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God’s Word for You

Isaiah 40:6-8

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Friday, May 9, 2008

6 A voice says, “Cry out.”
     And I said, “What shall I cry?”

In the same way that the call of Isaiah occurred (chapter 6), the voice of the Lord asks a question, and the prophet answers. Even though the voice is not identified, we know it is the voice of God.1

“All men are like grass,
     and all their glory is like the flowers of the field.
7 The grass withers and the flowers fall,
     because the breath of the LORD blows on them.
     Surely the people are grass.
8 The grass withers and the flowers fall,
     but the word of our God stands forever.” (NIV)

The prophet reflects the words of Job (“He springs up like a flower and withers away,” Job 14:2). The image of flowers in the Bible is rarely a pretty one. Apart from decorations carved into the furnishings of the tabernacle and temple (Exodus 25:33-34, 37:19-20; 2 Chronicles 4:5, etc.), a dozen or so references in the Song of Songs (2:1-2; 4:5; 5:13; 6:2-3; 7:2, etc.), some song titles (titles of Psalms 45, 69, 80) and Jesus’ references to the lilies (Matthew 6:28), almost all the references to flowers in the Bible are about decay or judgment:

”(Man’s day) flourishes like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone,” (Psalm 103:15-16).

“When the blossom is gone and the flower becomes a ripening grape, he will cut off the shoots with pruning knives,” (Isaiah 18:5).

“He will pass away like a wild flower” (James 1:10).

The exception is the gospel promise God made through Hosea when Isaiah was a young man: “I will heal their waywardness and love them freely, for my anger has turned away from them. I will be like the dew to Israel; he will blossom like a lily” (Hosea 14:4-5).

That gospel of forgiveness and peace stands forever. There are no limits on the “forever” of the Bible. The word “forever,” olam, means a limitless, unbounded time, as in “their inheritance forever” (Exodus 32:13). There are no minutes, no seconds, no hours, no centuries. There is only an eternal, blissful now, a day with no end that will go on and on be always new, always tireless, always now. What God promises us, he will certainly give us: “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever,” (Deuteronomy 29:29).

God’s forgiveness washes over us and pours God’s grace and mercy into our hearts. What is right with God, is always right (“Your statutes are forever right,” Psalm 119:144). His forgiveness has brought us into a relationship with God that allows us to speak with him as our dear Father in heaven, and allows us to speak with our Savior Jesus as our very own Brother, our Friend, and our Advocate.

Morning glory

God’s forgiveness has all the beauty of the flowers, with none of their brevity or mortality. That is the gift of eternal life. And through Jesus, it is ours.

Forever.

1 Unlike a Mormon, who puts his faith in Joseph Smith’s book because he has been taught to trust his feelings about it, we know this unidentified voice is God’s own because of the content of what is said; because of the witness of the rest of the Bible: Peter quotes this passage in his First Epistle, and reminds us all: “And this is the word that was preached to you” (1 Peter 1:24-25).

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim SmithAbout Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. His wife, Kathryn, attended the Chapel from 1987-1990 while studying Secondary Education (Theater and Math) at UW-Madison. Kathryn’s father, John Meyer, was also the first man to serve as a Vicar at Chapel.

To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.