Question: "What does it mean that the grass withers and the flowers fade, but the Word of the Lord endures forever (Isaiah 40:8)?"
Answer: In Isaiah 40, God delivered a message of hope and comfort to His people. The promise was that, even during the predicted captivity in Babylon, the Great Shepherd of Israel and God of all creation would keep His promise to comfort and save His people. The prophet declared, “The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever” (Isaiah 40:8).
Israel would be cut down like grass. The people were like flowers that had faded and fallen to the ground: “All people are like grass,” explained Isaiah. “And all their faithfulness is like the flowers of the field. The grass withers and the flowers fall, because the breath of the LORD blows on them. Surely the people are grass” (Isaiah 40:6–7).
Even nations like Assyria and Babylon, after they had fulfilled their purpose, would fade away when God breathed on them. “Do not fret because of those who are evil or be envious of those who do wrong; for like the grass they will soon wither, like green plants they will soon die away,” assures Psalm 37:1–2. Through the prophet Isaiah, God promised Israel that, no matter what, He still loved them and would forgive them.
God’s people can look to the Lord and His Word for comfort because His promises are reliable and eternal. Yahweh had vowed to bring restoration and salvation to Israel. The Word of the Lord would come to pass and endure forever. God’s promises can be counted on; they never fail, even in the worst of times.
Scripture often contrasts the permanence of God and His Word and the impermanence of human life: “Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the whole world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God. . . . Yet you sweep people away in the sleep of death—they are like the new grass of the morning: In the morning it springs up new, but by evening it is dry and withered” (Psalm 90:2–6; see also 1 Peter 1:24–25).
The good news for believers is that God’s faithful love and promised salvation endure forever for those who revere Him and His Word: “Our days on earth are like grass; like wildflowers, we bloom and die. The wind blows, and we are gone—as though we had never been here. But the love of the LORD remains forever with those who fear him. His salvation extends to the children’s children of those who are faithful to his covenant, of those who obey his commandments!” (Psalm 103:15–18, NLT).
People are here today and gone tomorrow. Flowers are not forever, and even the hardiest of blooms only lasts a short while. Yet, amid human frailty and instability, there is one thing that remains forever—God’s Word. Humans are transient, temporary, passing, but God’s Word is eternal, permanent, undying. “Forever, O LORD, your word is firmly fixed in the heavens,” confirms Psalm 119:89 (ESV).
The Word of the Lord is powerful, consistent, and trustworthy. God keeps His promises and always accomplishes what He says He will do: “As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:10–11).
The meaning of the grass withers and the flowers fade, but the Word of the Lord endures forever can be apprehended in verses such as Numbers 23:19: “God is not a man, so he does not lie. He is not human, so he does not change his mind. Has he ever spoken and failed to act? Has he ever promised and not carried it through?” (NLT). “No,” says Joshua 21:45: “Not a single one of all the good promises the LORD had given to the family of Israel was left unfulfilled; everything he had spoken came true” (NLT).
Humans are like grass that withers and flowers that fade. Whatever glory we possess is soon gone, but if our foundation is based on the solid rock of God’s unfailing Word, our future is eternally secure (Matthew 7:24–27).