your memory is darkened by this spirit of despair.
And then tachath...
The triple use of instead emphatically declares that exchange really is possible!
So if all this is possible then what do you need to exchange? If you could take one nasty place from your soul and exchange it for something in God's arsenal what would it be? He's ready to do it, but you have to take it to him and be willing to drop it off and leave. Trust Him.