One of the fleeting pleasures of life is the feeling of soft new grass between your toes in the springtime. As much as we take for granted the green carpet God created on the third day (Gen. 1:11), its fresh dew-covered blades make it the picture of life and prosperity. Thus, the coming of the messianic kingdom to the psalmist is “like rain upon the mown grass: as showers that water the earth” (Ps. 72:6). And the life-giving doctrine of God’s prophet drops “as the small rain upon the tender herb, and as the showers upon the grass” (Deut. 32:2).

Yet, fleeting is an apt word for this ubiquitous creature that withers to nothing in the same day that it sprouts (Ps. 90:6). The grass is the point of contrast against all that is lasting and eternal. Where the Word of the Lord is forever, and the being of God more ancient than the mountains and earth, “the grass withereth” and “the flower fadeth….” A good metaphor, then, for the experience of seventy or eighty years languishing in labor and sorrow under the curse. Saith the prophet, “Surely the people is grass” (Is. 40:7, 8).

The comparison of the people to grass is more than just a metaphor, however. Grass was, and remains, an important source of sustenance and livelihood. Long before modern city-folk spoke of “grass-fed” cattle, the agrarian Israelite knew that the “ox licketh up the grass of the field” (Num. 22:4). Whatever sort of gargantuan creature behemoth was, Job was not at all surprised to hear God reminding him that it also “eateth grass as an ox” (Job 40:15). The wild ass too will not bray when he has plenty of grass to eat (Job 6:5). Yet the hind will forsake her calf if there is no grass (Jer. 14:5).

If man ever imagines that he is self-reliant and self-sufficient, there is nothing better than a famine of grass to disabuse him of such a notion. It may be a famine from the drying up of all fountains and brooks, as in the days when Ahab searched the valleys and hills of Israel looking “for grass to save the horses and mules alive” (I Kings 18:5). It may be famine from the locust and grasshopper who makes an end of “eating the grass of the land” (Amos 7:2). However it comes and whatever its cause, the famine of grass has a way of exposing to man his own weakness and dependence.

Which is why famine is often the Lord’s vehicle of choice for inflicting judgment on man and his pride. Let’s not forget why Ahab was searching high and low for grass in Israel (see I Kings 17:1). Let’s not forget either what the salt and brimstone of God’s wrath did to the green fields of grass around Sodom and Gomorrah (Deut. 29:23). Far worse will be the days when the fire and hail of God burns up a third part of the trees, “and all green grass” (Rev. 8:7). Even worse still shall be the days when, by the demonic locusts from the abyss (Rev. 9:4), grass is bypassed in order to inflict pain directly upon “those men which have not the seal of God in their foreheads.”

The Lord has other ways to bring down the pride of man, however, and sometimes there are special cases. Such as Nebuchadnezzar, whose kingdom was like a tree giving shelter to the birds of heaven and shade to all creatures. Yet the tree shall be cut down, and his portion shall “be with the beasts in the grass of the field” (Dan. 4:15). No doubt, ours is a God “who resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble” (I Pet. 5:5). What utter wickedness, then, when human beings attempt to reverse this order. If you want to know the exceeding sinfulness of sin, look no further than Israel changing their glorious God “into the similitude of an ox that eateth grass” (Ps. 106:20).

Grass is not all for death and judgment, however. Though the days of man are “like the tender grass,” the child of God sings unflinchingly of the “unchanging… love of God, from age to age the same” (Ps. 103:15; Psalter #278). He takes his seat upon the “much grass” residing at the feet of the King (John 6:10) in order to behold the wonders that accompany His gracious coming “like copious rain in times of dearth” (Ps. 72:6; Psalter #198). He does not worry what he shall eat or what he shall wear in days of scarcity. For if God clothes the grass of the field more beautifully than Solomon in all his glory, “shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?” (Matt. 6:29, 30).

Be not afraid, then, of the wicked, who seem to spring up as easily as the grass (Ps. 92:7). In the scope of eternity, they are nothing more than “the grass upon the housetops, which withereth afore it groweth up” (Ps. 129:6). Be not overcome with sorrow, when the burden of sin makes your heart feel like “the shadow that declineth” or to be “withered like grass” (Ps. 102:11). Rather take heart and be of good cheer! Look up and have hope! When your Christ comes, He shall make the inhabitants of His city to “flourish like the grass of the earth” (Ps. 72:16). And though the wrath of this King may be as terrifying as a roaring lion, you shall find that His heavenly favor is “as dew upon the grass” (Prov. 19:12).