Isaiah 40:8 is a famous verse.
“The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever” (Isaiah 40:7-8).
It is one of those verses we see all over Pinterest, in pretty lettering on someone’s wall, or copied down in a notebook. While none of this is wrong, verses like this often have forgotten contexts.
It is vital to understand that when Isaiah speaks of the unfading quality of God’s word, the statement does not stand alone in its passage.
Isaiah 40:8 is found directly after prophecies of an Assyrian invasion, history involving how this invasion took place, the changing emotions of King Hezekiah, and prophecies of a Babylonian invasion. Yet after all this, Isaiah delves into one of the most astounding chapters of scripture.
In this chapter is written a passage of comfort, and of the greatness of the Lord.
“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. The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.”
Can you imagine what it must have felt like to hear these words after being invaded and were told that yet another invasion will take place? These verses are a stark contrast to the frailty of human strength.
In the chapter before, Isaiah tells of how Hezekiah in one moment praises the Lord for healing him of his sickness yet a short while later his arrogance puts Israel in danger by showing envoys from Babylon all of Israel’s wealth. In doing so, he was practically inviting the Babylonians to invade Israel.
This verse speaks of how God’s word, the revelation of Himself to mankind, will never fade no matter what humans do. As the verse says, all flesh is grass, and all its beauty is like the flower of the field.
Grass withers and dies, flowers fade, but the word of God stands forever. It has remained through wars, holocausts, intellectual movements, and great catastrophes. It has survived book burnings and the persecution of those who believe in it. It will never fade.
We must remember that Jesus is the Word. He remains when all else fades.
“I have seen everything that is done under the sun, and behold all is vanity and striving after wind” (Ecclesiastes 1:14).
Life on earth is fleeting but God remains forever.
Only the truth of Who the Lord is stands throughout history and will continue to stand in the future.
As the Bible is the revelation of Who God is, we must read it as such. The truth of God does not fade nor does its effect on those who choose to believe.
As Grace Thornton says in her book I Don’t Wait Anymore, “When we go to God’s word, it’s important that we put on the right lens. It’s vital that we read from the perspective that we’re going to learn more about Who God is, not read a guidebook to our lives. It was always meant to be about God, not about us. But learning Who He is – and learning what His love looks like – changes everything about us.”
The application of God’s word, to some degree, plays out differently in our different lives, but the truth of Who God is does not change. It is great enough to stand on its own, without human help.
With that truth in mind, the next part of Isaiah 40 does not give us a list of application. Rather it reveals the astounding awesomeness of God.
One of my favorite parts of Isaiah 40 says this,
“Behold, the Lord God comes with might, and His arm rules for Him; behold His reward is with Him, and His recompense before Him. He will tend His flock like a shepherd; He will gather the lambs in His arms; He will carry them in His bosom, and gently lead those that are with young. Who has measured the waters in the hollow of His hand and marked off the heavens with a span, enclosed the dust of the earth in a measure and weighed the mountains in scales and the hills in a balance? Who has measured the Spirit of the Lord, or what man shows Him His counsel? Who did He consult, and who made Him understand? Who taught Him the path of justice, and taught Him knowledge, and showed Him the way of understanding?”
So, my friends, I challenge you not just to look to scripture as a guidebook, but as the unfading, wondrous, and life-shaking truth of Who God is. A truth that is so glorious we cannot keep it to ourselves, it permeates our hearts, minds, and lives.
Ultimately it is not the application that changes us, but the knowledge of God.
As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13:8, “Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away.”
Everything else will fade; eras come and go, great men die, but the word of our God will stand forever.
(All photos are mine.)
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