Last year our church in Madison (Messiah Lutheran Church – ELCA) prepared a Lenten devotional booklet. Each entry was written by a different volunteer from the congregation. The volunteer was given a verse from the lectionary for that day to be the focus of their reflection. The booklet ended up being a wonderful aid to help all of us meditate on the meaning of Christ being in our lives throughout the whole season of Lent.
This year, I decided to volunteer to write one of the reflections. It’s harder than it looks! The verse assigned to me was Isaiah 55:10. I decided to include verse 11, too, in order to address the full meaning of the sentence.
For as the rain and the snow came down from heaven, and do not return there until they have watered the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and succeed in the thing for which I sent it. [New Revised Standard Version]
As a former English teacher, I know a long, complex sentence when I see one. There are 74 words in that sentence! To get straight to the meaning of the sentence, I cheated a little. I went to The New Oxford Annotated Bible (which just happens to be on the top bookshelf at Whispering Winds), and I looked at their notes. They say verses 10 and 11 basically mean, As rain causes germination and ultimately provides sustenance, so does God’s word. Okay, now the simile is clear. Here’s the reflection I wrote.
Growing up on a farm in Cambridge, I learned all about planting seeds, watching for rain, and harvesting crops. While my dad planted corn and oats in the fields, my mom planted a huge garden with rows and rows of beans, peas, carrots, lettuce, beets, squash, tomatoes, cantaloupe, watermelon, and whatever else caught her eye in the seed catalog. She had complete faith that God would send the rain needed to transform the seeds into a garden full of vegetables – enough for our family and plenty to share with others. And, sure enough, that’s exactly what happened every year.
Verse 10 reminds us that the rain and snow come from heaven to make the seeds sprout and grow into food for us to eat, and verse 11 says that in the same way, God’s word comes to us to fulfill a purpose, and that purpose will always be accomplished. Sometimes that’s a little harder to see because it doesn’t happen on a seasonal timetable.
One advantage of getting older is that I have had more time to observe God’s Word accomplishing its purposes. Just as my mom planted the seeds in the garden and trusted God to provide the rain to produce all the vegetables, my mom faithfully shared what she knew about God’s love with her children and grandchildren. Today I can see her faith reflected in the lives of her children (my siblings) and grandchildren, and continuing on to the next generation beyond that.
God’s Word provides sustenance to us spiritually, just as the rain and snow ultimately provide sustenance to us physically. To me, that says I need to let God’s Word seep into my thoughts just as the rain seeps into the earth for God’s purposes to be accomplished.