Pursuing the Eternal (Isaiah 40:8)
The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever. —Isaiah 40:8
Isaiah 40:8 is a good place to start another set of Fighter Verses and another year of Bible memorization. The point of the verse is straightforward and clear, “the word of our God stands forever.” The truths from God’s Word that we will be memorizing this year are as true for us as they were for all of God’s people before us.
This reality is unlike anything else that we experience in life. Two verses earlier the voice of the Lord tells the prophet “Cry” and the prophet asks, “What shall I cry?” The Lord’s answer makes clear that it is not just grass and flowers that are short-lived: “All flesh is grass, and all its beauty is like the flower of the field.” And, to make clear that “all flesh” includes human flesh, the Lord tells us in verse 7, “surely the people are grass.”
Several times the enduring Word of God calls our attention to grass and flowers and reminds us of how perishable we are compared to His unchanging and everlasting nature. One of those reminders will come at the end of February when we memorize Psalm 103:15-16: “As for man, his days are like grass; he flourishes like a flower of the field; for the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place knows it no more” which cannot compare to “the steadfast love of the Lord,” which we will be reminded of in week 10, “is from everlasting to everlasting.”
Not only do our lives wither like grass, so also our beauty, our wealth, our possessions, our achievements, and so much of what we pursue in life will soon fade like flowers and pass away. In James 1:9-11, the apostle makes this point when he writes:
Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation, and the rich in his humiliation, because like a flower of the grass he will pass away. For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. So also will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits.
It is surprising and wonderful to read in Isaiah 40:1 that God means to comfort us with these words, “Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.” The withering effects of our own flesh, the experience of watching friends and loved ones who were once strong and beautiful wither away and die, and the reminder that much of what takes our time and labor in this life will likewise perish is what makes the everlasting nature of God’s Word so comforting.
In the first week of November we will be memorizing 2 Corinthians 4:17-18, and will be reminded again that the “afflictions” of this life are “light and momentary.” They also are like grass that will soon fade away, and for those who are trusting in the living Word of God, these afflictions will ultimately give way to “an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”
In God’s providence both my mother and my mother-in-law died within two weeks of the 2016 presidential election. Spending a week beside two deathbeds shed Isaiah 40:8-light onto the national events that had consumed so much of the world’s attention. The outcome of that election offered no comfort and could not have been more unimportant to those dying saints. All that mattered in the final hours of those fading “flowers” was that “the word of God stands forever” and being reminded of that Word brought peace to their souls.
It was not a recounting of their accomplishments that gave us comfort as we gathered at our mothers’ gravesides. It was the immortal words from 1 Corinthians 15,
Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. (51-53)
Hope rose as we looked into the mouth of the opened grave and heard the eternal and unshakable Word of God,
When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: "Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?" But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (54-57)
Lives that are withering like grass and fading like flowers are craving the Word of the everlasting God and thus we are most satisfied when we feed on His life-giving Word. By taking up the Fighter Verses challenge this year and investing a portion of our momentary lives to memorize God’s Word, we are employing an effective strategy for feeding our hungry souls. And as we will be reminded at the end of September, “our God will supply every need…according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).
As you meditate on this first Fighter Verse of the new year consider reading Charles Spurgeon’s sermon, “Man Transient—God’s Word Eternal.”