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  • Writer's pictureJonathan Parnell

Here and Gone: Why God Tells Us Man Is Finite (Psalm 103:15-16)

As for man, his days are like grass; he flourishes like a flower of the field; ¹⁶ for the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place knows it no more.Psalm 103:15-16

“Man is like grass.” This isn’t the first time we’ve seen this. Think back to Isaiah 40:6–7,

A voice says, “Cry!” And I said, “What shall I cry?” All flesh is grass, and all its beauty is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades when the breath of the Lord blows on it; surely the people are grass.

This sort of repetition highlights the importance of this picture. It’s saying something to us and there are at least two things we need to take away. They are two points of contrast: the finitude of man; and the eternality of the gospel.

The Finitude of Man

It’s a brilliant metaphor, and extremely accessible. Everyone knows about grass. It’s everywhere. No matter what kind it is—a highway ditch or the 18th hole—grass is the stuff that comes up from the ground, serves its purpose for a season, and then dies to be replaced with new grass. And David tells us, like Isaiah did, that man is like grass. You and me, we’re like grass.

But do we really believe that?

We certainly don’t feel it most times. Days can be long, not to mention years, or decades. The pace of change runs laps around the ticking of the clock. We yawn and carry on. We labor and get old. Sixty-years old is much different than a toddler just learning to walk. But we’re grass, I tell you, grass. A hundred years from now we’d be privileged to be in someone’s memory. Unless we make it in the history books, chances are, 200 years from now, no one will know we existed. The houses we lived in will be gone. The things we built will have vanished. We flourished for a season, like a flower, but then we’re gone and our own residence knows us no more.

The Gospel Is Everlasting

All this talk about grass is kind of bleak. It doesn’t seem like the best way to start your Monday. But wait. There is another point about Psalm 103:15–16 we need to understand: the gospel is everlasting. You see, God is saying something about man to say something about Himself. We’re supposed to feel these words: “As for man, his days are like grass”—and then we’re supposed to feel the contrast that comes in verse 17, “But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him…”

It’s about the contrast. We hear this grass-talk about who we are and then we’re pushed out of the plane to pull the chute on God’s steadfast love. Yes, man is like grass, here and gone. Yes, man is finite, it’s place knows it no more. But the Lord‘s love, the Lord‘s covenant faithfulness, the Lord‘s unfailing righteousness to always do what it right and consistent with His character revealed to us in His covenant and unfolded for us in the Bible—the Lord‘s word and promises—they are from everlasting to everlasting. They never end. They never fail. There is no wind that will blow away the faithfulness of the one who speaks the wind. It’s settled. Done. Forever. God’s love is from everlasting to everlasting.

But notice I said the gospel is everlasting. Specifically, gospel; not just love or faithfulness or all that is consistent with God’s character. Specifically, the gospel—the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ for us and our salvation—is everlasting. The point here is that God’s steadfast love or mercy or faithfulness or the way He revealed His name or all that is consistent with His character, all of these are fulfilled in the cross and empty tomb.

Don’t leave “steadfast love” in a fog. Don’t put it away on a top shelf with other Christian lingo and biblical concepts. Connect the dots. The steadfast love of the Lord was preeminently seen in the death of Jesus and His rising from the dead three days later. Therein lie the redemption God promised, the salvation that Psalm 103 and everyone since Adam have been looking for. Love is not everlasting, but love that is seen in a bleeding Savior who died for our sins, who suffered in our place, the righteous for the unrighteous that He might bring us to God; who said “it is finished!” and three days later was raised from the dead, who put the evil powers of this world to open shame and came out of the tomb victorious, who ascended to heaven and is seated (right now! right now!) at the Father’s right hand, who is reigning over a coming kingdom and who will Himself come—this and all that it means, yes, this is from everlasting to everlasting.


For Reflection

1. How does your grass-likeness assault pride? 2. If we are finite but the gospel is eternal, what does this mean about our investments?

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