All Flesh Is Grass (Isaiah 40)
- Order of Service: Prayer & Preaching
- Hymns: LSB #334, 344, 347
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. The grass withers, the flower fades when the breath of the LORD blows on it; surely the people are grass. The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever. (Isaiah 40:6-8)
“On Jordan's bank the Baptist's cry announces that the Lord nigh; awake and hearken, for he brings glad tidings of the King of Kings!” When John the Baptizer stands on the banks of the Jordan River, he has one message to proclaim. The message of “the voice of one crying in the wilderness.” The message God gives through the prophet Isaiah: “All flesh is grass, and all its beauty is like the flower of the field.” This message is shouted in the wilderness. This message brings about the confession of sins so that John may administer his Baptism of repentance. In the first half of the 1890s, when southwest Minnesota was the wilderness of the Upper Midwest, faithful pastors came into this wilderness, proclaiming John's message and established nine churches. Most of these congregations celebrated their 125th anniversary earlier this year. A couple won't until 2019. But it was the same announcement—the “glad tidings of the King of Kings”—that have kept all but two of these congregations still proclaiming the message today.
What is the “glad tidings of the King of Kings?” God's Word of Law and Gospel. The powerful punch of the Law that crushes sin. The sweet promise of the Gospel that reveals everlasting life. Isaiah proclaims this message clearly: “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the Word of our God will stand forever.”
“All flesh is grass, and all its beauty is like the flower of the field.” As we hear these words, we're in the midst of the month of December. The grass has been withered by autumn's cool breezes. The flowers are covered by snow. Their time has come and gone. The once lush, green grass is now brown. The flowers' beauty cannot be seen through the dismal wintry canopy. Their time has come and gone.
“The grass withers, the flower fades when the breath of the LORD blows on it.” The LORD withers sinners through His wrath. In this withered state, there is only one concern: “Will You be angry with us forever? Will You prolong Your anger to all generations?” Will God not return in favor to His sinful people? People seeking comfort. For an end to the warfare raging inside their body and soul. Withered by wrath, they cannot see God's tenderness and pardon. They only see anger and wrath. They only see the One who is 'mightier than I, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie.” They only see their great unworthiness as His holiness looms over them, larger than life.
God's breath once provided life for mankind. Now, it causes mankind to run and hide from God. God's Law crushes our thoughts, words and deeds by showing how far they fall from what He expects from us. He breathed His Word into His prophets and Apostles. He inspired them so they would proclaim His Word. “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.”
“The Word of our God will stand forever.” Since God's Word comes from God, there is no need for updating the sources. The source is the one and only Creator of the universe. As He doesn't change, His Word will never change.
The world has a problem with that. The world is always changing. It is always progressing towards some amorphous, shapeless goal. It is always changing. The world's breath keeps moving and blowing in different directions. You can never be sure how well you are progressing because the world's progress keeps changing directions.
The world's shifting sand is where you have been planted as grass, but you need not wither. Watered and fertilized by God's Word, you can thrive in the midst of the world's withering. The “breath of the LORD” blows against all the grass. But only the grass that has been fertilized and watered by God's Word will stand firm when God's fiery breath blows. “The heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn!”
God will again revive and restore His Creation to its proper state. Where the grass flourishes beyond our imagination. The new heavens and earth “in which righteousness dwells.” This is the future we look forward to. The revival and restoration of the everlasting life you and I were created for.
“All flesh is grass.” But the grass that survives the winter of this world's constantly changing blowing will flourish greatly for eternity. Everlastingly green in the Light of the only Son of God. The Light that comes from His Word that stands forever. Amen.