8th Sunday after Pentecost
Rev. D. K. Schroeder
Isaiah 55:10-11 Sermon
July 10, 2005
Hymns (from the Service Book and Hymnal):
419 "O Saviour, Precious Saviour, Whom Yet Unseen We Love"
423 "O Sing All Ye Lands With A Jubilant Voice"
196 "Almighty God, Thy Word Is Cast Like Seed Into The Ground"
--- "Thy Strong Word Didst Cleave The Darkness"
326 "I Love To Tell The Story"
THE POWER OF GOD’S WORD
TEXT (vs. 10-11) "For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, and do not return there, but water the earth, and make it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower and bread to the eater, So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.”
The radio is a marvelous invention. In 1894, Gugliemo Marconi, an Italian inventor, was able to take the electrical waves first generated by the experiments of Heinrich Hertz, and send them over long distances. He soon was able to generate these waves and detect them over a distance of a couple of miles. Marconi received a patent for his invention in 1897, and the first radio factory was opened in 1898.
As a boy, I found the radio a fascinating thing. I had an old 12 tube AM radio in my bedroom. I had a long wire coming out the back of it to use for an antenna. I would go at night and tune around, to see what I could pick up. I would regularly find stations that broadcast in Spanish from the southern United States, like San Antonio. At the top end of the dial, I could often find a variety of “hell fire and brimstone” preachers who literally screamed their message to their listeners.
One station in particular that I remember listening to on a regular basis was KAAY, 1090 AM, a 50,000 watt station from Little Rock, Arkansas. Back then, it was a “top 40” station, and at night, I could listen to it on a normal table radio. It came in very clearly, even though Little Rock was over 700 miles away.
I remember in the summertime when Molly Jo Dittman came to baby sit with me. I was almost to the age where I didn’t need a sitter, but Mom and Dad felt better when they were gone for the evening if someone more responsible was in the house. She was a high school girl who lived across the street from us, and she also liked to listen to KAAY. I would open the window which was on the east side of the big wrap-around verandah on our house, and set the table radio on the window sill. Then we’d sit on the porch swing outside, watch all of the activity on the busy street where we lived, talk, maybe have some popcorn, and listen to this Little Rock radio station. It was a lot of fun.
In later years, I remember driving at night and tuning around on the AM radio to see what I could get. Often there were radio dramas which would make a long drive more entertaining, and they would be broadcast from who knows where. I remember listening to KFAB from Omaha in places as far away as New Mexico. Granted that AM radio lacks the quality of FM, but what it lacked in quality, it more than made up for it in distance.
Today, our whole planet is engulfed in various types of broadcast signals. I don’t believe that you can go anywhere in the world without being able to pick up some sort of radio signal, at least from Short-Wave radio. Wireless communications connect our whole world.
Our text for today is a communication text. God is telling us through the Prophet Isaiah that he will communicate with the people of the world through his Word—whether that Word is written or spoken. God’s Word is indeed powerful, because it has the very power of the Holy Spirit behind it. God communicates some very important things through it, which are intended for the entire human race.
In the verses immediately before our text for today in Isaiah 55, in verses 6-9 we read: "Seek the LORD while he may be found, call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the LORD, that he may have mercy on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, says the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
As human beings, we think that we are so smart. We’ve got everything under control, and we know what is best. We’ve got it all figured out--what is best for us, what is truth and what isn’t, and how we need to live. All the time people are coming up with things that fly in the face of what God has said. People try to twist God’s Word to fit what they want, and not the other way around. Situation ethics seem to dictate morality in this day and age, and not what God has clearly spoken.
But God lets us know in this section that he is there, and ready to bless us. Furthermore, he states in no uncertain terms that he is in charge; his knowledge and ways far surpass anything we can conjure up on our own. Therefore, we are to look at his Word as something that reflects his superior knowledge and wisdom. Even though we might think we know better than he does, yet when all is said and done, we have to admit that we don’t. God is still the one in charge of everything; and when we try to supercede God, then all we do is frustrate ourselves.
As a Pastor, and as a Christian, I find the words in verse 11 of our text to be of special meaning. God says, “[My Word] will not return unto me empty [or void], but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”
The Bible continues to be the #1 best-selling book of all time. Nothing else even comes close to it. The Bible has been translated into practically every known language on earth. Bibles are virtually everywhere. You can’t go into a hotel or motel room, or a hospital room without finding one. People who go into military service are often given at least a pocket New Testament with Psalms. When I was in primary school, I was given one of those pocket New Testaments by the Gideons. The Gideons, as you might know, are involved with distributing Bibles—that is their primary objective. So what happens with some of these Gideon Bibles?
I know that some rather rebellious types will take their free pocket New Testaments given to them in school, and use the pages as cigarette papers to roll joints. Others will simply throw them away. And others will take them home and put them in a drawer and forget about them. It seems like such a waste.
But others will read them. And if you ever have the chance to talk to a Gideon, he will have many stories about people who have read the Bible and have subsequently come to know Jesus as their Saviour. There have been people in motel rooms on the verge of suicide who have picked up the Gideon Bible and have had God work in their lives.
One story I remember was about a man in China years ago that had been given a small Bible. In his country, it was illegal to have a Bible; and so being afraid he’d be caught with it, he put it into an empty cigarette pack and threw it out of a bus window. Someone came along later and picked up the cigarette pack and found the Bible. The person who picked it up read it. The Holy Spirit worked through that Bible, and the person became a Christian.
The Bible indeed stands on its own merit, and it is very powerful. So what does Scripture say about itself and its power?
One powerful statement is recorded in Hebrews 4, 12: “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”
This verse points out the work of God’s law. The law is what convicts us as sinners. Anytime we think we may be smarter than God, or somehow above God, all we need to do is examine ourselves according to that Law. When we do this, we find that we are sinners who deserve only God’s wrath and condemnation.
The two-edged sword used to illustrate God’s law was something that was extremely razor-sharp. A two-edged sword could slice and dice a person in a heartbeat. It was a very effective weapon.
God’s Word has the power to expose the sin of any person, regardless of how hard they would try to cover it up, or otherwise justify it. Just like a two-edged sword, it could cut out and expose even the most buried and secret sin.
Now if that were the only power God’s Word were to have, everybody who would hear it would be left with nothing more than despair and hopelessness. People would want to run away from God, instead of into his waiting arms.
Now if we return to Isaiah 55 again, to verse 7, we can see the word of hope and promise that God gives. We read, “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the LORD, that he may have mercy on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.”
God’s Word gives hope and promise for all who come to him with repentant and contrite hearts. The Word certainly shows a God who condemns; but more importantly the Word shows a God who loves and forgives abundantly.
God’s Word shows us Jesus our Saviour, and what we have through faith in him. The very popular John 3, 16-17 gives us this word of the Gospel in a nutshell: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.”
God’s Word plainly teaches us about Jesus—about who he is, and what he did for us. Here we see God’s ultimate gift of love, and how he has redeemed the entire human race. Whoever believes in Christ as their Saviour indeed has this gift of forgiveness and everlasting life, just like the Bible says.
In Romans 10 verses 8-9 Paul records some important words for us to remember: “The word is near you, on your lips and in your heart (that is, the word of faith which we preach); because, if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” And then continuing on in verse 17 we read: “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”
God’s Word not only gives the Law and the Gospel, but it also has the power to give faith and convert. When a person comes to faith in Jesus as their Saviour, it isn’t something a person does themselves. A person doesn’t come to faith through their own reason and rationalization simply by reading words on a page. Rather, God the Holy Spirit is at work through those words, working with power which can convert even the coldest and hardest heart of stone.
Conversion is truly one of the greatest miracles God does. He’s done it in my life, in your life, and in the lives of true Christians throughout the world. In our lives, we’ve been made aware of our sin and our need for a Saviour. We’ve seen our sinfulness time and again; and time and again God keeps coming to us with words of forgiveness and hope. God the Holy Spirit working through the Bible keeps our eyes focused upon Christ our Saviour. Our lives of despair have been turned into lives of hope.
At the beginning of this sermon, I used the illustration of radio, and how it can reach some unexpected places. I doubt if the disk jockeys who were playing records over radio station KAAY 1090 AM in Little Rock, Arkansas realized that it was reaching the ears of a kid and his baby sitter sitting on a porch swing some 730 miles away in Emerson, Nebraska. But it was, and we heard it as clear as if they were broadcasting in the same town.
God’s Word works a lot like that radio signal. We often don’t know how far it goes, or who it reaches. We may never find out or know. But we do have that promise of God which assures us that his word will not return unto him void, but will accomplish what he desires and will achieve the purpose for which he sent it.
As a congregation, our primary function is to preach and teach the Word of God in its truth and purity (of course that includes putting it into practice as well). The important thing however, is that it isn’t what I say or how I say it that has the power, rather it is purely the power of God at work through the Word.
As you know, we have an internet website that has become very popular. The total hits on our website is over a thousand per month. We have no way of knowing who is reading it, but we do know that it is out there for anybody to see. And we also know that we faithfully proclaim the Word of God on our website which gives strength and growth to believers, as well as giving a solid witness to unbelievers.
It is also important for us to remember that wherever the word of God is, the power of God is there also. Even if a church is guilty of false teaching and practice, yet if the Word is there, then the truth is there also. Even the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Mormons have the Bible, and therefore have the truth available to them as well. Sadly many of them will choose to ignore or pervert it; but some have allowed the Bible to speak for itself, and have come to the knowledge of the truth.
The Apostle Peter in his second Epistle, chapter 1 verses 19-21 writes: “And we have the prophetic word made more sure. You will do well to pay attention to this as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. First of all you must understand this, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one's own interpretation, because no prophecy ever came by the impulse of man, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.”
A recent television commercial depicts people doing various antics as they fight for a piece of cheese. The slogan is, “Ah, the power of cheese.” The implication is that cheese seems to exercise a certain amount of control over people.
We can say, “Ah, the power of God’s Word,” because it has the power to work faith in the hearts of people, and change lives.
The Word of God is everywhere. The Gideons do a fantastic job of distributing Bibles. God's Word is also all over the internet. It is being broadcast over television and radio. People virtually everywhere have God’s Word close at hand, whether they be in the jungles of Africa, the farms and ranches in the Midwest, or in the large metropolitan areas. The Word of God is being distributed and proclaimed like never before.
We certainly find it offensive when a school kid rips the pages out of a Bible to use as cigarette papers to roll a joint. But we hope that perhaps he might take the time to read some of those pages before they are ripped out and burnt, and therefore experience the power of God.
God’s Word is certainly not returning unto him void. Yes it does fall on the deaf ears of people who intentionally tune it out sometimes, but thankfully that isn’t the case all the time. Every day people are experiencing the power of the Word and are coming to faith.
Therefore we pray that God will continue to use us in the ministry of the Word to bring the precious message of the Gospel to our community and to the world.