Isaiah 40:1-22
The Word Of God Stands For Ever

Authored By Rev. Takao Kiyohiro, Tokyo, Japan

The Grass Dries Out, The Flowers Wither

1.

"A voice says, Call out. I say, what should I call out? All flesh is like the grass. All its glory is like the flowers of the field. The grass dries out, the flowers wither. The wind of the Lord has blown on them. This people is like the grass," (verses six and seven).

2. With the phrase "All flesh is like the grass. ... The grass dries out, the flowers wither," someone might think of the brevity and the short-lived nature of human life. A similar phrase is found in Psalm ninety as well. In that psalm the lyrics say, "A person's life is about seventy years. Even if a healthy person can count to eighty years, what he gets is nothing but hard work and troubles. Time passes in but an instant and we fly away," (Psalm 90:10). Undoubtedly in that sense we know all too well the meaning of "All flesh is like the grass."

3. But, even though it does go with what Psalm ninety says, when we read today's passage of scripture carefully, we notice that the scriptures are speaking about more than the brevity and the short-lived nature of life. It says that "The grass dries up, the flowers wither. 'The wind of the Lord has blown on them.'" This "wind of the Lord" means the judgment of God. In the nature of Palestine, when the hot air blows on in from the east, the anemone and the poppy flowers wither up in a twinkle though they had been blooming glamorously until that point and in one night they turn back into yellowish brown hills and fields. In the same way as that, when the winds of God's judgment blow in, the people who were so filled with strength up to that point, human society which had been taking pride in its prosperity, all of a sudden dries up to nothing because of its sin. Therefore, what this text is speaking on is the reality of a people and a society filled with sin [and] under the judgment of God for it.

4. Behind this phrase "the wind of the Lord has blown on them" lies the specific historical event of the downfall of the nation Judah. In the sixth century B.C.E., because of the military assault of the Chaldeans, the nation of Judah collapsed though it had once been very prosperous. A wealthy realm was turned into a wasteland. Even the temple, known for its splendor, was demolished and burned. The rulers of the country were made captives and transferred to the foreign soil of Babylon. Evidently, while the period of the captivity lingered on, the daily living of the people in the land of the captivity came together in its own way. Peaceful lives were maintained by even those left behind to themselves in Jerusalem. But, everybody knew [one thing for sure]: True hope didn't lie in them and they did not have true life. It was clear that the grass did dry up and the flowers did wither.

5. There was a prophet set up by God in such a time as that. The prophet's name is not written down. For the sake of convenience he is often called "Deutero-Isaiah, or the Second Isaiah." They say that verses six and seven, which we read just previously, are an account of the call of this Second Isaiah. A voice from heaven commands him to "Call out." The voice commands that he address the people of that time period [with the word of God]. But, he wasn't about to bestir himself. Why was that? Because he didn't have a message to give. Perplexed he replies, "What should I call out?" The prophet knew that the world that the people was in was the effects of their sins. The wind of the Lord has certainly blown on these people who have stubbornly refused God's calling out to them to turn [to Him]. The people were in a hard way. He too had to share in the hard times of his period. What in the world should a man [in his position] like this say to the people? "The grass dries out, the flowers wither. The wind of the Lord has blown on them." In saying that he could probably only hang his head for shame.

6. But, the voice calling out ever so had been heard in his ears. You might say it was the voices of angels calling back and forth in heaven. The message that he heard was this: "The grass dries out, the flowers wither, but the word of our God stands for ever," (verse eight).

7. That was the message from God that he was expected to give. The country was lost. The temple was also lost. There was no basis of hope any more that anyone could see. "The grass dries out, the flowers wither." It was certainly so. His short message was dead on. But, not everything was gone. There was the word of God. They had God speaking to them. Even if the whole world changed, they had an unchanging and faithful God and they had His word which proceeds forth from out of his faithfulness. Right now he really needed to speak the word of God. Right now the people really needed to hear the word of God that stands for ever. Thus, he stood fast as a prophet.

Behold, Your God

8. So, in today's passage of scripture, we see that the word of the Lord has already been supplied, to which the people likened to dried up grass were supposed to listen. I am going back to the beginning of chapter forty. The message that God was wanting to tell the people goes as follows:

9.

"Comfort them, comfort my people, says your God. Speak to the heart of Jerusalem, call out to her, saying, your time of troubles is now full, your faults are redeemed. You have received from the hand of the Lord the recompense in proportion to all your sins," (verses one and two).

10. The Lord God commands "Comfort my people." The command "comfort" has the meaning of "encourage." Or you could even give it the translation, "Strengthen." He is to strengthen them so they will rise up, so that a people without hope might obtain hope and that the lifeless dried up grass will return to life and rise up. What this text is talking about is the restorative work that comes from God. God is about to give them renewal.

11. What it also has to say here with "my people" and "your God" has even a more special significance. They had turned their backs in rebellion against God. They had stubbornly shut their ears to the word of God. They were not qualified to be spoken of as "my people." But, the Lord does call them "my people." And he calls himself "your God." It is the forgiveness of sins through God's mercy that is earnestly being expressed through this text. The Lord is saying that you have been forgiven. "Speak to the heart of Jerusalem, call out to her, saying, your time of troubles is now full, your faults are redeemed."

12. Therefore, even though Jerusalem had been judged and devastated, she could welcome in her Lord again. The sin pardoned people could again celebrate their Lord. God has come. Therefore, the voices calling out in heaven are resounding. "For the Lord, prepare a way in the wilderness and for our God let a wide road clear through the wild places. Let the valley lift itself up, and let the mountains and the hills be made low. Let the steep road become even, and the narrow way a broad valley. All flesh together will see the glory of the Lord revealed in this way. The mouth of the Lord has thus pronounced it," (verses three through five). In the ancient world, when a ruler who had obtained a victory returned home for his welcome, a wide road was cleared and put out. In this way it says to prepare a road for the Lord God as the true king to make his triumphant entry.

13. God is coming. He isn't coming now to condemn. He is coming girded in strength to govern as the true king. "Behold, your God, behold, the Lord God. He is coming girded with power and will govern with his arm," ( verse ten). Well, will the people still then continue to be dried grass? No, it will be different. In this passage the people of God are depicted in an entirely different manner. The text says, "The Lord will nourish the flock as a shepherd, he will gather them with his arms and hold the lambs in his bosom, and will guide their mothers," (verse eleven). There is no need for them to live any more as hopeless people. They do not need to live like an abandoned people. They are permitted to live as a flock of sheep cared for by the Lord. They are granted permission to live like lambs held in the Lord's bosom, the mother sheep guided by the Lord.

God Has Come Girded With Power

14. Well, we will find the word of God in Isaiah, which we read today also in the beginning of The Gospel Of Mark. There the text says:

15.

"The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the son of God. In the prophet Isaiah the text thus says, 'Behold, I will send a message ahead of you, He will prepare your way. There is a voice crying out in the wilderness. 'Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.' According to that, John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness and proclaimed a baptism of repentance to let one obtain forgiveness of sin, '" (Mark 1:1-4).

16. So, we understand that the Bible sees the fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah in the appearing on the scene of John the Baptist. John the Baptist was the voice crying out in the wilderness to prepare the way of the Lord. It fits then that Jesus Christ was the very one who had come through that prepared way. But, wasn't the God to rule over us supposed to "come girded with power?" As seen from the eyes of man didn't Jesus have nothing in common with the powers of this world as we know it? Didn't he get crucified and killed on the cross because of his weakness by the authorities of this world? How can we see in a Christ like that a "God who has come girded in strength?"

17. But, even still, the Bible announces that the rule of God - the kingdom of God - began with the coming of Christ. How is that? Because the rule of God is not the same as the authorities of this world or military rule. The authority to power and military authority cannot rule as far as the human heart. Though a person might act submissive and obedient, they can still spit behind the scenes. It is a real power that rules even unto the heart of a person, all the way to the deepest depths of a person's character. That is the power of love. It is the power of God's love. In this person called Jesus of Nazareth God has certainly come girded with strength. And the power of God, the power of God's love has truly been revealed in the sin paying power of the cross.

18. God has come. He has certainly come girded with power. And with that power of His He now governs us. With the power of his love he governs us. If we are under his rule, then we are no longer hopeless dried up grass. We are permitted to live as a flock of sheep cared for by the Lord.

 
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