What does it mean that the Word of God will not return void?
Isaiah 55:10–11 says: "For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water 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 shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it." In the King James Version of the Bible, the word "void" is used instead of "empty." As Isaiah 55:11 indicates, when we say that the Word of God will not return void, that means it will ultimately accomplish whatever He intends it to (Isaiah 40:8; Matthew 24:35).
God uses the metaphor of rain and snow to illustrate His point. Just as precipitation waters the earth and enables life to grow, God's Word waters His plans and purposes, making them come forth. God's Word empowers us and brings us life: "The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life" (John 6:63). We are encouraged to abide in Him and in His words as a way to bring Him glory and bear spiritual fruit: "If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples" (John 15:7–8). As we abide in Christ, God's Word is the precipitation that waters the soil of our hearts, enabling His Word to be fulfilled in and through us.
God always speaks with intention. He spoke the earth into existence (Genesis 1) and He breathed His words into the writers of the Bible (2 Timothy 3:16–17). The Word of God encourages and strengthens us, convicts and corrects us, sanctifies us, and teaches us how to live godly lives (Psalm 119:105; John 17:17). It is powerful to reveal truth and compel us to righteous living: "For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires" (Hebrews 4:12, NLT).
God's Word not returning to Him void speaks to the sovereignty of God. His Word will accomplish what He set it out to do. It is important for us to remember that God's Word may not always do what we expect it to. For example, we might share the gospel with someone who does not respond by putting their faith in Christ. That doesn't mean that God's Word is returning void. Perhaps God's purpose was to plant a seed, but the watering and growth will come later (1 Corinthians 3:5–9). Alternatively, sometimes we see the effect of God's Word in people or ways in which we didn't expect it. Just as a meteorologist cannot always accurately predict precipitation, so also, we cannot always accurately predict the intended purposes of God's words. The ways of the Lord are mysterious and it is up to us to trust Him in the mystery (1 Corinthians 2:11; Ephesians 1:9; John 3:8).
God speaks and the world responds (Genesis 1:3; Mark 4:39). His Word will never fail. As believers, our goal is to "hold the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience" (1 Timothy 3:9), believing that: "Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him" (Proverbs 30:5).
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