6 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.
8 The grass withers, the flower fades,
but the word of our God will stand forever. (Isaiah 40)
Every time I’ve heard this passage quoted, the emphasis has always been on the last sentence. The word of our God will stand forever. That’s an appropriate emphasis. The only thing that is lasting and of any value is the word of God; namely, Jesus. But I’ve recently been struck by the repetition in these verses. The grass withers, the flower fades. The grass withers, the flower fades.
All flesh is grass. Surely the people are grass. Surely the people are flowers. Why? We are grass and we are flowers, not because we share any aesthetically pleasing or aromatic qualities, but because we, like these weeds, will be blown away at some point. We really don’t matter. The word “beauty” in verse 6 can also be translated “constancy.” All of our constancy is like the flower of the field: not constant. The flower fades, and so do we.
Paul says in Romans that we have “exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man.” This is the most sickening of all of our sins. We refuse, reject, reduce, and rebel against the glory of God. We are thieves: we want to steal his glory and keep it for ourselves. We want to be approved and loved and accepted and valued and wanted and praised and paid attention to.
We want to be a rose that sits in a flower bed and soaks up the attention of man as he stops to smell it. We want to turn our petals up to the sun and feel its rays burning in us, validating our existence, telling us how beautiful we are, how needed we are, how important we are. We want to devote our entire lives to our selves. We want to satisfy our cravings though they kill us. We are so pitifully self-consumed and it’s leading us nowhere but deeper into the trenches of discontentment and darkness.
Flowers are pretty, but they are not to be praised for their intrinsic value. They should, as with all creation, point you to see, know, and worship a creator (For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made -Romans 1:20). In other words, my greatest value to you is not in who I am as a person. It’s not my personality, it’s not my character, it’s not my ability to be a faithful friend, sister, cousin, daughter, or niece, that will be of greatest value to you. It’s my ability to point you to the true source of life: Jesus.
I have brothers – my closest friends – who are tired of all this Jesus stuff from me. I have best friends, and Facebook friends, and Twitter friends, and Instagram friends, who I know are tired of all this Jesus stuff from me. I have cousins, aunts, and uncles who I’m sure are tired of all this Jesus stuff from me. But I’m going to be blown away one day! Nothing else matters! The most urgent, important, and necessary thing is that my life would serve to point others to Christ – that they might know their sin strongly, but his salvation and sufficiency more; that they might be forever changed by the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Cor 4:6).
The same will be true in each of my future roles as a wife, mother, and writer: I am a flower, I will be trampled over and blown away. I must point my husband to Jesus! I must point my kids to Jesus! I must point my readers to Jesus! He is the only thing worth looking at! The only thing worth praising! The only thing worth devoting any time or attention to!
One day, we will all be blown away and buried beneath the very fields we once grew in. And then, the only thing left standing will be the Word – Jesus! He is everything that is glorious, everything that is beautiful, everything that is profoundly pleasing to our sight, senses, and soul. He is worth all of our attention on this earth, all of our time, all of our focus, all of our fight. He is worth our fight. He is worth our fight!
Because this is the reality: this desire to point to Jesus, to look to Jesus, is a fight. Naturally, I don’t want to point you to anyone other than myself. I want your praise and your attention. I want you to make me feel important, special, loved, valued. But when I see Jesus, all of that changes. He is the sun; I am a measly little blade of grass. I have nothing to offer. He is all.
“I am nothing. He is all. This is foolishness to the world; but faith sees a glory in it. This way is best for our safety, and most for his honor. And the more simply we can reduce all our efforts to this one point, ‘Looking unto Jesus,’ the more peace, fervor, and liveliness we shall find in our hearts, and the more success we shall feel in striving against sin in all its branches.” -John Newton