Dust and Ashes


Mourning, mortality, repentance—dust and ashes point to all of these in Scripture.

When Job lost everything, as was custom, he sat in ashes (Job 2:8). Our culture avoids such blatant expressions of grief. We don’t like to wallow. But the intentionality of the symbol is powerful. Job didn’t pretend all was well when it wasn’t, nor should we.

We began the Lenten season with ashes on our heads, an intentional symbol of our own mortality and a right sorrow over sin. A physical sign declaring (at least until we washed it off) that one day we will return to dust.

This isn’t the whole story for the believer, of course. But it’s part of the story, one we shouldn’t overlook. As certainly as we move this season toward the joy of Easter, we move toward our own end on this side of eternity.

This is partly how this season is meant to reorient us to what’s true. The brevity of our lives, the seriousness of our sin, and the sure hope of the Gospel.

But dust and ashes aren’t just at the beginning of Job’s story. They are also at the end. When God finally speaks, silencing the arguing of Job and his “friends,” everything changes.

God doesn’t answer Job’s questions, or ours, but his presence is enough. His voice is enough for Job to shut his mouth and declare, “I am dust and ashes” (Job 42:6 CSB). This time, the dust and ashes point not to grief and despair, but to a heart of repentance before a holy God. I suspect Job maintained this heart posture until his dying day.

Whatever we have given up or taken on this season, it is all a means to the end of seeking the presence of God. God’s presence is our greatest good (Ps 73:28). When we hear his voice, his glory overshadows all our lesser loves.

So let’s keep the dust and ashes in view—a symbol both sobering and hopeful—to keep our hearts tuned toward repentance and worship.

Leave a Comment

Comments for this post have been disabled.