It Will Not Go Out Empty
Sexagesima – 2/4/2024
Rev. Christopher W. Brademeyer
That portion from God’s holy Word for consideration this morning is our Old Testament reading from the book of the Prophet Isaiah in the fifty-fifth chapter, with special emphasis on verses ten and eleven which read as follows:
“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 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.”
Thus far the Scriptures.
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The prophet Isaiah gives what should be a familiar image to us, that is, he uses the reality of precipitation and its necessity for things growing in the Spring. And this, he says, is a sign for us about the power of God’s Word. Just like the natural progression from precipitation to growth to harvest, so too does the Word of God go out and accomplish what the Lord desires. It just happens, and there is nothing that we have to add to it or do to help it in order for this to take place.
Now this is something that you’ve likely heard before around here, after all, the power of God’s holy Word is a central teaching of the Christian Church. When we read through our Catechism, we find over and over again that the power of the Word is emphasized. Why does Baptism give us blessings earned in the death of Christ? By the power of the Word! What does Communion give us forgiveness, life, and salvation? By the power of the Word of God! And this is simply an extension of an even more basic Christian truth: God is God and does what He wishes simply by virtue of His being God.
But, despite this basic teaching in Scripture, there are two errors that pop up in relation to God’s Word. On the one hand, there is a tendency for us human beings to take God’s Word and change it from the decree of the Lord and Master of all creation that must be accomplished simply by His power and will to a possibility. To put it another way, we get the idea in our heads that God’s Word needs our help. So, for example, there those who will guilt trip us about mission work, who will go so far as to claim that our lack of missionary zeal will somehow keep God from visiting His salvation on whoever He wasn’t to be saved. This clearly is not the case. God is God and saves who He will save and this does not depend on us.
On the other hand, we err when we understand God’s Word to only selectively apply. That is to say, we only see some portions of God’s Word among those things that are carried out. For example, in the matter of church missions, we have a temptation to ignore the Lord’s command to share the Gospel the saving good news with others because the Lord will save people by His Word. In other words, we end up pitting the Lord’s Word against itself and put our stock in one part of that Word. The truth is, mission work does not undermine the truth of how God saves people. He uses His Word preached, read, and sacramentally administered to bring people into His Kingdom of grace. He uses it to give us faith to hold onto the things He grants through these things. But this does not mean we are free to ignore the command to spread this good news to all nations. Indeed, if I can be so bold, Lutherans are notoriously cold when it comes to sharing the Gospel or inviting people to church.
Worse, we apparently have decided that one church is as good as any other and that such biblically important things as Christian teaching are optional in the lives of Christians. I am a proud Lutheran. Our doctrine, our teaching is something near and dear to my heart because it is true and biblical. And if you feel uncomfortable from time to time with it, that just means you’re paying attention to what we confess. Our sinful self doesn’t like parts of the Bible that rub against our desires or cultural expectations. But we should not be embarrassed about what the Bible says, which is to say, we should not be embarrassed about what our Lord Jesus teaches us. As Jesus warns, those who deny Him before men He will also deny before the Father in heaven.
But the greater thing still stands. God’s Word does what it says and never returns void or empty. Instead, it does what God wills and bears the fruit the Almighty has desired. And above all, the Lord desires your salvation, the forgiveness of your sins, and that your life endure forever. And more than this, the Lord speaks His Word of salvation to you and it is accomplished.
This should be the source of great comfort to each of you. Your place in heaven is secured, not by your sincerity of faith, nor the number of good deeds you’ve done or their sincerity, nor the depth of feeling of your prayers or devotional reading, but because of Christ Himself. Christ, our God, the very Word of the Father made flesh, became a man so that this prophetic pronouncement from Isaiah would be true eternally. The Word of God does not return empty, so our Lord Jesus became man. The Word does not return empty, so He was baptized and thereby anointed to take our sins to the cross. The Word does not return empty, so He taught the truth of God and gave comfort and mercy of salvation. The Word does not return void, so He suffered mockery and torture. The Word does not return empty, so the Lord cried out with a loud voice, “It is finished,” breathed His last, and gave up His life. The Word does not return empty, so the Lord rose again on the third day, ascended into heaven, and intercedes for us to the Father. In other Words, the Word of God does not return empty, so our Lord ensured that which the Word states about our forgiveness, life, and salvation would be ensured for us and established as certain in His blood.
And now, dear friends in Christ, we have a place to put our faith and trust, that is, in this Lord whose Word never fails. Just as the rain in the spring makes for crops and an eventual harvest, so the Lord’s Word produces what He says. And there is no doubt about this, it is even more sure than the very Laws of nature. And this certainty is made known to us for a very simple reason: the Lord wants you to know that what He promises for your good, for your benefit, how He has granted you life and salvation forevermore; these He wants you to know forever. And not only does He want you to know them forever, but He wants you to know these things with as much trust and confidence as can possible be given to these things. God does not want us to go through life confused or doubting His love and compassion for us. Even more, He does not want us to feel like we are outside of His care. For this reason, He assures us with these words from the Prophet Isaiah that His Word is absolute, both in terms of trust and clarity, but also in terms of accomplishing what He wills.
The Lord wills salvation. He earned it. He provides it to you. He even promised to give us the gift of faith to receive the benefit of His work of mercy. In other words, God’s Word does what He says. And He says to you that you are redeemed, loved, and saved through our Lord Jesus.
In the holy Name of + Jesus. Amen.
The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.
 Matthew 10:33