Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered outside the gate. Therefore, let us go forth to him outside the camp, bearing his reproach. For we have no continuing city here, but we seek one to come.
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“You have turned for me my mourning into dancing;
you have put off my sackcloth, and girded me with gladness.”
Sackcloth was worn in ancient times by those who were humbling themselves before God. It was a sign of deep repentance and passionate supplication. One wore the sackcloth until God forgave the sin, or answered the prayer. Then, one could rightly say as David did, that God had taken off his sackcloth.
Throughout history, man has shown great determination to take off his own sackcloth instead of waiting for God to do it. The result is the multitude of religions that we see around the world. When God takes one’s sackcloth off, the holy Ghost comes in and the forgiven man begins to speak to God “with other tongues” or “with stammering lips”, as the Spirit gives utterance. That is God’s sign to unbelievers (1Cor. 14:22) as well as to believers (e.g. Acts 10:45—46) that He has forgiven that individual and has taken off his sackcloth. It is unwise not to wait for God to take a person’s sackcloth off, to get ahead of the Spirit and act as if it is done when God has not done it.
Whenever God removes your sackcloth, He covers you with robes of mercy. He gives the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness (Isa. 61:3). When men remove their own sackcloth, they are left naked before God, even if they do not know it.
Men have never known when to remove their sackcloth; that is why we must humble ourselves to wait on God. “It is Good”, said Jeremiah, “that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord” (Lam. 3:26). Those who do not wait on God will be left to join one of the many religions that mankind has developed as a substitute for true mercy and grace. They will take off their own sackcloth and join ranks with the multitudes who are traveling naked toward the Judgment. To just such a man (as to all who have removed their own sackcloth), Jesus once said, “For you say, ‘I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing,’ but you don’t know that you are wretched, and pathetic, and poor, and blind, and naked, I advise you to purchase from me gold refined by fire so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness not be exposed, and eyesalve to anoint your eyes so that you might see” (Rev. 3:17—18).
Leave your sackcloth on until God takes it off. He alone knows when and how to remove the spirit of heaviness from your heart and to clothe you with His “garments of praise”.