Ash Wednesday is commemorated 40 days before Good Friday. The officiating minister marks the forehead of each person with ashes in the sign of the cross. Putting ashes on oneself signifies repentance and remorse for sins (Job 42:6; Luke 10:13). The minister applying the ashes says, “You were made from dust, and to dust you will return” (Genesis 3:19), or “Repent of your sins and believe the good news!” (Mark 1:15).
The prophet Ezekiel spoke of imminent and inescapable severe punishment on Judah (Ezekiel 4–24), a nation that had remained wicked and unrepentant (Ezekiel 9:9-10). God commanded seven angels to go to Jerusalem (Ezekiel 9:1-2). Six of them were told “to punish the city” (Ezekiel 9:1), but not before the seventh—dressed in linen and believed to be the preincarnate Christ (Daniel 10:5-6; Revelation 1:13-15)—had walked “through the streets . . . and put a mark on the foreheads of all who weep and sigh because of the detestable sins being committed in their city” (Ezekiel 9:4). God singled out people who grieved over sin, for they knew they had sinned! The other six angels, without pity, were then ordered to “kill everyone whose forehead [was] not marked!” (Ezekiel 9:5-6,10).
The word mark (Ezekiel 19:4) is taw or “t,” the last letter in the Hebrew alphabet, written like an X or sloped cross. Ancient interpretations saw in this symbol an anticipation of the cross of Christ.
Placing ashes in the shape of a cross on your forehead will not save you. Only those “who weep and sigh because of [their] detestable sins” (Ezekiel 9:4) are marked by Christ—not with black ashes but in indelible red. Only if you’re marked in Christ’s blood are you truly saved and safe. Are you marked?
NLT 365-day reading plan passage for today: Exodus 18:1-27
Read the account of the first Passover in Exodus 12:1–30. Note what happened to those who were in homes marked by the blood of a lamb.
The six angels of death have not yet come. But the “Seventh Man,” dressed in linen, is already here. Have you been marked by Him? What must you do to be marked?