As the Rain Comes Down
Posted On March 06, 2018
“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.”
Isaiah 55:10-11, ESV
For almost two decades, I lived among the Amish farmers of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Some of those years were borderline drought years. August would roll around and the weeks of no rainfall evidenced itself in the dry ground and the yellow and brown corn stalks.
And then the rains would come.
The corn stalks would almost come alive, shooting up and turning verdant. And the Amish farmers breathed a sigh of relief and of joy.
We who do not farm sometimes miss verses like Isaiah 55:10. We fail to catch all that is packed into this verse. It is a verse of cause and effect. It is also a verse full of life and promise. The cause and effect has to do with rain and crops. God sends rain—note how the prophet says the rains “come down from heaven”—and seeds sprout, grow, and eventually produce crops. Given that this is an agrarian culture, those rains and those crops are the difference between life and death. Without bread, the would-be eater dies. With bread, the eater lives.
But Isaiah is interested in giving us far more than an agricultural lesson in the law of cause and effect. He is interested in helping us understand how we come alive, how we are awakened.
In Isaiah 55:11, we have, as with verse 10, the law of cause and effect and we also have life and a promise. The effect is the accomplishment of God’s purpose, that is to say, the effect is redemption, the effect is the making of a people of God, the effect is the establishment of a holy nation. The cause is the Word of God.
Isaiah 55 is placed in the larger context of Isaiah 40-66, the “Book of Comfort.” These chapters come on the heels of thirty-nine chapters of judgment. These chapters speak of the redemption of Israel. These chapters speak of restoration. These words of chapters 40-66 would be as refreshing as rain, and as life-nourishing as rain, too.
These words of redemption and restoration are God’s Words. It is very important that we stress the cause here. The cause is God. If we are ever to come alive, if we are ever to be awakened, the cause must be God. As Jonathan Edwards preached centuries ago, this is a divine and supernatural light. It is not a human or a natural light. No amount of human wisdom will ever bring about new life.
We also have here a promise. We know that we must read, obey, study, and publish and proclaim God’s Word, because it will accomplish its purpose. We look to God’s Word with the full assurance that it’s not only true, but that it’s astoundingly powerful. Unlike our words, which many times fall flat and sometimes fail, God’s Word always succeeds.
Of course, we must note that God’s Word succeeds in accomplishing the purpose that God has designed for it to accomplish. Just a few verses away, in Isaiah 55:8, God reminds us that His thoughts are not to be confused or conflated with our thoughts. God’s purposes and ways are so far higher, so far purer, so far truer, than ours. We have this firm and certain promise that God’s will comes to pass. He has success 100% of the time.
I learned from the example of my former Amish farmer neighbors that many things are outside of our control. We can till the soil and plant the seeds. But we can’t control the rain, the rains that come down from heaven. We can’t afford to miss this valuable lesson from Isaiah 55:10 as we contemplate Isaiah 55:11. We look to God to bring His divine and supernatural light to us, to bring us to life, to awaken us to spiritual reality, and to redeem us as His holy people and His chosen nation. No matter what we see happening, we can always rest assured that God is accomplishing His purposes. Isaiah 55:10-11 is a promise full of life, and a promise we can count on.