Bible Studies in the book of Isaiah
Isaiah 55:10-14 - God's Word Shall Not Return Void
by I Gordon
Well, we've been looking at Isaiah 55 recently and we've found
something surprising... something a little odd. And that is that God is
not like us. He doesn't think like we do. He doesn't act like we do.
Simply put, His ways are not like our ways. Ok, so it isn't so odd.
The passage declared that as the heavens are higher than the earth, so
are God's ways above our ways. Now God wasn't stating this to emphasise
how stupid our ways are. He wasn't saying 'look at you! You are such a
nincompoop'. He could have... but He didn't. No - The whole context was
about coming to God, listening to Him, seeking Him, learning from
Him... so in its context God reminds us that His thoughts and ways are
not ours so that we will seek Him and His ways out. Now in this study
we shall look at the remaining four verses in the chapter and see
effectiveness of God's word. We'll start with the old water cycle.
Can you remember the water cycle? Heard of the word cycle?
Isaiah 55:10-11 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,
(11) 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.
At school you learnt about the marvellous water cycle that God has put
in place. Well, they probably didn't emphasise the 'God' part, but He
was the one who put this marvellous design in place none the less! Now
just in case you were sleepy that day let's do a quick refresher on the
entire cycle as Isaiah is using it as an illustration in this passage.
Some quick points would be:
The rain falls down to the earth through precipitation; it waters
and feeds the earth.
Then through the heat of the sun it evaporates and rises again.
As the air cools, condensation occurs and clouds are formed.
This continues until the clouds eventually drop their load through
precipitation again and the cycle continues.
Because of this cycle it has been said that we drink the same water the
dinosaurs drank. Not sure if that is a comforting thought for you but
there you have it! Now look at the impact of this rain... our scripture
tells us that the rain waters the earth, makes it bud and flourish, and
brings forth seed and bread. Well, this isn't the gardening club and
nor is it a blog on why your tomatoes are looking a tad sad so let's
have a look at what this is illustrating.
Just as there is a water cycle, there is a cycle for the word of God.
It comes forth from God, for a specific purpose and will NEVER fail to
achieve what God desires. And it too will return to God having
accomplished its purpose. This principle relates to God's prophetic
word recorded in the Bible as well as specific words that He gives us
Isaiah's point in using this illustration is that God'sword is just as irresistible and effective as the rain is for the soil. So we need
His word, the pure word, without substitutes. Have you tried
substitutes for rain water on your vegetables? Since becoming an expert
, now with two whole years of gardening experience under my belt, I can
say that there is nothing like the rain. It is perfect for the soil.
You can stand out there day and night with a hose and saturate the
ground to your heart's content. It will help a little - especially if
the plant is dehydrated. But you don't see a lot of growth or plant
vitality just on hose water. Yet when it rains... poof! Growth and
The Christian church has substituted the Word of God for many other
things to entertain these days. The individual Christian often seeks
out many people, external support and ways before seeking God and His
word. They may help a little... but they are not the pure rain.
Now it is quite possible, and often probable, that when God gives you a
specific promise or word, the exact opposite of this occurs in the
short term. Don't fear. God's word will not return void and He will
overlook it to perform it. But God allows these things to occur to test
us and develop out faith. Let's have a look at an example of this...
From our good friend Joseph
Genesis 37:5-8 Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers,
they hated him all the more. (6) He said to them, "Listen to this dream
I had: (7) We were binding sheaves of grain out in the field when
suddenly my sheaf rose and stood upright, while your sheaves gathered
around mine and bowed down to it." (8) His brothers said to him, "Do
you intend to reign over us? Will you actually rule us?" And they hated
him all the more because of his dream and what he had said.
Now Joseph was the second youngest of Jacob's 12 sons. My goodness, 11
brothers... Imagine how competitive that would be! Though being so
young, God gave Joseph a prophetic dream stating that he would rule
over his brothers. You can imagine how well this went down! So, to cut
a long story short, instead of initially seeing the fulfilment of this
dream, the opposite occurred. Joseph, at age 17, was sold into slavery
down in Egypt by his brothers. One thing led to another and through no
fault of his own, Joseph was put in prison for a number of years.
Now, what do you think was going through Joseph's head during those
years? The word of God had come to him through a dream showing him that
he would one day be in a position of power - so much so that even his
mother and father and brothers would bow down to him... and yet, no
sooner had that word come that his brothers sold him into slavery and
he ended up in this cold smelly prison. Think that would be easy? When
God gives a promise He often allows the opposite to initially come
true. And there is a reason for that.
Psalms 105:17-19 He sent a man before them, Joseph, who was sold as
a slave. (18) They afflicted his feet with fetters, He himself was
laid in irons; (19)
Until the time that his word came to pass, The word of the LORD
Until the time when God's word (through the prophetic dream) came to
pass, the word of the Lord tested Joseph! And the same happens to us.
Will we believe? Will we maintain our faith though outward
circumstances look different? Will we live by faith in what God says
instead of living by sight?
Sometimes it can take time because we are not ready - We may not be in
a place to receive what God has promised us yet. But more often than
not, the delay required before God's promise is fulfilled is used by
God to test and refine our faith. Our faith is something very precious
to God and He wants us to learn patience and rest while we wait for
that promise. But be assured that God's word will not return void or
And then the word comes to pass...
Isa 55:12-13 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. Instead of the thornbush will grow
the pine tree, and instead of briars the myrtle will grow. This will be
for the LORD's renown, for an everlasting sign, which will not be
In context this verse finds its fulfilment in the Messianic Kingdom.
And what a day that will be! But on a personal level we see the result
in our lives when God's promise comes to fruition. And what is that
result you ask? Well, joy, peace and songs of praise. This is how the
word of God becomes a cycle as well. We saw earlier about the water
cycle... that through precipitation, evaporation, and condensation
there is an endless cycle going on in the life of water. But remember
that the God's word is a cycle as well. It comes down from Heaven,
finding fulfilment in the life of the one given the promise, and
returns to God in the form of our praise and thanksgiving. The key
though is to be able to praise and give thanks BEFORE the fulfilment of
the promise! This is where faith truly comes in and pleases the heart
The promise above states that instead of the briar the myrtle will
Briar is basically what it says in the first part of verse 13 - a thorn
bush. Nothing useful there but just a reminder of the curse that is
And yet God can change the thornbush into something beautiful. He does
it in individual lives and he has promised to do it throughout His
entire creation as well. One commentator said
'Is it a coincidence that when Jesus suffered to bear the curse of
sin and remove it from us, he wore a crown of thorns? Was this not
a graphic way of saying, he is carrying the curse for you, even the
curse of the ground, so that one day you could sit under cypresses
on soft green grass with no thorns any more?'
Dr. F. B. Meyer has commented on this passage:
'There are briars besetting every path that call for earnest care.
Many beside Paul have thorns in the flesh. But His grace is
sufficient to change our biggest curse into our greatest blessing.
Look for this! Ask God to transform the conditions of your life,
which has cost you excruciating anguish, into sources of
I like that. Do you have conditions in your life that still cause you
great pain and grief? Commit then unto God once again and trust that
the Almighty is able to turn these very things into a source of
blessing. And as we experience a taste of such change, oh what joy and
praise it brings forth! Let's face it... Life isn't easy but we do get
glimpses of this joy when the specific promises and words that He gives
us come to pass. Well, multiple that by a million and you'll get
somewhere close to the joy and praise when all of the promises and
prophecies that the prophets, Jesus and the apostles spoke are
Creation Sings! - A brief look at the 'things to come'
One day it will all be changed. The ugly thorns that arise within your
own heart and within nature will be no more. The thorns of affliction
from without will be no more for all of God's creation will be set free
into what He intended and purposed in His heart for those that love
Him. Let's look at a couple of passages that speak of the liberty and
praise that creation itself will be set free into.
Psalms 96:11-13 Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice;
Let the sea roar, and all it contains; (12) Let the field exult,
and all that is in it. Then all the trees of the forest will sing
for joy (13) Before the LORD, for He is coming, For He is coming to
judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness And the
peoples in His faithfulness.
Psalms 98:4-9 Shout joyfully to the LORD, all the earth; Break
forth and sing for joy and sing praises. (5) Sing praises to the
LORD with the lyre, With the lyre and the sound of melody. (6) With
trumpets and the sound of the horn Shout joyfully before the King,
the LORD. (7) Let the sea roar and all it contains, The world and
those who dwell in it. (8) Let the rivers clap their hands, Let the
mountains sing together for joy (9) Before the LORD, for He is
coming to judge the earth; He will judge the world with
righteousness And the peoples with equity.
So, putting it all together we see that the heavens will rejoice, the
earth will be glad, the trees of the forest will sing with joy, the
seas will roar, the fields be jubilant, the rivers will clap their
hands, the mountains will sing together for joy... And why is that? Because the Lord is coming! Jesus said that if the
people didn't praise Him then even the stones would cry out! One day
the entire world and all it contains will be set free into the glorious
liberty in which it was first created. Bring it on!
God's word will not fail. Not in His prophecies of what is still to
come and not in His promises to you. God says in His word that He has
magnified His word above His name and watches over His word to perform
it. We've also seen however that until His word comes to pass, that
same word tests us. It tests our hearts. It tests whether we will be
able to remain hopeful, with praise in our hearts, laying hold of that
which He has promised before it comes to pass. In doing so the cycle of
God's word is completed for the word which came from God to you is
returned in thanksgiving from you to God.
And what of that which is still to come? What He has planned is beyond
our comprehension for His thoughts are so far above ours. Yet we look
forward to that day when all of creation will sing His praise, knowing
that however wonderful we imagine that time to be, it will be far
greater for God, the creator of this entire universe, is not one who
disappoints! So hold on in faith. Encourage yourself in the Lord.
Hebrews 10:35-39 So do not throw away your confidence; it will be
richly rewarded. (36) You need to persevere so that when you have
done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. (37)
For in just a very little while, "He who is coming will come and
will not delay. (38) But my righteous one will live by faith. And
if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him." (39) But we
are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those
who believe and are saved.