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.
I wake up sometimes and ask God, what shall I write? Lately this verse has been coming to mind. I’m a bit strange, I suppose, in always having liked this image, that people are like grass. It is God’s image, and oddly enough, I find comfort in it. Why?
Grass is beautiful. A field of grass, with perhaps wildflowers in it, is alive. It responds to the breeze, and invites us to wander in it, to pick the flowers, to imagine cattle feeding. I drive through hills that most of the year look pretty brown (the cows still eat the brown) but currently are green for a few months. The rains came late this year, and when the hills finally did get the rain they needed, it was such a joy to drive between them on my way to work or church.
Grass is a non-count noun. It’s plural in its concept so that to count it you need to add the word blade (a blade of grass) and people are so plural to God. He gives us a reframing perspective here: you aren’t alone. You are part of the mass of humanity, and taken as a whole it’s a fleeting mass. But as a whole it works together, sustains a field by its presence.
Grass is responsive to the wind. “The wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place knows it no more,” another passage (Ps. 103:16) says of the flowers of the field. The image of the wind bending the grass, blowing away the dandelion puff perhaps, is bittersweet when linked to the length of life. But we know seed is spread by the wind. Wind is the Spirit of God in biblical metaphors, and this leads me to a favorite verse about the Spirit: John 3:8, “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” Responding to the wind in this verse carries the idea of obeying and not fully comprehending…following where led by God. Yes, responding includes following into death. But always the grass metaphors end positively.
Unlike grass, the Word of the Lord stands forever. The passage in Psalm 103 follows with “But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him, and his righteousness to children’s children, to those who keep his covenant and remember to do his commandments.” Lives are short here on earth, but God’s word is eternal. His word is his everlasting love given in covenant and commandment, and is full of the grace of forgiveness and restoration. Peter, when quoting our Isaiah passage in I Peter 1:24&25, ends, “And this word is the good news that was preached to you.” The good news preached is the final Word of God: Jesus. This week we celebrate his grassy life: his beautiful love, his life among men, his responsiveness to the Father even unto death, and his standing forever.
The Word of God will last, because he who knows our lives to be short, although beautiful, communal, and responsive has promised that it will stand forever. If the Word of God will stand forever, he’s what we need to tie our lives to, his the wind to turn us, to lift and transplant us, to receive our seeds, and in the end, to carry us home.
All thanks and praise to God!