Summary: A metaphor from God's dealings in Creation to describe God's dealings with His Word.
THE WORD GOES FORTH
I was in India, alone in my room, with the door shut. I read Isaiah 55:10-11. There God was saying,
“My Word shall not return to me void, but shall accomplish that which I please, and prosper in the thing for which I sent it.”
What an encouragement, I thought, for the beginning of a series of Gospel meetings!
The whole chapter has an evangelistic tone. In summary, Isaiah 55:1-3 begins,
“Ho! Everyone who thirsts…
Incline your ear and come to me;
Hear, that your soul may live…”
It speaks of David, surely prefiguring Christ as that king was long dead, as a witness to the peoples (Isaiah 55:3-4).
Then in Isaiah 55:5,
“you [= singular - so again, Christ] shall call a nation that you do not know,
And nations who do not know you shall run to you.”
Then the evangelism again in Isaiah 55:6-9,
“Seek the LORD while He may be found… [or rather, by inference, ‘who is near, and is available to be found’]
Let the wicked forsake his way…
My thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways…”
Then Isaiah 55:10-11, about God’s words not returning to Him void. At first, we might imagine that God is talking about the weather, with all this talk of rain and snow. And what if there is no rain, nor any melting snows from the mountains of Lebanon? Famine!
Yet God is not just talking about the weather, He is talking about His Word. ‘The seed is the Word of God’ says Jesus in Luke 8:11. And there is, incidentally, such a thing as a famine of the Word of God (cf. Amos 8:11-13)!
The metaphor is this:
1. just as in the cycle of creation the rain and snow comes down, waters the earth causing it to spring forth and bud, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater (Isaiah 55:10);
2. “So shall my Word be” -
(i) it shall not return to me void,
(ii) it shall accomplish that which I please,
(iii) and prosper in the thing for which I sent it (Isaiah 55:11).
It is interesting to note that there is a part for man to play in the purposes of God. It rains/snows, the earth brings forth - what? Seed and food. Without the sower, without the reaper, we starve. So it is with the Word of God. ‘How shall they hear without a preacher?’ asks Paul in Romans 10:14.
There follows God’s encouragement to His people in Isaiah 55:12,
“You shall go out with joy…”
And one of those wonderful word pictures in Isaiah 55:12-13, of the whole of Creation rejoicing with us in His covenant. (I think the last verse, “it shall be a sign” refers to the covenant of David previously referred to.)
Every time I read even familiar passages of Scripture, I seem to see them in a new light. And at times, those ancient words seem apt for my current situation.
That evening I preached, through a translator, the first in a series of Gospel meetings. There was a good spirit. Afterwards, people crowded round seeking a blessing. I prayed that God’s Word would strike home to the hearts of the people, and that the benedictions would not be in vain. Remember, I reminded myself: “God’s word shall not return to Him void!”
As I drew near to the end of Mission India (as I styled it) nearly two weeks later, and after many a weary night, I could encourage myself in Isaiah 55:8-9,
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, says the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
Perhaps even during our weakness, I reasoned, God’s strength will prevail (cf. 2 Corinthians 12:9)? I prayed that the message of the Gospel would not be rejected as we continue our labours in the Lord. It is His work!