Isaiah 40:8 “The grass withers and the flowers fall,
but the word of our God stands forever.”
There are many angles to this seemingly simple statement. Isaiah has just been talking about the fleeting existence of grass and flowers as a metaphor for human life, and this is the climax of that. In sharp contrast to man’s brief life, God’s Word is permanent. But why Word? In the first place, Genesis 1 tells us that God spoke the universe into existence. Words are an expression of intent, of will. Isaiah could have said, “God’s will stands forever,” but words can be recorded, written down. You could call the Bible “The written will of God.” On top of that, we have the momentous words of the first chapter of John’s Gospel, which tell us that Jesus the Messiah is the Word of God. From that perspective, this verse is a statement of the eternal Deity of Jesus. Any discussion of this sort can quickly “get into the weeds” when you start considering things like translations and scribal errors and the like, but we must not allow such things to distract us from the fundamental reality that God has spoken to mankind and had His words recorded. However many distortions or how much noise we might feel have crept in over the centuries, if we forget that it is fundamentally the Word of God we lose everything. One of the biggest shocks of the Dead Sea Scrolls was that the most complete book of the Old Testament among them, the very book of Isaiah that contains this verse, was essentially identical to the text in general use at the time of their discovery, 2000 years after those scrolls had been hand copied. So much for scribal errors! God is quite capable of protecting His Word, even today when people are producing “translations” that do things like remove all gender-specific pronouns for God.
I was thankfully raised in a home with a deep respect for the Bible, with a father who taught Greek and Hebrew. The Bible my parents gave me after I was baptized was the RSV translation, even though the KJV was still very much the standard at that point. On top of that, I grew up bilingual with English and Japanese, so I was intimately aware of the difficulties of translation. As a result, I haven’t been so tied to the words (particularly in English) of the Bible so much as the reality that it is the Word of God. He does guide and anoint translators, in whatever language, and sometimes the specific words have enormous impact, but I seek to be aware at all times that it is God talking to me, and not just some literary creation. That is why I delight to teach the Bible, acting as a “repeater” for God. This morning I will be speaking on Words of Life, from Jesus’ statement that “The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life.” (John 6:63) I need to let God’s words of life live in me fully (Colossians 3:16) so that they may flow through me unhindered, bringing life to all who will receive them.
Father, thank You for this reminder, particularly considering the message You’ve given me for today. May I be fully yielded to You so that Your Word through me may penetrate and do its full work, (Hebrews 4:12) for the liberation of my hearers and for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!