Word Study: Sackcloth



Jonah 3:8: “But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily unto God; yea let them turn everyone from their evil way, and from the violence that is in their hands.”

About six years ago the nation was flooded with billboards announcing that “Judgment Day Is Coming. This day was given as May 21st of 2011. The Billboard also quoted a verse or part of it, Jonah 3:8: “Cry mightily unto the Lord.” Well bless the old prophet’s heart, whose bones are now scattered among the dry sunbaked bones of hundreds of other prophet wannabes who have made similar predictions and tried to publish the message of judgment throughout the land only to find nothing happening on the day they declared to be a judgement day.

As I read the book of Jonah this morning I thought back to six years ago when this modern day prophet announced May 21, 2011 as judgement day. I heard this old boy on the radio and he was so convinced that he had heard from God and that his interpretation of Scripture was so right that when asked what would he do if May 21st came around and nothing he replied: “It will happen.” Well, it didn’t happen. Very few Christians put on white robes and started jumping from chairs doing rapture practice.

So why was it that when the prophet of the Book of Jonah published his message throughout Nineveh and commanded everyone to cry mightily unto God, all 120,000 residents of the city repented. Even the King of Nineveh sent out a decree for everyone to repent. Not even our Mayor Rahm Emmanuel of Chicago carries that kind of clout, even if his name means God is with us let him be exalted.

Still, Jonah must have been some preacher to get the entire population to sign a decision card. True, Jonah did have one powerful teaching gimmick, a big fish just puked him up after three days of marinating in the digestive acids of its belly. The god that they worshipped in Ninevah was the god Dagon, the Greeks called him Neptune. This was the fish god and you can imagine the impression Jonah made on the local residence when they asked why all his hair was burnt away and his skin was so yucky looking “Oh, I was swallowed by a great fish but my God saved me. He made the fish swim up to shore right in line with your city, spill his cookies and I came sailing out.” I imagine they thought that this old boy’s God must be one powerful God to deliver him from their god Dagon. Also things were not very joyful in Ninevah. They just came out of a great plague, they were on the verge of financial collapse, their was much internal strife and violence in the streets. So when a prophet with a God that delivered him from their god, these people listened. God’s not opposed to gimmicks, so long as He is the author of the gimmick.

There are probably many other reasons for this great revival, but ultimately this revival would never have taken place if it were not for the work of the Holy Spirit. You can lease every billboard in Chicago and plaster the words Repent and all you will get out of it is a lot of publicity and a book deal, but few if any converts. Jonah’s ace in the hole was that his campaign was not backed by financial investors and the social security checks of elderly followers, but by the Holy Spirit Himself.

People are talking of a great revival coming to this nation. I personally believe there will not be a great revival in this country, but that there will be a reformation. There will be a massive return to Scripture, people hungry to study and know God’s word. They will grow tired of hearing the same thing from their preachers, “This is the last days, your breakthrough is coming or you will become prosperous if you pay your tithe.” People are going to grow tired of hearing the same old clichés from their preacher that they heard from some radio or TV preachers. They are going to want to dig deep in the Word of God and allow the Holy Spirit to give them the message of God. But, I may be wrong, maybe there is a great revival coming. Either way, this message of Jonah applies.

Like Nineveh the people and/or Christians are going to become aware of their hunger for God and will wear their own version of sack cloth and ashes. The word for sackcloth comes from the root word saqaq. This is spelled Sine, Qop, Qop. The double Qop represents sanctification, sacrifice and holiness, the Sine (pronounced – seen) represents peace. Hence, wearing sackcloth symbolizes the bringing of peace through holiness, sacrifice and sanctification. Animals or livestock were the source of wealth for most people. To cover their bodies with sackcloth would symbolize their willingness to sacrifice their livelihood and consecration to God. There is no indication that God took the animals away from them nor were they sacrificed, but their willingness was there. In our case people will be willing to sacrifice their livelihood, not with the expectation of a reward but with the expectation of knowing and becoming intimate with God.

But that sacrifice will follow the next command, they were to cry mightily to God. Here is what reformation or revival is all about. It is not great signs and wonders, healings, powerful preaching, foot stomping music and designer checkbooks made of sackcloth, it is a mighty cry. To us that means loud wailing and mourning. Actually it is the opposite, it is the silent scream. The word mightily is chazak which in its Semitic origins means true, 100%, no hidden agenda, sincerity and earnestness. Crying mightily to God is a silent scream to God, a personal matter between you and God, no one upping the next saint in your confessions, no starting a new church or new repentance fad, just a quiet turning to God with no hidden agenda, just a longing to know Him. It won’t become an internet sensation, it will not produce new religious leaders, new music, massive crusades or a new line of designer Bibles. This reformation or revival is happening now, quietly as thousands, yea, millions of American Christians are falling to their knees and saying, “God, I am tired of using you to get a healing, wealth, a position on the worship team, or becoming a member of the pastor’s inner circle. I’m tired of the church games, I just want to love you for no other reason than to just love you. This is your mighty cry, your silent scream to God, this is the next reformation or revival. Our culture is just too materialistic and power hungry to sustain anything else.

One thought on “Word Study: Sackcloth

  1. I found this in my Bible Discovery study tool to be a perfect word picture of how you described sackcloth in your word study. They emptied their sacks! Ha

    G4526 σάκκος (sakkos)
    1.) a sack
    1.a.) a receptacle for holding or carrying various things, as money, food, etc.
    1.b.) a course cloth, a dark course stuff made especially from the hair of animals
    1.c.) a garment of the like material, and clinging to the person like a sack, which was wont to be worn (or drawn over the tunic instead of the cloak or mantle) by mourners, penitents, suppliants and also by those who like the Hebrew prophets, lead an austere life

    Etymology: of Hebrew origin H8242 שק

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