For most of my adult life, I thought of the words of Isaiah 40:7 as the words that I wanted to represent my life. That text says, “The grass withers and the flowers fade, but the word of our God stands forever.” I wanted (and still do) to give my life to the wisdom of the Book of books.
But time changes perspective. I see something different in those words today. It wasn’t too long ago that I discovered that the New Testament seems to throw a different light on my “life verse”. The New Living Translation expresses Peter’s quoting of Isaiah like this: “…Love each other deeply with all your heart. For you have been born again, but not to a life that will quickly end. Your new life will last forever because it comes from the eternal, living word of God. As the Scriptures say, “People are like grass; their beauty is like a flower in the field. The grass withers and the flower fades. But the word of the Lord remains forever.” And that word is the Good News that was preached to you” (1Peter 1:22-25).
The AD vs BC view of Isaiah’s words sounded so different to me in this “modern translation” that I started reading it in other translations. As I did, I became increasingly convinced that when the Bible speaks of the word of God, it isn’t always referring to “itself”.
So I went back and read the Isaiah text again. As I read it over and over, it seemed clear that Isaiah was using the word of God in a mysterious Messianic sense. Verse 9 goes on to immediately say, “O Zion, messenger of good news, shout from the mountaintops! Shout it louder, O Jerusalem. Shout, and do not be afraid. Tell the towns of Judah, “Your God is coming!” Yes, the Sovereign Lord is coming in power. He will rule with a powerful arm. See, he brings his reward with him as he comes. He will feed his flock like a shepherd. He will carry the lambs in his arms, holding them close to his heart. He will gently lead the mother sheep with their young” (Isa 40:9-11).
So I then started looking at the many times the New Testament refers to “the word.” As I did, I continued to come to the conclusion that New Testament writers often used “the word of God” to refer to either the message/Gospel of Christ, or to the Son of God directly.
Eventually I circled back to Peter and concluded that when he then went on to urge his readers to long for the “sincere milk of the word” (“pure spiritual milk”) (1Peter 2:2), he wasn’t just urging us to reflect on our Bibles. Seems to me now that he was was instead urging us to grow up into an experience of our salvation by making it a point long for a deeper and more personal understanding of the message and Good News of Christ (to which the whole story of Scripture leads).
Seeing the “word of God that lives and stands forever” as the long held Messianic mystery revealed— that our God would personally take the worst of our rebellion and then, after rising from the dead, offer to forgive us and bring us to his Father— has made the word of the Book of books a treasure far more priceless than I ever imagined.
Now, as some of you may have noticed, I’ve been trying in my own weak and near sighted ways, to see the meaning of no Scripture as an end in itself, but rather as a witness to the Savior and love that I, we, our neighbors, our home countries, and our world desperately need.