Isaiah 55:10-11 “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 will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”
Water is a fascinating substance. It is one of only a handful of substances that expand when frozen. This means that ice floats when a lake or river freezes, insulating the waters below it and keeping them liquid. If it sank it would destroy all the living things below. Those same expansive properties are the reason water seeping into cracks and freezing can split the concrete in our roads, bridges, and buildings. Water has also been called the universal solvent. It dissolves more substances than any other liquid, making it the best of all cleaners. And wherever water goes, whether through the ground or through our bodies, it carries valuable minerals chemicals, and nutrients (see: http://water.usgs.gov/edu/qa-solvent.html).
This is why, when we were in grade school, you could grow a bean in plastic cup with nothing more than a paper towel and some water to moisten it. It is why the Bermuda grass in my lawn has managed to establish itself on the hard rubber expansion joints in my sidewalk, and even, apparently, on the concrete in a corner of my driveway–two places you might not expect to be capable of supporting any life at all. It is why those who are looking for life in other corners of our solar system are so hopeful that they will discover water where they search.
The Lord uses the power of simple, humble water as a picture of the power of his word. Even in the desert it has the power to bring life where apparently none existed before. If water can establish life there, don’t be surprised at the power of God’s word to establish life in the hardest of human hearts.
God’s word is a powerful tool, then. Sometimes you have to be careful with what your tools can do. The sculptor’s chisel makes it possible for him to break off pieces of stone to create something beautiful. But if he isn’t careful, the chisel may remove more stone than he wants, or crack the block on which he is working. Maybe the entire block will have to be thrown away. The carpenter’s saw may cut the board to short, and his hammer may bend the nail and split the board instead of fastening it.
But the power of God’s word is not like that. It does not fail. “It accomplishes what I desire and achieves the purpose for which I sent it.” We don’t always see it. Sometimes it looks like God’s word was a flop, a failure. But you know what we don’t see? We often don’t see the effect it may have on a person years after they first heard it. I personally know people on whom it worked its magic decades later. We often don’t see the collateral effects. Maybe it didn’t convert a person today. But maybe it moved them in directions that were important for someone else to hear and believe. Maybe there were others listening we didn’t realize were listening, and faith came to life in their hearts.
Even when it’s just you or I telling God’s word to another person, don’t forget that there are two people hearing the word. Many an evangelist can tell you they got far more out of sharing God’s word with someone than the person listening to them. God’s word is powerful. We have experienced its power to work on our own hearts. We can trust its power to bring life to others.