8:18

Evanescence

Evanescence

Don’t worry.  I had to look it up, too.

It was a new word to me when I came across it in my commentary on Isaiah.  Here’s the passage that inspired its use:

 Lift up your eyes to the heavens,
    look at the earth beneath;
the heavens will vanish like smoke,
    the earth will wear out like a garment
    and its inhabitants die like flies.  (Isaiah 51:6a-b)

To be evanescent (and yes, I know that some of you are more literate than I am) is to be fleeting, impermanent.  Like dreams.  Like smoke.

Like fog.

Through the window this early morning, I see that thick fog that has descended overnight.  And I think, this is the perfect opportunity to visualize what the verse teaches.  So, expecting the grayness to dissipate the moment the sun appears, I hurry out, driving into the haze.

On a lonely road, I pull the car barely onto what passes for a shoulder and climb out to capture these two, vaguely sinister trees.  They embody the somber tone of the first part of the verse.  God calls his people to take in the whole gamut of nature, from the highest to the lowest, and remember that everything is temporary.

Three thousand years ago, that must have boggled minds.  In our age of global pandemics and ecological breakdown, it’s much easier to envision the planet as a favorite t-shirt, barely held together from long use.

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Passing through a town, I detour down a side street and sheepishly take a photo of this decrepit house.  Vanish, in the verse above, is a word that means “be dispersed” or “fall to bits.” (Motyer)  This porch reminds me of how everything disintegrates over time.  But to imagine the heavens above particalizing (probably not a word) and vanishing like smoke, is beyond me.

Even this fog seems doggedly determined, despite the sun’s efforts, to hang around.

But then, cresting a high hill, I emerge into bright sunshine.  It’s such a brilliant contrast to the gloom in the valley below.  Such is the verse’s concluding counterpoint of God’s salvation:

But my salvation will last forever,
    my righteousness will never fail.   (Isaiah 51:6c)

Literally, never fail means “not be shattered.”  Though all creation – and the heavens above – will fragment and vanish, God’s saving act on behalf of his people will stand.  Unvarnished.  Undiminished.  As wholly powerful today as it was when Jesus hung on the cross, dying for our redemption, millennia ago.

His salvation holds.  Through the rise and fall of governments.  Through plagues and wars.  Through the brief lives of countless, imperfect followers.

Through all the disintegration, his salvation stands.

Call it EVERnescence.

(And that is definitely not a word.  So, don’t look it up.)

Lord, we praise you right now for the eternal, undiminished power of your salvation.  You have redeemed us through Christ and that will never change, never fade, never wear out.  Today, in this time of great uncertainty, we are comforted and strengthened by that reminder.

Reader:  To what disintegration does this truth counteract in your life today?  I’d like to hear about it.

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Bruce Van Patter

As a freelance illustrator, graphic recorder, and author, Bruce is on a lifelong journey to delight in the handiwork of the Creator. And he’s always ready for fellow travelers.