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Summary: The Word of God can speak for itself

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The Word of God

This morning I would like to look at our Old Testament lesson and to focus on Isaiah 55:10-12 which says

As the rain and snow come down from heaven and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish – so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.

Ever since I became a Christian I have noticed how powerful the Word of God – our Bible is. Some of the worst people have been converted simply by hearing or reading it.

One such person was John Newton. This is his remarkable story:

Story: Newton came from a Christian family, but when he went to sea his lifestyle totally disintegrated – even by maritime standards. He drank heavily, was abusive, swore like a trooper and generally behaved badly.

In January 1748, he sailed from West Africa for England on a trip of some seven thousand miles.

In a couple of months, his ship reached Newfoundland and the crew stopped there to fish for cod.

They left on 1st March 1748 in a ship badly in need of repair after a long stay in a tropical climate. It was in no condition for any great storms in the cold northern sea.

On March 9th Newton began re-reading Thomas á Kempis "The Imitation of Christ". He’d read it before on this trip, but was indifferent to it and even amused by it. But he did think, "What if these things should be true?"

He went to bed that night but was suddenly woken up by an extremely violent storm, which broke on top of them. The ship was in chaos and he heard someone shout that they were sinking.

On the way up the ladder, as his compartment was filling with water, he met the captain coming down who told him to get a knife and bring it up. When he returned to get it, someone else had gone up in his place and had been instantly washed overboard.

The ship was filling quickly and it looked an utterly hopeless situation. In the space of a few minutes the entire ship was a wreck. Newton was astonished that any one survived.

The crew manned pumps against the incoming sea, but to little avail and the ship continued to fill up. It looked as if they would sink but because their cargo was extremely light, a large quantity of beeswax and wood (both being lighter then water) they didn’t.

In an hour, day began to break and the wind subsided. They used their own clothes and bedding to repair the leaks and nailed old boards over them. It was very cold especially for men who had recently left the tropics.

That evening Newton remembered saying ("almost without meaning") "The Lord have mercy on us!" Instantly struck by what he had just uttered, he wondered, "What mercy can there be for me?"

On 21st March, Newton was at the helm and the ship now had a gaping hole in its side. All around them, the sea continued to swell and sink.

The crew were pumping constantly to keep the ship afloat when on that evening Newton heard news that all the water had finally been pumped out.

He had been mulling over many of the scriptures that he had previously read including, Proverbs 1:24-31, Hebrews 6:4-6, 2 Peter 2:20. They seemed to fit him to a tee. and he was wondering now if it was possible for the Lord to forgive him.

He thought about his life from times of devout but false piety to times of being an arrogant, unrestrained blasphemer.

He began to fear God and what seemed to him was going to be his inevitable doom. However when he heard the news that the water had been completely pumped out, he began to think that God might be on their side and began to pray.

Newton was later to say "My prayer was like the cry of ravens, which yet the Lord does not disdain to hear."

At that point he began to think of Jesus. He considered the story of the life and crucifixion of the Lord and turned these things over in his mind. He read of God’s forgiveness in Luke 11:13 and John 7:17 and reasoned that if it was true, if this really was from God, then God would show him. On every side he was "surrounded with black unfathomable despair" but in the gospel he "saw at least a bit of hope."

For the rest of the journey the crew survived on scant rations, having lost their livestock, most of their provisions and water.

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