The Wod of Our God Will Stand

I had the privilege of giving the devotional at my church, Third Avenue Baptist, on Sunday night. Here's the manuscript. I'll put a link up when the audio is available!

Isaiah 40:8

Look around you. It seems that wherever you turn, people struggle with feelings of inadequacy, of insignificance, and of smallness. At different points in our lives, we are all struck by how tiny we are in comparison to things that are much bigger than us; things like time, or war; the universe, or heartbreak; death, or God.

We see it in the movies we watch and the poetry we admire. We hear it in the songs on the radio and see it in the works of the philosophers. In a seemingly infinite variety of contexts and modes, the human heart is forced to consider its own smallness and mortality.

So, as you go about your daily life, you will hear things like this:

“Good luck exploring the infinite abyss!”


“We mortals are but shadows and dust!”

Or this

“We've grown used to the idea of space, and, perhaps we forget that we've only just begun. We're still pioneers. They, the members of the Challenger crew, were pioneers.”

Or this

“O God, thy sea is so great, and my boat is so small.”

Now, sometimes we might decide to shake these feelings off, or to quickly change the subject. We often put a high premium on an optimistic view of the world. Too often, perhaps.

But here in Isaiah 40, we see that this cry of insignificance is normal, even for a prophet. Isaiah, we know, has seen a glorious vision of the Most High God on his lofty throne. Themes of God’s power and of justice flow throughout his proclamations. Here, sandwiched between a passage about hope for the coming messiah and one regarding the greatness of God, Isaiah tells us of a voice that seems to cry out in despair.

6 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.
7 The grass withers, the flower fades
when the breath of the Lord blows on it;
surely the people are grass.

Through this simple metaphor, we are reminded of how weak and small our lives are. And yet, Isaiah goes on to proclaim the powerful truth that is contrasted with our small lives; God’s word is eternal and unchanging. Look at verse 8;

8 The grass withers, the flower fades,
but the word of our God will stand forever.

Now, there are a lot of great studies you can do from this simple passage. You can study how it interacts with Isaiah’s other prophetic proclamations. You can consider the many uses of the term “the word of God” throughout the Bible. You can make some terrific parallels between this passage and the gospels, because in verses 3-5 it prophesies about John the Baptist.

However, because our time is limited, I just want to make three simple exhortations to you that this passage should inspire in us.

1. First, spend time meditating on your smallness before God.

It is good and healthy to recognize how small we are compared to God. I think Keith did a terrific job this morning of showing how John the Baptist had a clear and accurate view of his role in the kingdom of God, and how it informed the way he lived and taught. In the same way, our lives should display the fact that we understand ourselves to be quite small and insignificant in the grand scheme of things.

If you need some help meditating on this topic, I encourage you to simply look in Scripture. This basic meditation is used in a variety of contexts by the Biblical authors.

-For instance, Peter actually quotes this passage in 1 Peter 1. He meditates on how our thankfulness for the new birth, which comes through the word of God, should express itself in an earnest love for one another.

-In James 4, James speaks of life as a vapor. He uses it to criticize those who spend their lives pursuing money rather than serving God.

-In Matthew 6, Christ teaches that it is more important to pursue the kingdom of God than to worry about food and clothing. He reminds us that earthly treasures will rust or be stolen, but that heavenly treasures are eternal.

I could go on and on, but I would encourage you to learn how to repeat this pattern of meditation in your own life. Seek to enlarge your soul by thinking about how small and transient our lives are, and then contrast that with the wonder and beauty and power and eternity of our Great King.

2. Second, learn to hear the world struggle with insignificance.

By this, I simply mean it is important for us to recognize that nearly every person we know struggles in some way with feeling small and insignificant. They are crying out for an answer, and we will never be able to offer it if we do not know how to listen for the tears of their hearts. Learn to see this human problem in poetry, and in music; in literature, and in art. Listen for it in your conversations with friends and co-workers. Learn to see it in the reckless way that so many people live their lives. As we become more sensitive to this problem, we will be more able to proclaim the solution.

3. Finally, use this common human problem to proclaim the gospel.

As Isaiah highlights for us, our lives are like grass, easily burned or blown away by the wind. Any way you look at it, we are alive only because it pleases God that we should be so. While we are here on this earth, then, like John the Baptist, we should fulfill our role by proclaiming the Messiah.

When your friends or co-workers cry out because of their sin and insignificance, tell them of the hope and eternal nature of the gospel. Preach God’s word to them, knowing that it is the only thing worthy of their complete trust. Live your life in such a way that it could be said of you, “this was a person who trusted the word of God more than they trusted anything about this life.”

My friend, meditate on your smallness before God. Learn to listen to the world as it recognizes its own insignificance. And then, as one who knows your role in the kingdom, proclaim to them the eternal and unchanging gospel of Christ, to the glory of our God.

The grass withers, the flower fades,
but the word of our God will stand forever.

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