October 25, 2015

In this issue: "Sackcloth and Ashes" by Robert Turner | "Working at Home" by Roger Lindsey

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Sackcloth and Ashes Graphic

by Robert Turner

Did you ever wear a starchy feedsack shirt? (I mean a real one, not the store-bought kind you see now-a-days.) Scratchy, ain't they? Can't you just imagine one made out of towsack? (Grass-sack, for some of us.) Well, wearing sackcloth had a special meaning at one time.

King Ahab, stirred by Jezebel, was an evil man. But when Elijah told him the dogs would eat Jezebel, he "rent his clothes, and put sackcloth upon his flesh, and fasted, and lay in sackcloth, and went softly." And God said, "because he humbleth himself before me" judgment upon his house will be postponed. (1 Kings 21:27-29)

When Mordicai wished to mourn the plight of the Jews, he "put on sackcloth with ashes, and went out into the midst of the city, and cried with a bitter cry." (Esther 4:1-f.)

Then, in Nineveh, when the people heard the prophet foretell their doom they "proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth;" and Jesus said "they repented at the preaching of Jonas." (Mt. 12:41)

Humility (or self-censure), mourning, submissiveness, and the like are graphically represented in this early wearing of "sackcloth and ashes." It said clearly, "I am nothing--my former robes of purple (Isa. 37:1) were but tents of pride-- I need help." Little wonder such conduct was associated with repentance-- and Christ could say of Tyre and Sidon, "they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes." (Mt. 11:21) Abject humility, while not "repentance," is certainly an essential ingredient. We wonder if the whole of "sackcloth and ashes" should not also be included?

It is not the symbol itself to which we refer. We suspect many would wear the sack, who had not yet put on the things for which it stood. But when we see the casual way in which repentance is treated-- a sort of academic pause between faith and baptism-- there is little resemblance to the spirit of "sackcloth and ashes." The substance should far surpass the shadow-- must do so if it is real. Do you see such "fruits meet for repentance" today? (Note Mt. 4:8)

Years ago a young lady came forward, wanting to be baptized. I said something about the joy she must feel in knowing that her sins could be washed away; and she looked at me in astonishment. "Sins??" She seemed shocked that I would suggest such a thing. That is "sackcloth and ashes"? A backsliding saint is encouraged to "make correction." His situation is an embarrassing one, and makes for a "sticky situation" among friends, so he "comes back to the church," or he "makes acknowledgment" to the church. This is "sackcloth and ashes" before the Lord?? Are we kidding ourselves?

Our inability to see and judge the heart of man should provoke charity; and I am aware that external signs and symbols may be most hypocritical. This article is completely misunderstood if you think I am calling for "demonstrations" of repentance. But I challenge you to consider the lesson contained in the ancient "sackcloth and ashes" and apply it to your life. ~

"Working at Home"

I’ve been doing some study on the passage in Titus 2.5, especially the part that says wives should be “keepers at home” or “working at home.” This was prompted by a lesson I brought recently that was based on another preacher’s work concerning the wife in the home. It did not mention this aspect of the woman’s role, so I left it alone for a while to study it a little more.

Here are some things that need to be understood if we are going to grasp all that the Lord would have us know and do.

First, the Scripture says that women who are married are to “manage their households” (1 Ti 5.14) and they are to be “working at home” (Tit 2.5).

This does not leave room for the modern idea that the woman should leave the home every morning, go to work somewhere, and earn, or help earn, the living for the family. Her role is not restricted to the confines of the house, but that is her main function in a Godly home. As godly women in the Scriptures are described and as they have done, they may conduct business, even purchase property, make and sell goods, and supply for the needs of others from their own means.

The “excellent wife” of Proverbs 31.10ff is described as working to supply the needs of her household, making goods and selling them, even purchasing a field on her own. Yet her main focus was the household and the welfare of her husband and children.

Lydia was a seller of purple (Acts 16.14).

There were several women who helped support the Lord while He was in the process of preaching the gospel (Luke 8.1-3).

While the Scriptures are clear on the wife’s main job, that is keeping the home, there is also no room for the ancient idea that women are to be kept in the house all the time, and never given the right to own their own property, or never have any part in providing for the family.

As in many other conflicts about the word of God and highly-charged emotional subjects as this, we have inherited some bad ideas, ancient and modern. We need to see what the Scriptures say, do that, and let the Lord be glorified regardless of the reactions of those around us. ~

Roger Lindsey

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