So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, But it shall accomplish what I please, And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it. (Isaiah 55:11)
When I consider the Word of God and all its ramifications, I often think of Noah and his little family on top of Mount Ararat, sole survivors of the greatest judgement up until that time, looking down on what was essentially a new world. I imagine the awe they must have felt in that moment, and I imagine the rainbow – the covenant sign that God would never again destroy the earth by flood.
While of course this moment has specific focus on that particular covenant at that particular moment in time, it does provide remarkable insight into God’s Word, and how He, Himself, perceives and relates to His Word. Remember that the Word of God is Christ, so God and His Word have a particular relation, or interaction, which never changes because God and Christ – the Word – are eternal. The Word therefore has two applications – the immediate, context-specific application, the the eternity-specific application. While we should never take the Word out of context – and this is a point on which all of us err at some point – each an every context of God’s Word provides an additional perspective in the context of eternity. In other words, it teaches us something about God and His Word over and above it’s immediate application.
Today’s verse from Isaiah is of particular relevance, and is perhaps one of the most poignant and powerful Scriptures relating to this eternal God-Word relationship. The immediate context – and I encourage you to read the full text of Isaiah 55 – is that of repentance, of returning to God, of God’s infinite mercy and pardon, of the joy of the Lord and of being covenanted with God through His grace. It’s for each and every believer, therefore, who truly turns to God in humility, surrender and repentance.
But what is truly remarkable about this verse is that it’s in fact a covenant in and of itself. Through these words, God is making us a promise, one that is so easily lost sight of in struggles or trails or difficult times. It’s a broad, sweeping, eternal promise that has critical relevance to our whole Christian walk.
The first promise ‘summarises’ those that follow – so shall my Word be that goes forth from my mouth. Note here that it’s God’s Word, which issues from His mouth, not what we think is God’s word. This means we need to study each and every single word we read or receive, both in context of its biblical chapter and book, in relation to the Word as a whole, and in the context of who God is. Simply memorising and using the Word as we think it should be applied is not, technically God’s Word. The actual words may be the same, but the true spirit of it may be misapplied or incorrectly interpreted. Those errors negate all the promises contained in this verse.
The next promise is clear: It shall not return to Me void. This implies something so easily forgotten. For something to return empty, it must have left with something in it. God’s Word is never empty. It leaves Him full of the promise – full of Him and His purpose – and His promise is that it will not lose it’s nature, get lost along the way, or jettison its precious ‘load’ en route. It leaves Him full, and will return to him fulfilled.
But it shall accomplish what I please. Again, we’re reminded that it’s God’s Word, His purpose, His pleasure, not ours. We cannot use God’s Word for our own agendas, but it will outwork His pleasure. While we may all have been disappointed along the way by ‘believing the Word’ for something, it may well have been something that pleases us and not what pleases God in a particular situation. However, we have the assurance here that it ‘shall accomplish.’ There’s no but, maybe, possibly or could be in here. There’s a specific pleasure, or will of God at work, and the Word sent is tailor-made specifically for that. In other words, the Word is specifically formulated to fulfill what God’s will is in a particular situation.
Have you noticed how often the Word builds in magnitude and significance? It’s as if God sets the foundation and then builds each subsequent layer with infinite care, building to a ‘climax’ like a beautiful symphony. Here we have the crescendo: And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.
Prosper has been misused by the name-it-and-claim-it and prosperity gospel teachings. It essentially means to ‘thrive,’ to ‘be successful,’ or to ‘flourish.’ All of these speak of victory and of growth. It’s not just to grow, but to grow well – to bring forth fruit. Our God is a God of abundance – exceedingly, abundantly, far more than we could ever ask or imagine – and He promises us that His Word has that nature contained within it. Think how often the Bible talks of planting the seed – what is the seed but a symbol of fruitful growth? One tiny apple seed becomes a tree, becomes an orchard, becomes an abundant harvest. That is the intrinsic nature of The Word.
The other critical message here is that God sent it. This is not a haphazard, hit-and-miss, accidental occurrence. It’s planned, thought out, prepared and executed – sent out – with a very specific outcome in mind. This is the very reason why we should be so careful to study the Word, to understand, to pray for Holy Spirit understanding and practical spiritual application.
A good illustration might be cosmetic hand lotion. It has a purpose – to ease and prevent dry skin. But who in their right might would use it to treat third degree burns? It might well contain some ingredients that are also contained in burn salve, but it most likely lacks the most critical. They have similarities, they might even be formulated to smell and look similar, but their intrinsic nature has been created for two very specific purposes. In fact, incorrect use might well prove, if not fatal, then seriously detrimental to healing. Using hand lotion on a burn may actually make matters worse, because it may contain things that should never ever be applied to raw or damaged skin.
God’s Word is covenant because it contains God Himself. This is what empowers it. It contains His will, His plans, His purposes. We can stand in absolute faith on the sure and certain knowledge that the Word embodies the very nature and will of God, but we need to do so wisely and with discernment. Using the Word incorrectly can do us harm. Not using it at all can do us harm. We need to know which to apply in different situations, and why, and how to apply it. If God isn’t haphazard about His Word, if He has imbued it with Himself to ensure it’s fulfillment, surely we should be eager and willing to do our part?
Jesus asked the question, on His return, would He find faith? Without the Word, both particular and eternal, faith is not possible.
Thank you for Your Word, Lord, and for the eternal covenant You have made with Your people. Teach me to know and understand the Word, give me discernment to know its relevance and application in the different situations I may encounter. Help me to see your purposes before my own, and help me to be yielded to what is good, what is perfect and what is eternal, for Your glory, always.