Journey: Ash Wednesday
Journey From The Cross:
Read Song of Solomon 8:6-7
Song 8:6-7 NIV
Place me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm; for love is as strong as death, its jealousy unyielding as the grave. It burns like blazing fire, like a mighty flame. Many waters cannot quench love; rivers cannot wash it away.
Place God like a seal over your heart.
His love is as strong as death. Bask in in.
Rivers cannot wash it away. Feel the safety of it.
If you are a child of Jesus Christ, praise God for sealing your life with the mark of his love.
If you do not know Jesus Christ, ask him to reveal himself to you today.
Tell God your joys, fears, and needs. Praise him in everything.
Pray for knowledge of God’s will for you and the power to carry that out.
Ask the Holy Spirit to interpret the scriptures you are about to read.
Morning Bible Study
The celebration of Ash Wednesday actually began in 900 A.D. The official name is “Day of Ashes.” It marks the beginning of forty days before Good Friday minus Sundays. On this day, many Christians choose to mark their foreheads with ashes in the shape of the cross, thus symbolizing that they belong to Jesus Christ. This is symbol if the spiritual mark or seal that is put on Christians when they accept Jesus into their lives.
Read Romans 6:3-18. First, our old self is crucified so that our body of sin may be done away with. Now that we have died with him, what is next for us? Do we have a choice about how to live after we accept Christ? What are we now to be slaves to?
Rom 6:3-18 NIV
Or don't you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin- because anyone who has died has been freed from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness. For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace. What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! Don't you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey-whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were entrusted. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.
The seal of ashes on the forehead are an imitation of the way righteousness is described in the book of Revelation. Read Revelation 7:3, 9:4, and 14:1. Where are the marks? What happens to people with the marks? How are they used? What happens to people without the marks?
Rev 7:3-4 NIV
Do not harm the land or the sea or the trees until we put a seal on the foreheads of the servants of our God.
Rev 9:4-5 NIV
They were told not to harm the grass of the earth or any plant or tree, but only those people who did not have the seal of God on their foreheads.
Then I looked, and there before me was the Lamb, standing on Mount Zion, and with him 144,000 who had his name and his Father's name written on their foreheads.
The reference to “sealing” in Revelations is an reference to a parallel scripture in Ezekiel 9:4-6. What happened to the people without the seal of God’s protection? Where was the seal?
Then the LORD called to the man clothed in linen who had the writing kit at his side 4 and said to him, "Go throughout the city of Jerusalem and put a mark on the foreheads of those who grieve and lament over all the detestable things that are done in it." As I listened, he said to the others, "Follow him through the city and kill, without showing pity or compassion. Slaughter old men, young men and maidens, women and children, but do not touch anyone who has the mark. Begin at my sanctuary." So they began with the elders who were in front of the temple.
Sarah grew up in church but had difficulty believing. “I simply did not believe in Jesus,” she told me. “When my life started falling apart, I was confused. I thought I was doing everything right. I had been to college and made good grades. My career was going well. I married and had children. But I was miserable and self destructive.” Out of desperation, Sara sought Jesus Christ. She surrendered to his love and his way of life. She joined a church and became active. She bought a Bible and began studying it. Recently she told me, “People that do not read the Bible have no idea how much better it can make their life.” Sarah is sealed with the love of Jesus. She is reading the Bible and diligently applying it to her life. Her life improves each day. She happy and has full life. She goes to a church that celebrates Ash Wednesday with the mark of the cross on their foreheads. Sarah’s forehead will be marked.
Joan grew up in the same religion that Sarah did. She also had difficulty believing. “I remember the Sunday School lesson where I heard that people actually voted on the deity of Christ. I was nine years old. When I found out he only won by one vote, I realized that it was ridiculous to believe he was God.”
Not being a historian, I am not completely sure what her Sunday Teacher was teaching but this moment in Christian history caused Joan not to believe. The Religious leaders that voted “no” reached out from their eternal death and did harm to a nine-year-old girl. The irony is they now know the truth.
“But Joan,” I argued, “People cannot vote on the deity of Christ. He either is or isn’t God and no vote could change that. Besides, we should not be surprised he only won by one vote. After all, we live in the world that crucified him. The amazing thing is that he won anything in a vote where humans were casting their lots.” My words fell on deaf ears.
Joan is not sealed with the mark of Jesus Christ. He is the answer to every question Joan asks about life. Joan seeks peace in many of the ways of the world. She refuses to accept the one answer that will bring her peace. She certainly will not be wearing ashes on her forehead on Ash Wednesday.
My particular denomination does not wear ashes on our forehead on Ash Wednesday but I certainly understand the symbolism. I praise God for Sarah and what her witness has meant to me. I have prayed for Joan everyday of my life for years. These are not their real names but God knows who they are. Please take a moment and pray for each of them.
Are you sealed with the love of Jesus today? Are living your life as if it is sealed?
Throughout your day, claim the protection of the seal of Jesus. When you are troubled, call his name. When you smile, praise him. Wear his seal proudly.