Clothed in Sackcloth
Today’s passage tells us that the 2 witnesses are wearing sackcloth. What is this sackcloth? Putting on sackcloth represented one’s attitude and desperate desire to seek for God’s mercy and help. As sackcloth were usually put on dead people, putting on sackcloth reveals a determination to give up one’s life for God’s answer to desperate prayers. Thus, it is not put on casually.
1. Who were clothed in sackcloth in the bible?
(i) King Hezekiah, when Judah was surrounded by the Assyrian King Sennacherib’s army, put on sackcloth in repentance, seeking God’s help in this desperate situation (Isaiah 37:1-2; 2 Kings 19:1-2)
(ii) King David when he took census of his army incurring God’s wrath
Unlike previous times when King David would seek God’s direction before going out to war, he depended on human thoughts and calculations this time & took a census instead. Realizing God’s displeasure David and his officials put on sackcloth & repented (1 Chronicles 21:16).
(iii) The Israelites after the return from Babylonian exile, confessed their sins and repented in sackcloth (Nehemiah 9:1)
(iv) Mordecai and Esther, when they realized the evil schemes of Haman to annihilate the seed of the Jews from the face of the earth, put on sackcloth seeking for God’s redemption (Esther 4:1-4)
(v) Job during his sufferings instead of retaliating against God with complaints and grumblings, put on sackcloth in the posture of repentance (Job 16:15)
(vi) The prophet Isaiah when judgment & judgment was imminent (Isaiah 3:24; 15:3; 20:2; 22:12; 32:11)
(vii) The prophet Jeremiah when lamenting the sins of his people & appealing to them to repent in sackcloth (Jeremiah 4:5; 6:26; 48:37; 49:3; Lamentations 2:10).
(viii) The prophet Ezekiel when the glory of the Lord departed from the temple (Ezekiel 7:18; 27:3).
(ix) The prophet Daniel when reading the book of Jeremiah, came to understand God’s timing & will (Daniel 9:1-3)
(x) The prophet Joel while prophesying an eschatological prophecy of the end times (Joel 1:6,13)
(xi) The people of Ninevah put on sackcloth & repented when they heard the Word proclaimed by Jonah warning them of imminent judgment
2. Where did they wear the sackcloth?
(i) In the streets, housetops, everywhere (Isaiah 15:3)
The sackcloth is not only for Sundays when we worship God or inside our homes when we pray to God. Instead, we are to go out to the streets, to our families in sackcloth praying for them, repenting and seeking God’s salvation upon their souls.
(ii) A place that rejected Jesus & stood against Him (Revelation 11:8)
Sackcloth is an active verb of proclaiming the Word, like the 2 witnesses in sackcloth as they proclaimed the Word to Sodom and Egypt (Psalm 69:11).
(iii) In the temple, at the altar, because the measuring will take place there for those who worship God
The true church who has received God’s grace and God’s Word will put on sackcloth. Putting on sackcloth is a special privilege given only to those who have received the little book, to firstly repent for their own sins and secondly to repent for their people. In the eyes of God, if we are the believer in a group, whether it’s our family, company or friends, we represent them. And representing people we love is enough reason to put on sackcloth.
Just as Apostle John was told to eat the little book in Revelation, Ezekiel was told to eat the scroll (Ezekiel 2:10). Therefore, putting on sackcloth is to firstly read the bible (the Word of God). When Daniel understood the timing & will of God, that allowed him to put on the sackcloth. The bible that Daniel read became the sackcloth, the little book is that sackcloth. Daniel became the sackcloth to bridge God’s timing and the delayed attitudes and poor spiritual condition of the people. This is what the sackcloth & repentance does.
3. Sackcloth is the garment of victory from tribulation
Sackcloth is a garment of repentance, sorrow and lament because of sin (Isaiah 6:5; Joel 2:13; Luke 18:13). However, at end of this prayer of repentance, there is victory. King Hezekiah, King David, Esther and Mordecai all gained victory. In Revelation, the 2 witnesses too tasted glorious victory in the end. Only those who put on sackcloth will last through the 7-year tribulation. It is the secret to overcoming persecutions and tribulations (Psalm 50:15). When we repent, we overcome ourselves, our sins, the sinful world and Satan. Eventually we can overcome death and the anti-Christ. The secret to victory is our repentance (sackcloth).
In the letters to the 7 churches in Revelation, promises are given to those who overcome: the hidden manna, eating from the Tree of Life, and a new name. These blessings are descriptions of what we will receive in the new Jerusalem. May we overcome and receive all of them!
the sackcloth is the most honourable garment. It is the garment that the 2 witnesses will wear for 1260 days (3.5 years). It is a garment of grace and privilege. It is like the robe that the father gave to his prodigal son when he repented and came back. Have you ever experienced the result of true repentance? It is confirmation and assurance that God has taken away all our sins. There is such joy, thankfulness and peace. The sin that we used to struggle with, the sin that haunts us, is gone! The heavy load is uplifted. That is the true victory, honour and glory!