God’s Powerful Word
Sunday, 13 July 2014 - Isaiah 55:10–13
Once a little girl and little boy were at day care and the girl came up to the boy and said, “Hey Tommy, want to play house?” “Sure!” said Tommy “How do you do that?” “Well,” the girl replied, “I want you to communicate your feelings.” “Communicate my feelings?” said a bewildered little Tommy. “I have no idea what that means.” The little girl smiled and said “Perfect, you can be the husband.”
That humorous story reminds us that we guys sometimes have a difficult time communicating but that never seems to be a problem for God. Our Heavenly Father sent His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, to communicate to us all His great love and mercy and compassion and He did so perfectly, not only by telling us he loves us, but by dying and rising again for our salvation. And best of all, God still continues to communicate His limitless love for us in His Holy Word the Bible, just like our children sing in Sunday School: “Jesus loves me this I know for the Bible tells me so.”
This is the very same thought behind our Old Testament lesson for today, where God says to us:
“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.”
And what is the purpose of God’s word? Jesus explains it to us quite clearly in His parable of the sower and the seed in our Gospel reading this morning. Like any good farmer, he wants a crop and people are the crop that he wants. He wants us all to believe in Him and be saved. In the end, He wants to gather us all into His barn which is heaven. St. John says it more succinctly near the end of His Gospel where he writes:
“but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”
This is what Isaiah is pointing to in this text, which is really a beautiful statement of the providence that God offers to everyone in His Holy Word. The only problem, however, is that most people, including us sometimes, aren’t convinced that they really need it. Ever since the fall into sin it seems as though we like to keep a safe distance from God’s Word. After all, we don’t want it to change our lives too much. We kind of like things the way they are – nice and comfortable. We enjoy our old sinful habits, maybe we prefer to be around people who don’t ever talk about God’s Word that much and the uncomfortable topics found in it like the need for repentance, or sin, or death, or hell. No, if the truth be told, if life were a waterpark most people would much prefer to just float along the lazy river of life without God’s Word than to be challenged by, the steep, breathtaking slide that the Word of God provides. What a shame! They don’t know what they are missing.
At any rate, it is important that we daily have contact with God’s Word, because it gives us life. In our text, this morning God says that His Word is like the rain and snow that fall down from heaven. It waters the earth and makes it fruitful and then vaporizes or flows to the sea, where it then evaporates and returns again to its place of origin. And that’s what God’s Word is designed to do, He gives it to moisten the parched and hard soil of our hearts, and refresh our faith, so that we are enabled to produce the fruit of righteousness in our daily living.
As a matter of fact, in our text the Hebrew word for ‘water’ in our text literally means: ‘to saturate.’ The only way God’s Word can help us is if we let it saturate our lives, which is why we need to read and study it not just on Sundays but on every day of the week. We also need to mull it over in our minds, meditating on it throughout the day and praying that the Holy Spirit will enlighten us and help us understand it. We need to discuss it with our family and friends, so that it impacts them and us, and so they and we can apply it to our lives. It’s especially helpful to memorize and to speak it aloud to fight off the daily attacks of the evil one who would destroy our faith in Jesus Christ our Savior. That’s how we are to be saturated with God’s Word!
For that reason, God gave us not just one kind of word, but three kinds of word; not only His written Word found in the Bible, but also the visible Word found in the sacraments of Holy Baptism and Holy Communion, in which we also receive remission of our sins and nourishment for our faith. But both of those, point us to God’s Ultimate Word; the Word Incanate, Jesus Christ, as St. John Wrote in His Gospel:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men…
And then he concludes a few verses later:
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
Jesus, then, is the physical Word of God, sent straight from the mouth of God the Father to bring us the gifts of forgiveness, life and salvation. He was like the heat-seeking missile of God’s love that targeted our sins and obliterated them forever. Better still, He is that gentle rain from heaven that washes away all our guilt and shame, so that our dirty hearts are made as white as snow. And the way that He did it was through His death on Calvary’s cross.
By His death Jesus has caused our sins themselves to dry up and shrivel away for good and by His resurrection He raises us up to a life of faith in Him. That was the purpose for which God sent Him as the Word Incarnate – to save our souls -- and, like our text says, He has achieved that purpose, for by faith in Him, by faith in Jesus we really are forgiven and redeemed.
My friends, we can know that with absolute certainty for if God’s Word does not return to heaven until it achieves its purpose, and because Jesus has ascended into heaven we know that He achieved His purpose of saving us. In fact, in our text the Hebrew word ‘achieve’ actually means: ‘to cleave through something,’ as with an axe. And that is just what Jesus has done to our sins. He has split them wide open and destroyed them for good! And that’s how we know that we are forgiven and free – by the promise of His Holy Word!
That is how Isaiah can make the beautiful promise that he does in verses 12 and 13 of our text:
For you shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall break forth into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.
Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress; instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle; and it shall make a name for the Lord, an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.
What a beautiful description of what our lives are now like through faith in Jesus Christ. What joy and peace is ours because we are loved by God and forgiven all our sins. As I was thinking about this I could not help but think of a recent face book posting by our Synodical President, Dr. Matthew Harrison as he related the account of his visit with Pastor Klemet Preus, the man whom God used to bring me to faith in Jesus Christ. Here it is:
“Flew from Vancouver to Minneapolis day before yesterday. Kathy (President Harrison’s wife) flew from St. Louis. We spent the day with Rev. Klemet Preus and Janet (his wife) at the hospice where Klemet is spending his last days on this earth. I have never been so encouraged and strengthened as I was spending that day with Klemet. He is singularly focused on Christ and the gift of eternal life. He is focused on sharing Christ and his hope with others. He is physically incapacitated having suffered a debilitating stroke. His right shoulder is fractured due to the weakening caused by cancer. He cannot move, yet he is a source of constant joy, encouragement and love to all those around him.
He knows hundreds of hymns by heart. Daily his brother in law visits him in the morning to sing matins. After Steve read the text for the day, he said, "Klemet, you've preached on this text many times haven't you?" "Yes I have," came the response. "What did you preach?" Then Klemet gave a five minute homily on the beautiful surety of Christ's word in the Holy Scriptures and the place where the word of forgiveness is delivered in Church on Sunday.
I was floored and humbled. Klemet woke at one point later in the day saying, "Jan! Thank God for LIFE! Thank God for life! Get the wine Jan. Everyone gets two glasses. Thank God for LIFE! We're paying for it Jan. Two glasses for everyone. The kids can have one glass. Thank God for life! Tell Christian and Cindy [brother and sister in law] let's get this party started. Thank God for Life!" Hundreds of bible passages from friends all over the country have been printed and taped to the walls of his hospice room.” Harrison concludes, “What a blessing!”
My former pastor, my friend, Klemet went to his eternal home to be with our Savior this past week. And he did so in peace and in joy, because he knew the Word: the Word of forgiveness found in the Gospel he so faithfully preached and the sacraments which he so faithfully administered and most especially in the Word made flesh, Jesus Christ, who is God’s love showered down upon us like a gentle rain from heaven, which never returns to Him empty, but achieves the saving purpose for which He sent it. May God grant that His Word would ever saturate our hearts and minds, as well and fill our hearts and minds with that same joy and peace in Jesus’ name. Amen.