Here and Gone: Why God Tells Us Man Is Finite

| Mon, Feb 27, 2012 | Set 2 Week 9

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Psalm 103:15–16,

As for man, his days are like grass;
he flourishes like a flower of the field;
for the wind passes over it, and it is gone,
and its place knows it no more.

“Man’s like grass.” This isn’t the first time we’ve seen this. Think back to Isaiah 40:6–7,

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 sort of repetition highlights the importance of this picture. It’s saying something to us and there are at least two things we need to takeaway. They are two points of contrast: 1) the finitude of man; and 2) the eternality of the gospel.

The Finitude of Man

It’s a brilliant metaphor — and extremely accessible. Everyone knows about grass. It’s everywhere. No matter what kind it is — a highway ditch or the 18th hole —  grass is the stuff that comes up from the ground, serves its purpose for a season, and then dies to be replaced with new grass. And David tells us now, like Isaiah, that man is like grass. You and me, we’re like grass.

But do we really believe that?

We certainly don’t feel it most times. Days can be long, not to mention years, or decades. The pace of change runs laps around the tick of the clock. We yawn and carry on. We labor and get old. Sixty-years old is much different than a toddler just learning to walk. But we’re grass, I tell you, grass. A hundred years from now we’d be privileged to be in someone’s memory. Unless we make it in the history books, chances are two hundred years from now no one will know we existed. The houses we lived in will be gone. The things we built will be vanished. We flourished for a season, like a flower, but then we’re gone and our own residence knows us no more.

The Gospel Is Everlasting

All this talk about grass is kind of bleak. It doesn’t seem like the best way to start your Monday. But wait. There is another point about Psalm 103:15–16 we need to understand: the gospel is everlasting. You see, God is saying something about man to say something about himself. We’re supposed to feel these words: “As for man, his days are like grass” — and then we’re supposed to feel the contrast that comes in verse 17, “But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him…”

It’s about the contrast. We hear this grass-talk about who we are and then we’re pushed out of the plane to pull the chute on God’s steadfast love. Yes, man is like grass, here and gone. Yes, man is finite, it’s place knows it no more. But the Lord‘s love, the Lord‘s covenant faithfulness, the Lord‘s unfailing righteousness to always do what it right and consistent with his character revealed to us in his covenant and unfolded for us in the Bible; the Lord‘s word and promises — they are from everlasting to everlasting. They never end. They never fail. There is no wind that will blow away the faithfulness of the one who speaks the wind. It’s settled. Done. Forever. God’s love is from everlasting to everlasting.

But notice I said the gospel is everlasting. Specifically, gospel; not just love or faithfulness or all that is consistent with God’s character. Specifically, the gospel — the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ for us and our salvation — is everlasting. The point here is that God’s steadfast love or mercy or faithfulness or the way he revealed his name or all that is consistent with his character, all of these are fulfilled in the cross and empty tomb.

Don’t leave “steadfast love” in a fog. Don’t put it away on a top shelf with other Christian lingo and biblical concepts. Connect the dots. The steadfast love of the Lord was preeminently seen in the death of Jesus and his raising from the dead three days later. There is the redemption God promised, the salvation that Psalm 103 and everyone since Adam have been looking for. Love is not everlasting, but love that is seen in a bleeding Savior who died for our sins, who suffered in our place, the righteous for the unrighteous that he might bring us to God; who said “it is finished!” and three days later was raised from the dead, who put the evil powers of this world to open shame and came out of the tomb victorious, who ascended to heaven and is seated (right now! right now!) at the Father’s right hand, who is reigning over a coming kingdom and who will himself come — this and all that it means, yes, this is from everlasting to everlasting.

Reflection

1. How does your grass-likeness assault pride?
2. If we are finite but the gospel is eternal, what does this mean about our investments?

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One Response to “Here and Gone: Why God Tells Us Man Is Finite”

  1. Steve Garcia Says:

    Thank you, Jonathan.
    The awareness of my grass-likeness keeps me from being a control freak. It reminds me that I am not the pastor of my church; I am the pastor of my church right now. This is my place at the moment and it may be for many years. But it may also be over much sooner. All it takes is one breath from the Lord and I am gone. He may take me to my eternal home or to another place but when he says the word, it’s over. Then a new pastor will take my place and my place will know me no more. I know this is true from experience as well as from Psalm 103.
    It may sound like a bleak outlook but it isn’t. While mortality and transience are brutal facts to face, they are also very liberating. I only have to be faithful and fruitful and bloom where I am planted. I don’t need a 20-year plan. My God has an eternal plan. And though it’s not all about me, it includes me and everyone else. This is just one of his many benefits — the freedom to relinquish control and rest in his goodness and greatness. I am satisfied to flourish like flower in his field for a little while. I bless him for the gift of each day I enjoy and the friends, family, and congregation he allows me to know.
    Fighter Verses and your blog reminded me that I am here and gone…but God is good.
    Thanks,
    Steve

    Reply

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