“Then (Amnon) called his servant that ministered unto him, and said, ‘Put now this woman out from me, and bolt the door after her.’ And (Tamar) had a garment of divers colours upon her: for with such robes were the king’s daughters that were virgins appareled. Then his (Amnon’s) servant brought her (Tamar) out, and bolted the door after her. And Tamar put ashes on her head, and rent her garment of divers colours that was on her, and laid her hand on her head, and went on crying.”
II Samuel 13: 17-19
King James Version
“Beauty For Rags and Ashes”
“All of us have become like one who is sin-infected, sin-contaminated. Our best efforts are grease-stained rags. We all shrivel up like a leaf, sin-dried, we’re blown off by the wind.”
Isaiah 64: 6
N.I.V. and The Message Bible
What in my life has made me feel as though I should cover myself with ashes and tear my garments as Tamar did?
“Lord Jesus, I long to be perfectly whole;
I want Thee forever to live in my soul;
Break down every idol, cast out every foe;
Now wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Lord Jesus, Thou seest I patiently wait;
Come now, and within me a new heart create;
To those who have sought Thee, Thou never said, ‘No,’ now wash me,
and I shall be whiter than snow.”
“Remember, beloved daughter…you belong to God…may this be a time of healing and nurture. Protect us from self-hatred, self-violence, and addiction; help us to be faithful to gentle healing and self-care and comfort us with Your unconditional love…as it is written. ‘I have said these things to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete’ (John 15: 11). And again, ‘The Lord has sent me…to give them a garland of roses instead of ashes’” (Isaiah 61: 1-3).
The thoughts above were contained in a liturgy penned by Barbara Hughes during a time in her life when she was recovering from childhood sexual abuse. In her story, she shared the most painful fact that as she grew older, she feared her, “soul being lost,” from the acts of her past. For her, physical death meant little in comparison with the nothingness she felt as she contemplated spiritual death. But as she so poignantly confessed, the recognition of the love described in Romans 8: 38, 39 by the Apostle Paul, “I am convinced that…nothing in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus and again in Isaiah 49: 15, 16, “I will not forget you. See, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands,” were words which were meant to bring everlasting healing to her entire being.
It is my prayer that as we continue to study the tragic circumstances which encompassed the life of Tamar, that for all of God’s precious daughters who have been abused as children or teens or adults, whether emotionally, physically or sexually, that heaven’s beauty will replace the ashes and rags in our lives that seek to destroy any hope we might have for a joyous future.
Today, as we read our text, we find that Tamar was cast-away by Amnon. She was told to leave his presence forever. But to add insult to injury, at this time in history, the “virgin” daughters of the king were arrayed in exceptional clothing. We are told that Tamar’s clothes, especially her outer garment, was woven of “diverse colours,” – a robe fit for a princess, the king’s daughter.
Tragically, after Amnon’s violent sexual “possession” of Tamar, no longer a virgin, Tamar tore her garments in pieces and threw ashes on her head, an outward, easily apparent, indication of humiliation and deep grief. Her actions were a sign that she was not a party to the evil behavior afflicted upon her but instead was filled with unutterable shame and sorrow.
As you think about the heartache this dear, unsuspecting girl suffered, it may bring up, as it has for many women, times in your own life when you felt clothed in rags and covered with ashes. Possibly as a result of a soiling that made you feel dirty.
It is with this thought in mind that I want to share with you the words of Charles Wesley whose hymn tells of rags that are replaced with robes of righteous.
For anyone in the garden who is struggling with the thought that you are covered with ashes or dressed in rags, heaven’s beauty is waiting only for your acceptance:
"No condemnation now I dread,
Jesus, and all in Him, is mine;
Alive in Him, my living Head,
And clothed in righteousness divine,
Bold I approach the eternal throne,
And claim the crown, through Christ, my own.”
Not long ago, I found a prayer written by Julia Park Rodriques that sounded, as I read it, as if it could have been spoken by Tamar as she sought to find comfort and hope. I’d like to share these beautiful words with you. For if you have been left with the same scars that were inflicted upon Tamar, may this prayer be the start of heaven’s healing balm, flowing into your own life:
“Loving God, I know that you hold me in the palm of your hand.
I know it is so.
But why, O Lord, why?
I rage at this sin against me, at this defilement of my body,
this assault on my peace of mind.
I mourn my lost serenity, security, confidence;
I mourn the loss of my ease and open nature.
I hate what (this) assault has done to me.
I feel that my body and soul may never be the same.
What has been forced upon me may not be forgotten.
But send your healing upon me like cool rain.
Soothe my spirit with the balm of your tender love.
Help me to feel secure again, as safe as ever within the shelter of the Lord.
Let my anger not turn inward to self-loathing,
but outward for action and purpose: to help others like me,
to bring hope to those whose faith is not so strong.
Help me, with your grace,
to move beyond victim, to call myself survivor instead.
May you forgive this offense against me,
and grant me the peace and serenity
of a mind and body made whole again.”
Julia Park Rodriques
Beauty For Ashes?
“You said you would
beauty for ashes,
the oil of joy for mourning,
the garment of praise for
a spirit of heaviness.
I have known all these.
For I am one who has
known the pain of
sexual abuse as an
I am now thirty-five.
will you bring me beauty
for ashes of a life that should
The oil of joy for
years of mourning a lost
adolescence and adulthood?
“Will I be clothed in righteousness?
Will the garment of my being, be
covered in praise –
praise of who I am in You?
Shaking free the guilt of
Will the silence I endure be gone?
And my spirit of heaviness,
clothed in depression,
tranquilizers, alcohol and pain,
Be turned into something positive?
I am trusting You
to bring something
good out of this.”
Dorothy Valcarcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
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