My grandfather Bill Myers was a seasoned gardener, raised on a farm in southern Ohio. He came north to the Cleveland area with my grandmother to teach school, specializing in American history. After retirement, he focused on raising an expansive garden, plowing up the fertile soil with a disc on his tractor every spring. Normally he planted two fields of sweetcorn, maneuvering his tractor over a makeshift bridge to cross a drainage creek that divided the land into the front garden and back garden.
He strategically placed scarecrows on wooden posts in the fields, tying aluminum pie pans on to scare the birds with movement and noise. He stuffed his old work shirts with straw to make the scarecrows look and smell more human. I’m not sure if the crows really caught on. As kids, if we saw a pesky flock of birds pecking in the garden we would run and scare them away. When we visited my grandparents, we became the scarecrows!
The corn and bean plants were also vulnerable to the appetites of raccoons and rabbits. Eventually the harvest of corn, beans, peas, squash, Swiss chard and kohlrabi was plentiful even after a season’s battle with critters.
With the picture of scarecrows in mind, let’s segue to the Bible where God speaks through the prophet Isaiah and says, “All flesh is like grass…” (Isaiah 40:6) The scripture continues by saying that the glory of all people quickly fades like grass and wilts like a field flower. “The grass withers and the flower fades…” (Isaiah 40:8)
This is meant to highlight the brevity of human life and the fading beauty of youth. This does not mean that our lives are inconsequential. Some people cover a lot of ground within the span of the decades they have. There is a glory in attaining influence and success, just like my grandfather did with hundreds of students over the years.
The next sentence of the scripture brings the meaning into focus. “But the word of our God stands forever.” (Isaiah 40:8) This zooms out to gain the eternal perspective. Every person’s life is blink-of-an-eye brief in comparison to the enduring word of God—in our case the Bible. Century after century, the glory of God’s word never fades, never becomes less potent, is never less true and is amazingly never less relevant. It possesses the power to change us.
In the parable of the sower, Jesus explains the word of God as a seed planted within the soil of the human heart. He tells His disciples, “Now the parable is this: the seed is the word of God.” (Luke 8:11) He speaks of different types of soil that represents the many heart postures of people. Some have rocky soil that is shallow and hard. Others are thorny from the all-consuming cares of life. And others are good fertile soil, like my grandfather’s garden, that easily receives the seed and produces a crop of right living. “And the seed in the good soil, those are the ones who have heard the word in an honest and good heart, and hold it fast, and bear fruit with perseverance.” (Luke 8:15) Holding fast is an expression of belief when people internalize the word and act upon its values.
This picture is further developed by the Apostle Peter as he teaches about the supernatural quality of God’s word. “For you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and abiding word of God.” (1 Peter 1:22-23) Then he quotes our reference verse in Isaiah 40 to refer his teaching back to the prophet.
The glory of God’s word, the Bible, is that it is living and active, able to locate us and speak to us. By reading it, we can understand what God is like, realize what Jesus has done and have the New Testament revelations working within us. In the brief season of our lives, we can have a “crop” of the knowledge of God’s will, resulting in new life and good works that are beneficial and consequential.