The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever. (Isaiah 40:8)
One aspect of Christmas that is always with us but is often forgotten or ignored: There are some people who will be greatly missed.
This will be true for many of us this year—a father, mother, grandfather, grandmother, or close friend has died, and when Christmas comes we really miss them. There was a chair where grandma usually sat, and now it feels like there is an empty chair, a space that nobody else can fill.
The Bible is a wonderful book. It speaks into the reality of our lives, and because it is the Word of God, it always brings us strength and hope. I’ve been praying that will be true in a special way for many of us today.
We’ve been looking at Isaiah 40. It begins with comfort (verse 1); it ends with renewing your strength (verse 31), and it is packed full of anticipations of Jesus Christ.
We saw last time that God is calling his people to speak tenderly, into our broken world, “speak tenderly to Jerusalem” (Isaiah 40:2). That gives you the tone in which God is speaking, and that’s the tone in which I want to speak today.
But what are we to say? We looked at the first answer last week: Peace established, Pardon secured, and payment made through a Person, Jesus Christ.
Here is God’s abundant provision in outline: Speak tenderly to Jerusalem! Tell her that peace is established (her warfare is ended). Parson is secured (her iniquity is pardoned). The payment has been made (she has received the double, the duplicate from the Lord’s hand).
How will all this happen? A voice cries: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord;” (Isaiah 40:3).
God himself is coming to do this! This is what Christmas is all about, the person of Jesus Christ! God with us. God acting for us. God in Christ coming to pay the price, to secure the pardon, and to establish peace.
He has done it! This is what Christ has accomplished. These are the priceless gifts that he holds in his hand, and that he offers to every person who will come to him.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem: Speak about what God has done in Jesus Christ. This is the message of comfort that has been given to the church and our commission is to bring it to the world.
But it doesn’t end there: “A voice says, ‘Cry!’ and I said, ‘What shall I cry?’” (Isaiah 40:6). If I have already spoken about peace established, pardon secured, and payment made through a person Jesus Christ, what more is there to say? Clearly there is more to say, and today we come to the second answer: “A voice says ‘Cry!’ And I said, ‘What shall I cry?’” (Isaiah 40:6).
It is not for pastors and preachers to craft a message that they think people will want to hear. The message is given. It is given by the Word of God. Faithful pastors and teachers open their Bibles. They ask God “What shall I cry?” and then they speak what they find in front of them.
The message is given. It does not need to be invented. What shall I cry? God gives the answer: Here is what you are to say… Here is the second strand of the message entrusted to the church:
Your Life Is Beautiful and Fragile
All flesh is grass, and all its beauty is like the flower of the field. (Isaiah 40:6)
God speaks about the beauty of human life and we are to speak about that too. This is part of the message that has been trusted to the church. God is the creator and he has made everything beautiful in its time.
Human life is a miracle, a gift of God’s grace. Our second granddaughter was born this year. We felt again the awe, the wonder, and the beauty of human life.
We were made in the image and likeness of God. God set us over all his creation. He crowned us with glory and honor, and put everything under our feet. Think of it like this: We were made in the image and likeness of God, with enough likeness that we could be tempted to think that we’re God and try to take his place.
What makes a human life valuable? Why do you matter? What makes your life significant? Is it that you are loved? What will you say then to the person who nobody loves, the person who has been forgotten, passed over? I will always remember a man whose wife had died saying to me, I have many wonderful friends, but I am not first in anyone else’s life.
Is it the work that you do? Being productive? Contributing to the common good? What will you say then to the person who cannot find work? What will you say to the person who suffers with a long term illness and feels that they are only a drain and a demand on the resources of others? If work is what makes life worthwhile, what will you say to them?
Here’s what you say: Here’s why you matter! Here’s what gives you dignity and worth in every season and circumstance of life… You were made in the image and likeness of God. God made you and the fact that you are breathing now is indisputable evidence that he wants you here. You are here by the plan and the purpose of almighty God. All flesh is grass and its beauty is as the flowers.
That’s not all. Your life is beautiful and fragile: “All flesh is grass, and all its beauty is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades…” (Isaiah 40:6-7). A voice says “Cry!” What shall I cry? Speak about the beauty and fragility of human life. To live well, you need to know your life is fragile.
“Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit’— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes” (James 4:13-14).
To live well you need to know both the beauty and the fragility of your own life. If we learn these things, we will be both thankful towards God and humble before God.
God Is In Control of Your Death as Well as Your Life
The grass withers, the flower fades when the breath of the LORD blows on it; (Isaiah 40:7)
Why does the grass wither and the flower fade? Because the breath of the LORD blows on it.
Human life begins and ends with the breath of God. The book of Genesis tells us: “The LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature” (Genesis 2:7).
God breathes life into Adam, and Adam becomes conscious. His life was breathed into him by God. That’s how your life began. God gave you life. That is how your life continues today. God sustains all things by the Word of his power. It is in him that you live and move and have your being.
One day, God will breathe on you again and your life in this world will end: “The grass withers, the flower fades when the breath of the LORD blows on it;” (Isaiah 40:7).
Listen to how David says it: “When you take away their breath, they die and return to their dust. When you send forth your Spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the ground” (Psalm 104:29-30). “You take away their breath.” God does this. Death is not a matter of random chance. Job says the same thing: “The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away;” (Job 1:21). Your life and death are in the hands of God.
When we celebrate birthdays, we have this tradition of bringing in a cake, with one candle lit for every year of the person’s life. Everyone sings “Happy Birthday” and then we do something quite extraordinary. We ask the person whose birthday it is to blow all the candles out!
These are the years that are done. They are gone and they won’t come back again. A year gone (phew!) Ten years gone… One day God will blow out the last candle on your cake.
This is true of every person—good or bad, religious or secular, Christian or Muslim, young or old, rich or poor. It is as true of God’s enemies as it is of his friends. The Bible says of the anti-Christ, a person who will embody hatred and resistance to all that Christ is. Christ will “kill with the breath of his mouth” (2 Thessalonians 2:8).
Here is anti-Christ, exalting himself in the place of God, ruling the world, unassailable in his grip on power, and Christ blows on him (phew!) and he is gone.
Life and death are never a matter of random chance. God blows life into us, and God blows life out of us. Your life begins with the breath of God. It continues by the breath of God, and life ends through the breath of God. For the person who loves and trusts Christ, this is a wonderful and comforting truth.
George Whitefield said, “We are immortal ‘til our life’s work is done.”  Whitefield was saying that the timing of his death was in the hands of God. All my days were written in God’s book before one of them came to be (Psalm 139:16).
But for the person today who is resisting God, this is a sobering truth. If you are holding out on God, I hope this will wake you up: God can blow on you at any time! And when he does you will be gone. His Spirit will not strive with you forever.
God gives life and breath to rebels who use it to sin against him. That’s grace! And the question is, “How will you respond to this grace today?” God gives you life! God sustains your life! And your life in this world will end when the breath of the Lord blows on you.
So, here is how I am to think of my life: I am like a candle, lit to burn for God’s glory for a short time, until he blows on it, and the flame goes out. So what is the best thing I can do with this life? Give myself wholly to whatever God has for this life that he is giving me! It is to offer this life back into the hands of the one who gives it and sustains it.
You Can Trust God’s Word Completely
The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever… Isaiah 40:8
You see the contrast. Human lives come and go. But God’s Word stands forever, and this Word has become flesh (John 1:14). Children grow, young people mature in strength, adults move through life, and with advancing years, become aware that their memory fails, and their powers of body and of mind begin to fade. Eventually they die and one generation gives way to the next.
But one human life has been different from all the others: “As the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself” (John 5:26). Here is the great difference between Jesus and us: Life is given to us, and one day it will be taken from us. But Jesus has life in himself. He has it and he is able to give it!
That’s why he says: “No one takes [my life] from me… I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again” (John 10:18). None of us can say that! But Jesus can. And this is what he did: He laid down his life when he died on the cross as a sacrifice for our sins. Then he took it up again, in his mighty resurrection.
This Jesus is the Son of God. He is the Word of God, and he stands forever: “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever!”
Many of you know the hymn “Praise my soul the king of heaven, to his feet your tribute bring—ransomed, healed, restored, forgiven—who like thee his praise should sing?” There’s a verse of that hymn based on this Scripture: “Frail as summer’s flower we flourish; blows the wind and it is gone. But while mortals rise and perish, God endures unchanging on.”
Trusting in yourself is futile. Your life is a beautiful gift from God but it is also fragile. Seizing the wheel and piloting your own life is the surest way to disaster. Looking to teachings and philosophies that come and go or to people who live and die is building your life on a foundation of sand.
God endures unchanging on. The word of the Lord stands forever. This Word became flesh and dwelt among us.
The Word took on Human Flesh
A voice says “Cry!” Listen! Someone is speaking. God is speaking! Here is what he is saying to you today: “Your life is beautiful and it is fragile. I am in control of your death as well as your life. You can trust my Word completely.”
That Word has become flesh and his name is Jesus. There is Savior for you and this Savior is God, God in the flesh, God with us, God for us. This person has done what nobody else has done or ever could do. Because he has paid the price and secured the pardon, he offers you peace with God, the forgiveness of all your hell-deserving sins. Because he is God, he lays claim to your life as your Lord
He speaks to you tenderly today. He reaches out to you in love today. He also speaks to you with urgency today. Your life is beautiful, but it is also fragile. You are here today, but soon you will be gone.
This Christ is able to breathe new life in to you today: “The wind blows where it wishes… So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” He can change your heart. He can renew your life. He can breathe a new and eternal life into you today.
Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. Turn to him. Submit to him. Trust him. Yield your life to him. Follow him. You can rest secure in his promise that all he has accomplished and all that he offers is yours.
 George Whitefield, “Works of George Whitefield,” p. 289, Kessinger, 2007
© Colin S. Smith
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