“The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever,” by Louis A. Dole

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“The voice said, Cry. And he said, What shall I cry? All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field. The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: because the spirit of the Lord bloweth upon it: surely the people is grass. The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever.” – Isaiah 40:6-8

Readings

Isaiah 40:1-17 · John 10:1-18 · Psalm 103:8-18

Sermon

Today there are those who say, “All flesh is grass. What is man that God is mindful of him? We die like the beasts of the field. The rocks crumble, all flesh perishes, the sun will in time burn out, and omnipresent death will reign.”

And so from the changes which occur in the outer stratum of creation man reasons that there is no inner enduring creation, that there is no stable realm of everlasting life. We pass on. Our places are quickly filled.

But why does anyone believe these merely seeming truths? Our text tells us the reality: “The word of our God shall stand for ever.” There is a deeper meaning to the words “The grass withereth, the flower fadeth.” The grass is a lower form of vegetation, the first to spring out of the ground, and the basis of animal life. The first truths that come to us are like the grass. They are the basis of more vital things because they are external facts upon which interior things depend and rest. The grass is created before the herbs, the blade before the ear. And the flowers? They are spiritual truths unfolded in their beauty. It is the desert of the mind that the Lord promises shall blossom as the rose. So is pictured the soul of man beautified with spiritual truths.

Why then is the thought ever entertained that there is not an ever-present God, that there is not a substantial spiritual world just within? Why does one doubt the reality of the soul, that man is a spirit and has a body, and that the spirit never for a moment dies? Why do we even for an instant wonder whether the Lord with infinite wisdom and infinite love reigns over every detail of our lives? Because the fundamental truths about the Lord, the spiritual world, the soul, and the life after death have been lost sight of and man has come to think that he can acquire truth and do good from himself. Thus “the grass withereth.” Because spiritual truths, which reveal God in Jesus Christ, which reveal the Lord in His Word, which open the Word to our understanding have become of no general interest “The flower fadeth.”

And when the grass in the pastures of the church is withered so that one believes that he lives from himself, or that he can get truth from himself or do good from himself; when the flowers in the garden of the church fade so that there is no definite knowledge of the Divine Human of the Lord or of the spiritual sense of the Word, and consequently no definite knowledge of the soul, heaven, and the life after death, doubts and fears rush in and fill the soul with hopelessness and indifference. Then the soul is like a withered garden. Where in this sense the grass is withered and the flower is faded it is said, “What need of a God? Nature brings forth of itself. What need of a Creator? Natural law formed all things. Is not nature the effect of inherent causes?”

But it is not from such reasonings that the severest doubts come. For these reasonings are balanced by others, such as the rational demand for an intelligent cause which must be wiser than all mankind.

The severest test of our faith comes from the contemplation of God’s greatness in comparison to our littleness. When one thinks of the immensity of God’s greatness, there comes to the mind wonder and also doubt that that any being could control the universe – not a permanent doubt, but a doubt which forces us to summon reasons, in order that the truth may be confirmed. In A.C. 7298.2 we are told: “No one ought to be persuaded about truth in a moment… that there is no doubt left, because truth so impressed is persuasive truth… Thus it is given them (good spirits) to think and consider whether it is so, and to collect reasons, and so bring that truth rationally into their minds.”

We think of the hardness of a rock or the strength of steel. These are forces that inflow from the Lord from moment to moment. Then there are the forces of the winds and rushing waters, but “The Lord on high is mightier than the noise of many waters, yea, than the mighty waves of the sea.” And there is gravity, and the power that whirls the earth on its axis and speeds it on its orbit. Then there are the forces that form and sustain the myriads of planets. These all inflow from the Lord. His wisdom guides, His power sustains. And there are the countless stars, which are suns like our own, some immensely greater. Put the center of our sun at the center of our earth and it would reach to the moon and one-third as far beyond. This great seething ball of fire, sending out its immense tongues of flame thousands of miles, is made to give its ever undiminishing heat and light by influx from the Lord. For its heat is naught else than the outmost expression of spiritual heat, which in the Lord is Love and Wisdom; this is turned by the mechanism of the sun into natural heat and light, just as affection and thought flow down from the soul and produce heat in the body and make it active. Not only one sun with its planets, but myriads of suns with their planets are given their heat, light, and power from the one Lord. All these forces are in Him. For “He hath made the earth by his power, he hath established the earth by his wisdom, and hath stretched out the heavens by his discretion.” “Thou sendest forth thy spirit, they are created,” “It is he… that stretcheth out the heavens as a curtain, and spreadeth them out as a tent to dwell in.” How vast is all this power! Yet immense as it is, because it is finite it is nothing compared to the might of the Lord Himself who “hath measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, and meted out heaven with a span, and comprehended the dust of the earth in a measure, and weighed the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance.”

A sick person lying upon his bed at night may think on these things – of the countless planets and their myriads of people, those who have died, and those who are to be born – and wonder if the Lord knows of him in his affliction, and ask, “When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars which thou hast ordained; what is man that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man that thou visitest him? Will He hear my prayer among the many throughout the universe that are made to Him?” Such thoughts, which at first kindle doubt, can awaken and confirm our faith. It is because the Lord is infinite that He can see and hear all and each. Because He is omnipresent He can be with each one and give power to the faint. His ministry to the natural universe is to Him a very small thing. “He fainteth not, neither is weary.”

Though the grass withereth and the flower fadeth, of this we are assured: “the word of our God shall stand for ever.” Knowing of His greatness does not remove Him from us, but shows that because He is great, He is thereby able to hear our cry and to answer. Because He measures the waters in the hollow of His hand, gathers the heavens in a span, weighs the mountains in scales, and counts the nations as the small dust of the balance, He is able to feed His flock of all nations as a shepherd, to gather the lambs with His arm, and to carry them in His bosom. “He calleth them all by names by the greatness of his might, for that he is strong in power; not one faileth.”

If we think of how the Lord operates in His universe, we can have no doubt as to His reaching down to each one of us. “Thou sendest forth thy spirit, they are created.” His Spirit, that goes forth and creates, perpetually infills and sustains His creation. It abides in all things of His order.

Energy from the sun searches out every seed in the soil. It cannot possibly overlook a single germ that is rightly conditioned. Nor can the Spirit of the Lord overlook a single person, or fail to make grow into fruitage a single rightly placed desire. For His Holy Spirit flows from Him charged with infinite love, everywhere working in infinite wisdom to search out every desire and thought that can be imbued with eternal life.

Surely then the Lord sees and hears each one of us. His perfect providence is over every one of us, and His creative and restorative power flows into every soul, ever defending and working to bless the soul with His own perfection; and thence it descends into the body, building and rebuilding; and this the Lord does so far as we give Him entrance to our minds and provide favorable outward conditions.

Let us then know that the Word of the Lord shall stand forever, that not one of its promises will ever fail. It will serve us here. It will be the crown of life in the world to come; for then, if not now, it will be revealed to us that “Thy word is true from the beginning: and every one of thy righteous judgments endureth for ever.”

Amen

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