Isaiah 55:10-13: Like Rain and Snow

To live in the ancient Promised Land required faith.  Oh, its description as a place of milk and sweet honey rang true, for its country fed livestock, sheltered bees, and produced bountiful crops.  Nevertheless, without rain, soon, the soil hardened and cracked into a shriveled and depleted landscape. 

Other places didn’t demand as much faith.  Think of Egypt, with the Nile River to water its farmland.  Other countries, close by, abounded with abundant rivers, such as the Tigris and Euphrates.  Ah, but Judea required its rain, for the Jordan ran too thin and shallow to nourish each curve and cranny of soil.  Only the seasonal intervention of rainfall kept the people alive, but if absent, they starved and died.

So, God placed His people where they needed to live by trusting in His provision as an ongoing reality.  The truth of this became so imprinted when later exiled, the Israelites still remembered.  The difference between living and dying depended on rain falling from the sky. 

Though the clouds form raindrops and snowflakes, God is their real source.  A wordplay dances between “sky” and “heaven,” for they are the same Hebrew word.  So, one can refer to the other, and sometimes both. 

Ponder God’s power, which for us, is like dewdrops dripping from heaven’s throne.  Such water isn’t some imaginary phantom but robust and real, sprouting seed, producing plant growth, and ensuring a future.  Those moisture-laden droplets fall upon the world, and its reliable result nurtures farm and field, sustains life, and maintains the food supply.  So is Lord’s Word of promise.

The Almighty pours down what He desires, but doesn’t allow its return, until successful.  The outcome?  An arid desert now buds and flourishes, providing for our human need, by seed and its resulting bread.  So, the utterances from our Father aren’t mere sound waves or vague mutterings.  No empty chatter here, but a substantive declaration, which carries His full weight to rescue, restore, and rule. 

With God as the source of what is, what He says will be!  The falling rain produces, just as the Lord’s decree will create a new future for an exiled Israel.  Both events are of heavenly origin, so neither will fail.  Still, more is going on than we may realize.  The cloud-sent water makes lifeless soil “bring forth,” which is also the term for giving birth.  So, this is no mere coincidence, for God, through Isaiah, is enlivening us with the idea of heaven impregnating the earth to generate something wondrous. 

Well, if God is causing His creation to be pregnant, to birth something, this is more than about water or land.  All this centers on God and His gracious work.  “Germinate and sprout” bespeaks of continuing fertility, of a fruitfulness only possible by watering the dried-out dust of this world.  With His waters, God even supplies “seed to the sower.”  Until these rains complete their tasks, they will not go back home.

Now comes the comparison.  How is God’s Word, similar to rain?  First, let’s not miss God’s use of “as” and “so,” “As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, so shall my word be.”  The agent is sent, forbidden to return unless certain conclusions take place, the consummation of his actions.

The “as” in verse ten and “so” in 11, join the two verses together.  In the first, images of snow, rain, plants, and earth help us follow what happens next.  Oh, we understand the connection between precipitation and plants—without water, grass doesn’t grow.  In matters above us, however, our experiences will flounder at grasping the divine mysteries.  So, God builds us a bridge.

Can we make rain or snow?  Nope, those nourishing waters descend upon this earth no matter our efforts, producing grain and food.  The Hebrew behind our translation for “word” also denotes an event.  So, not only does God stand behind what He says, but His Word becomes an actual event, doing something dynamic and earth-changing.

The earth is pregnant by God’s action, picturing how His Word will impregnate us to yield His blessed fruit.  Of course, this also foretells of the life-bestowing Spirit, who will conceive the Word, Christ Jesus, inside Mary.  Without God, life is impossible.  So, He chooses to be active in His Word, speaking to create and nourish spiritual life. 

How is this heaven-sent Word comparable to the drenching rains?  The water from above wets the earthen expanse.  The earth can’t stop what falls, and so life sprouts anew.  In like manner, God’s saturating Word splashes down upon us, and we flourish.  Not done, the life God grants us lives out its aims.  The ground gives way to growing plants like our lives, made righteous in Christ, now burst out in living faith.

In a time yet to come, the flesh-formed Word, Jesus, will fulfill His purpose, accomplishing our redemption.  Though, He will also send us something, the Spirit, to pour on us the life He gives.  Whatever God proclaims cannot fail to achieve its intent. 

Remember, the water and soil help us recognize God’s relationship with His people.  So, this is a parable about salvation, which isn’t the result of our works, efforts, or will.  No, God’s creative Word impregnates us with faith.  From first to last, He does all.

Every saving activity and result revolves around God.  Like rain, His Word contains what is needed for new life to burst forth.  Though we can fail, His life-giving rain doesn’t.  So sure is God committed to saving us that He prophesies this in Isaiah and fulfills it in His Son, Jesus.

Now, since the Word became flesh, we can be confident of His forgiveness.  Why?  The words God speaks are reliable, revealed by Him honoring His promise to send a Savior.  The text of Isaiah affirms God’s faithfulness by comparing rain with the Word. 

In Judea, rain washed the drought of death away.  After the cloudbursts came, an abundant harvest waited in the wings.  Full fields of grain followed through with much food and bread for the coming year.  Also, providing the needed seeds for next year’s planting.  So, if the rains didn’t fall, the crop didn’t only fail, so did the seed.  An imminent famine now stared the farmer in the face. 

Ah, the blessing of rain, so also is the Father’s Word.  Each achieves its objective, to bless and give life.  The promised Messiah shows this, descending from resplendent realms to carry out His plans, of our everlasting rescue.

Contemplate how God goes about calling and saving sinners—by the strength residing in His Word.  First, by Jesus, the flesh-born Word, from whom the spoken Word receives its power.  The snows and rains aren’t useless but accomplish their purposes, as does the Word, never-failing.  For this reason, God blesses you, forgives your sins, and redeems your failures. 

Now, Isaiah introduces us to more of what God will achieve.  In previous years, Israel rebelled against God, their guilt and sin clawing away at their soul.  So, a foreign power came to banish them.  All right.  Still, the people’s return makes little sense if all the wondrous words Isaiah wrote spoke only of straggling back from an enemy empire. 

Are all these magnificent promises of God only so Israel can leave Babylon in peace and burst into song?  Well, if so, their journey home from exile shows we are the most pitied of creatures.  For futile is our existence, of some awaiting strife to strike again.  Another capture will come—in an endless, repeating cycle.

Thank God, this is not so, for His handiwork will, one Day, be unmistakable, testifying to His character.  Don’t miss the “sign,” emphasizing the miracle taking place.  Listen to how our Old-Testament text takes us into the realm of the unimaginable.  Thorny bushes will transform into beautiful plants, in the cypress family!  Skin-cutting briers soften into a flowering myrtle. 

Is this insanity, with cats and dogs living together?  No, this is the new creation on the Last Day.  After the Fall, God didn’t hide His displeasure, “Cursed [Adam] is the ground because of you.  In painful toil, you will eat its yield all the days of your life, with thorns and thistles growing for you” (Genesis 3:17-18). 

Never will be another fall into sin, for our eternal life will blaze as an imperishable sign (55:13).  All God accomplishes, “will make a name for the Lord,” His vast salvation displaying forever who He is.  Oh, this isn’t only arriving at a new Jerusalem, but entering a recreated heaven and earth (Revelation 21:1-2)!  No wonder the mountains break forth in singing, and the trees clap their hands.  To immerse in this is to sing with emboldened hearts.

Yes, indeed, the language of these verses reaches forward to when God calls forth His everlasting Kingdom.  The land will explode with joyful freedom.  On the specific Day of His choosing, God’s work will be evident, dazzling, and complete.  In response, nature itself will rejoice, as will we, God’s people.  From the first to the finish, these images express creation’s joy, now holy and complete—all because of God’s potent Word.

How capable is this Word from God?  Well, He became a person, took our sins upon Himself, and freed us from the curse of death.  On the third day, He arose, conquering the tomb.  The incarnate Word rose to life in both body and soul, which is why our liberation from the grave isn’t only about our souls, but our bodies, as well. 

Drenched in God’s renewing hope, the whole created order will sprout and blossom in new life.  Such is our God and who He is.  Any redemption lacking a resurrection, of a fleshless existence, testifies to a God who doesn’t keep His promises.  Praise God, for, like Jesus, we too will rise from death.  With perfected bodies, our restoration will be forever, a testimony to the Holy One of Israel.  Amen.