Unless an accident, a tragedy, or a sudden illness interrupts our lives, men will live to be approximately 76 years old. Women, up to 81. At least, that is the life expectancy here in the US according to statistics. Therefore, if we exceed that mark we have one more reason to glorify the Lord.
But whether we’re breathing into our eighties or our twenties, we all agree on one thing: life is short. Life is a breath. Our years are like a mist that disappears quickly. Our existence is like a flower that falls and withers. We are ephemeral.
However, this is not always a truth that we remember. It is not something we are always aware of. Perhaps this is why the psalmist asked the Lord: “Make me know my end, and what is the measure of my days, so that I know how ephemeral I am” (Ps. 39:4). Our transience is something we don’t take seriously. The shortness of life is something we understand and accept, but it has little impact on the way we think and live.
The grass dries up and the flower falls
The apostle Peter said: “For all flesh is like grass, and all the glory of man like a flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls; But the word of the Lord stands forever (1 Pet. 1:24-25).
Here the apostle, quoting Isaiah 40:6-7, reminds us that our life is like grass and flower: one day it is there, and the next it is gone. Such is our existence. But Peter says something else, something just as important: “and all the glory of man as a flower of grass” (v. 24). That is, the glory of man is also temporary and ephemeral.
The things in which the man of the world places his glory and trust are temporary: the goods in which he delights, in which he places his hope and in which he boasts, are temporary; the things in which he invests his time, to which he devotes himself and in which he toils are transitory. Today they are and tomorrow they are not.
So, not only our life is short. So are the things of this life. Not only our existence is ephemeral, the earthly is too. Not only the years are fragile and fleeting, but also everything we pursue in this world.
I think there are two things that are suggested to us by this way of speaking.
The first thing that Peter suggests between the lines is the foolishness of estimating the earthly as if it were permanent. It is senseless and useless to live obsessed with the things of this world. The profession, financial stability, and assets are transitory. Reputation, beauty, physical appearance, health, relationships, and business are also ephemeral and fleeting.
The second thing that Peter wants to remind us is that we must live for the eternal. Invest our life for what remains. That is why we must live for Christ, for what does not perish or wither. That is the wisest, most consistent life, and without waste.
But the word of the Lord stands forever
Surprising, however, what Peter adds: “But the word of the Lord remains forever” (v. 25). That is, what contrasts with the fleeting of man and the things of the world, is the durability of the word of God.
This amazes me because Peter was able to compare the transitory of the things of this world with the eternal of the heavenly riches. But he doesn’t do it like that. In this case, what stands out as something permanent, lasting, and eternal is the Word of God. Why?
I think that what Peter tells us can be summed up like this:
“Let us not focus our lives on earthly goods that one day will perish. Let’s not rest or celebrate as the most important thing what one day will not be there. Let’s not value the fleeting things of the world as if they were permanent. Let’s not obsess over the things that one day will vanish. As we live in this world fulfilling our duties, being responsible with the gifts we have, diligent with our talents, taking care of our own, and carrying out our role in society, let us live with the awareness of how fleeting this life is. Let us focus our thoughts on the heavenly and on salvation, which the Word proclaims. Let us put our trust in heavenly goods (which Ephesians announces). Let us rest in new life and forgiveness (which Colossians reminds us of). Let us value grace and our adoption as children of God (which Romans discloses). Let us celebrate communion with God as the most important thing (which First John celebrates) and let us have a passion for the eternal glory that the word promises us”.
The university degree hangs lifeless on a wall. The car wears out and the heirs fight over the house. The business goes bankrupt or ends and the children leave when they marry. The pretty face gives way to wrinkles. The hair turns gray, the body deteriorates, and the health weakens. Physical appearance declines and relationships end. “For all flesh is like grass, and all the glory of man like a flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls; But the word of the Lord stands forever.”