In chapter 55, Isaiah, the prophet, affirms the declaration of David, the psalmist, in Psalm 19; “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” The clear idea behind this statement is that we learn things about God the creator by looking at his creation. Isaiah obviously complied with this sentiment in this passage and we may be surprised at the level of his understanding over 2,500 years ago of an intricate aspect of creation. But really we shouldn’t be surprised given what Paul asserts in Romans 1:20; “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” The ingenuity of God’s hand in creation is evident and further examination of God’s creation becomes a powerful witness to the world.
In verse 10, Isaiah begins to describe the incredible water cycle functioning in the world. Clouds in the sky release water in the form of rain or snow. This water then nourishes the plants and animals on Earth. The excess water runs off through streams and rivers to collect into lakes and oceans. The water then defies gravity and miraculously evaporates into the sky only to form again into clouds. In due time it eventually rains again and starts the process all over again. This cycle has run perpetually since creation.
When water, in the form of rain or snow, leaves the clouds, it does so with a mission to achieve a specific purpose. The water cycle is effective. Rain or snow is released from heavenly clouds to accomplish its purpose. And it does, it nourishes both the plant and animal worlds and sustains life, over and over, every time. The water cycle is efficient, it is repeatedly recycled back into this ever-functioning, closed system dreamed up by God to continually nourish the Earth. The genius of this cycle is beyond our comprehension. Simply put, the world and life itself could not exist without the continual presence and effective function of water in the form of rain or snow. This is God’s genius plan to sustain life on this planet.
Isaiah says that this is how God’s word is to function in our lives too. The prophet draws on the ingenuity of the water cycle as an analogy to teach us about the word of God and its role in our world. Just like water, God’s word also leaves the heavens with a mission to accomplish a specific purpose in the world. And it does, it nourishes and sustains life and makes it possible for further life to flourish. We cannot live without it. This is a beautiful picture of the power and sovereignty of the word of God in the world.
Hebrews 4:12 is in agreement with this understanding noting that the word of God is alive and active and has the specific function in our lives to judge the thoughts and actions of our hearts.
Another clear example of the powerful and efficient word of God in our world is found in the very first words of Scripture. The creation story of Genesis 1, tells us that the Earth was formless and empty and dark. And God said, “Let there be light.” and there was light. Light also sustains and perpetuates life on Earth. As the water cycle nourishes and sustains life in the word so the word of God does the same in our lives and beyond. The word of the Lord is to be a regular recurrence in our lives and in our world, a spiritual ecosystem ingeniously created by God to accomplish its purpose and sustain life.
Interestingly, the example of the rain coming down to help us better understand the word of God going out from his mouth (vrs 10-11) is immediately followed by “You will go out.” (v.12) Could it be that Isaiah meant to carry forth the previous analogy to explain God’s peoples’ intended presence in the world? Is he saying that our very going out, nourished and sustained by the word of God, is also to further nourish and sustain life in the world? Are we also to be like rain and snow in our communities? If so, v.13 suggests a further step. The language here changes from sustaining to transforming. Juniper grows in place of thorn bushes, and myrtle grows instead of briers. Difficult things are replaces with good and helpful things. Do we have that effect on our world?
Father, thank you for your amazing creation and for your powerful word. May we drink from the life that your word offers. Help us to be like water, rain and snow, in the world where you send us. Amen.
Let it rain.