God’s Word Always Achieves a Purpose
8th Sunday after Pentecost
God’s Word Always Achieves a Purpose
Text: Isaiah 55:10-13
It’s that time of year again. It’s hurricane season, and we are right in the thick of it. It’s the time of year that people listen to the weather and watch the weather and check their computers for the weather and then check their phones for the weather. Floridians watch and wait during hurricane season because we know the power that hurricanes have. We know the damage and destruction that the wind and rain can cause.
As awful as they are, we know that God allows hurricanes for a reason. He has a purpose. Maybe it’s a wakeup call for people. Maybe it’s a disaster meant to draw people closer to him. Maybe it’s meant to make us band together to help others. But God has a purpose for allowing such destructive power.
Of course, not all rain is bad. If we don’t get enough rain in the summer wildfires are right around the corner. If farmers don’t have enough rain their crops don’t grow. The same actually goes for snow in the north. As awful as snow can be, when it melts it waters the land and runs into other water sources. Without enough rain or ground water, farmers won’t have crops, food costs will soar, and every other financial aspect of life will get tighter.
We hardly think about the weather, other then what a nuisance snow or rain or wind might be. But God has a reason and a purpose for every drop that falls to the ground. Sometimes we don’t like the purpose if it brings disaster, sometimes we love the purpose if it brings fruitful production. But the rain and snow that God sends always achieve the purpose for which God sent them.
That is the beautiful backdrop that God paints for us as a parallel today through the prophet Isaiah. Just as the rain and snow always achieve the purpose for which God sent them, so the same is true with God’s Word. Here’s what God says through Isaiah the prophet: “As the rain and the 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 of my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” The Word of God never returns to the Lord empty. God’s Word Always Achieves a Purpose.
Sometimes though, God’s purpose doesn’t line up with our human desires. Sometimes God’s Word is like a powerful Category 5 hurricane, coming to wreak havoc on our hearts. It tells me that my language is filthy. It tells me that my thoughts are dirty. God’s Word tells me that I don’t read God’s Word enough, that I don’t come to church enough, that I don’t pray enough. God’s Word tells me that my offerings to the Lord are far from what he deserves and what I could give. God’s Word tells me that I’m not being a good father or a good husband or a good pastor.
You see, I don’t like to hear God’s Word sometimes because it tells me about my sin. The Bible is like a mighty hurricane that rips through my heart. Its winds blow away all my cover ups and exposes all my secrets. It convicts me of all that I’ve done wrong. It leaves me feeling guilty. It tells me how unworthy of God I am. It tells me my eternity should be spent in hell and not in heaven. And just like we all rush for the evacuation routes to avoid the destruction of a hurricane, so our natural human, sinful reaction is to run away from convicting power of God’s Word.
A husband and a wife once heard a sermon in which giving our best offerings to the Lord was mentioned. The pastor made the application that parents today love their children so much that they will spend any amount of money on their kids, including ridiculously expensive birthday parties. But do parents today show that same love for God in their gifts to him? They’ll buy their kids Playstation 4 and iPads but will they give a worthy offering to the Lord?
Well as the husband and wife heard this message of God’s Word it struck their hearts. But rather than listening, they began to become angry. They went home and talked about it and became more angry, so angry that they decided not to go back to church for a while. Soon, they started to be completely removed from church activity because, “All they ever heard about was money and sin and bad things.” Eventually they left that church.
The truth of the matter was that God’s Word had struck their hearts and convicted them of sin. Not long before they heard that one sermon about giving God the first and the best they had a birthday party for their daughter. And at this one birthday party the husband and the wife had spent more money on that one party that one day then they had given to God in offerings in the last year combined.
God’s powerful Word convicts us of our sin. But sadly, sometimes we don’t want to listen to it. When that powerful force of the Word strikes our hearts, but we don’t want to listen or budge, it’s like a Category 5 hurricane hitting our home when we refuse to evacuate. Disaster is going to happen. Unfortunately, the purpose achieved by God’s Word then is conviction and condemnation.
There was a different man who had been living his life in a similar way to that married couple. It was similar in that like the husband and wife, he wasn’t exactly obeying what God’s Word said. Actually, he was doing whatever he pleased in life. He cursed like a sailor. He drank like a fish. He had relations with a carousel of women. He did whatever he wanted.
But this man too heard God’s Word eventually. He heard about the holiness of God. He heard about God’s demands for pure and clean living. He heard about the consequences of sin and the punishment of hell that waits for those who follow their own ways and not the Lord’s ways.
When this man heard heard the Word of God, he too was crushed—but in a different way. This man fell straight to his knees. Tears streamed down his cheeks. His body was trembled in fear. As he hid his face in his hands he begged, “Lord have mercy on me, a sinner.” God’s powerful Word achieved its purpose again. It brought that sinful man to repentance.
Many of you know that feeling. It’s that sick-to-your stomach feeling you have certain Sundays when you hear God’s Word and you know God is talking to you. It’s that Ash Wednesday or Good Friday service when you turn ghost white and your palms start sweating because you feel so guilty. It’s that time you sat with me in our little Bible Information Class and the first lesson we talk about God’s Law and his demands and tears start welling up in your eyes because you know you haven’t been doing what God demands. (That has happened many times before.) That is God’s Word achieving its purpose and driving you to repentance.
A different man was also on his knees and trembling. God’s powerful Word had blasted him with hurricane-like power, too. His shirt was drenched with a hurricane-like rain storm of tears, too. But his reaction was for still a different reason.
The man had heard about his sin. This man had crumbled under the convicting and crushing power of God’s Word. This man had wept in repentance. But now the river of tears flowed for a different reason. This man heard about Jesus.
This man knew that he was an unworthy, nothing of a person whom God should toss into hell like yesterday’s trash. But God’s Word told him that God loved him anyways. He heard about Jesus, the perfect Son of God, coming to live among the sinful humans that disobeyed him so much. He heard about Jesus writhing in pain and agony on the cross. He heard that Jesus had lifted every one of his sins off of him—yes even the very worst things that he hid deep in his heart. He heard that Jesus stepped into the very flames of hell for him and died so that he wouldn’t get what he deserved. And this man heard that the power of sin and Satan that he couldn’t seem to escape were not able to hold Jesus in the grave. Jesus had risen with a promise of life and salvation for all people, even for him.
This man was on his knees trembling, weeping for reasons you also know. He finally understood and believed: “Chief of sinners though I be, Jesus shed his blood for me.” It’s the humble trembling of peace you feel on Good Friday when hear Jesus say from the cross, “It is finished.” It’s the overwhelming joy and happiness you feel on Easter morning when you nearly shout as you sing, “Jesus Christ is risen today, Alleluia!”
That too is the power of God’s Word. It’s called the Gospel. Just as God’s Word has a hurricane-like power and purpose to crush you with the Law and tell you of your sin, God’s Word has a hurricane-like power and purpose to comfort you with the Gospel. With power like hurricane rains, the blood of Jesus washes away your every sin. With power like hurricane winds, the forgiveness of Jesus whisks away any little trace of guilt, never to be seen again.
God’s Word Always Achieves a Purpose. Yes, it will crush you. It will bring you to your knees when the Law convicts you of your sin. But that’s its purpose. So don’t close your ears and run. Listen and repent.
Then listen some more. Listen as it tells you about Jesus. Listen as it tells your about your Savior who loves you and forgives you. Listen as it tells you that God has prepared a place in heaven, even for you. That’s also its purpose. That’s the Gospel comforting you and bringing you joy. So listen some more and rejoice.
When you do listen to God’s Word, what a difference that makes in your life. Look at what will happen in the next two verses of Isaiah: “You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.” You will be filled with joy everywhere you go. You will be led forth in peace in everything you do. It will be as though the mountains are bursting with joy and the trees are clapping their hands. That’s the joy in Jesus you will experience as he leads you through this life to the promised land of peace and rest in heaven.
Here’s the last verse: “Instead of the thorn bush will grow the pine tree, and instead of briers the myrtle will grow. This will be for the LORD’s renown, for an everlasting sign, which will not be destroyed.” God is not promising you world peace here. God is not promising here that some day this world will return to paradise like the Garden of Eden and you will never cut your finger on those dumb Florida thorn bushes or weeds. But God is first of all promising you spiritual peace. Instead of suffering under the thorns and thistles of trials and troubles in life, you will have peace and joy because you know your Savior Jesus. Secondly, God is promising you that someday you will enjoy the paradise of heaven where no pain or sorrow exists. These wonders are for the LORD’s renown. They are an everlasting sign of God’s grace and glory.
This again is the power of God’s Word. God’s Word Always Achieves a Purpose, and it makes a difference in your life when it does. It takes away your anger and fills you with love. It takes away your stress and fills you with peace. It takes away your hurt and pain and fills you with hope.
It reminds me a lot of a friend of our family. She was a year ahead of us in high school. She and her husband were expecting a baby this week. She was an uber mommy-to-be, prepared in more ways than we ever were. They were very excited and could hardly wait to welcome their first child.
The whole pregnancy the baby was very healthy and everything was normal. But at some point in labor and delivery on Tuesday, the baby girl aspirated on meconium. She wasn’t able to take her own breaths and machines were able to keep her alive less than two days.
But that doesn’t mean God’s powerful Word wasn’t at work. Within hours young Olive was baptized with water and the power of God’s Word that clothed her with Christ, washed away her sin, and brought her into the family of God. Olive may not have known what was going on, but the hurricane-like power of God’s Word can bring new life to anyone, even to a young baby through a few gentle drops of water.
God’s Word has been at work in other ways. Hundreds of friends and family members have responded with words of Scripture giving comfort and peace and hope. I shared with her the words of my sermon at Kase Powell’s funeral a few months ago. God keeps his promises. He promises that whoever is baptized into Christ is clothed with Christ and that whoever believes and is baptized will be saved. God kept that promise again.
And God’s Word was at work in still another way. You see, this young mother grew up in a Christian home. She went to a Lutheran grade school. She went to a Lutheran high school. Her entire life she had been hearing God’s Word. She didn’t know it, but God was preparing her for 34 years for this moment.
She has handled this tragedy with such grace and such dignity and such resolve and resiliency of faith that most of the hundreds or thousands of people that have responded have actually received more encouragement from her than they were able to give. Her faith in Christ and in the resurrection to eternal life have been inspirational and influential. God’s Word does not return to him empty but always accomplishes what God desires and achieves the purpose for which he sent it. In a miraculous display of grace in baptism and comfort in tragedy, God’s Word achieved its purpose again with this family.
God wants you to hear and listen to this powerful Word. He wants to crush you with his law and know of your sin. But he also wants to build you back up and fill you with peace with the good news of the gospel and your forgiveness in Jesus. And God wants to prepare you to face whatever trial or tragedy may come your way.
Take advantage of every opportunity to listen to the precious words of God. Read the Word. Study the Word. Come to CTK Bible Study Week this week. Come to Family Night or Sunday Bible study. Bring your children to Sunday school. Be in worship. Have devotions at home. Fill your life with the Word of God, because God’s Word Always Achieves a Purpose.