Wisdom Wednesday: Understanding The Wisdom in Distinguishing Temporal Values
Submitted by Debbie’s Dad
A voice says, “Call out.” Then he answered, “What shall I call out?”
All flesh is grass, and all its loveliness is like the flower of the field.
The grass withers, the flower fades, When the breath of the Lord blows upon it;
Surely the people are grass. The grass withers, the flower fades,
But the word of our God stands forever. (Isaiah 40:7-8 NASB)
In this passage, Isaiah is encouraging the people of Judah, especially Jerusalem. They face the threat of neighboring Babylon and pagan cultures that surround them and that have infiltrated their own Jewish culture. In Chapter 40, Isaiah reminds the faithful of the majesty of God to comfort them in their distress; verses 3-5 verses are familiar because they are included in the “Halleluiah Chorus” of Handel’s Messiah. The people are encouraged by God’s majestic sovereignty, yet they are reminded that human flesh is like the grass that withers and is blown away.
It reminded me of this on a stark afternoon in the 1970’s. I began my engineering career in 1968 at an aerospace company and they assigned me to work on a part of the amazing Apollo Program. Engineers working on Apollo were all around me, and I joined the dedication, passion, and excitement when in 1969 we landed on the moon, and then the subsequent landings. December 1972 was the last flight of the Apollo program to the moon; it was over.
I moved on to other technical projects and by 1975; the country lost its excitement in the terminated Apollo project, and it was becoming a depressing time at work. The country was also suffering from large government spending, high inflation, high unemployment, an energy crisis, and a declining dollar. It was that year that the War in Vietnam was winding down as the U.S. was handing the defense of the South to the Vietnamese Army. It was also the time that the North attacked, and the U.S. fled the country in April.
By April 1975, our company had laid off hundreds of Apollo engineers and we were about to move out of the building. I walked empty halls as clean-up crews threw out rooms full of the once-precious Apollo documents and materials into large trash containers. That very same week was the final desperate evacuation from South Vietnam. Operation Frequent Wind was extracting people from the embassy in Saigon on helicopters. On the evening news, I watched helicopters being pushed off the decks of offshore aircraft carriers to make room for more helicopters to land with terrified people.
It made me realize that just as hundreds of engineers were being laid off from the great Apollo project; they had dedicated their nights and weekends to we were giving up South Vietnam for which many soldiers my age fought, and many died to protect from the Communists.
The Wisdom to Distinguish Temporal and Eternal Things
That day was a stark reminder to me to think clearly about the things to which I devote my life and energy—what is of significance now may soon be of no significance at all. And I realized that we, like the grass, blossom to importance, then wither and are blown away in the winds of time.
The emphasis of this passage is not only our temporal frailty, but the eternality of God and His Word. The words of God will accomplish His purpose and will not fail to achieve His promises (Isa. 55:10-11). James described a similar sentiment when he describes the glory of the pursuits of a rich man that will “fade away” (James 1:10-11).
Let us realize that our fleshly life will blossom and whither away, and not forget that we must focus our hope and energy on the things that last forever and the Giver of those things—Our Father in Heaven. Lord, give us the wisdom to distinguish between the temporal and eternal, and give us the wisdom to seek the eternal!