(watch here: https://youtu.be/lfhUyJguCB8)
10For as the rain and the snow come 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, 11so 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. 12For you shall go out in joy, and be led back in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall burst into song, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. 13Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress; instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle; and it shall be to the Lord for a memorial, for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.
During these dry days of summer, it is difficult to talk about rain without wanting to pray for more of it. The rainwaters have been scarce over the last several weeks in this area of the country but we cling to hope and faith in God’s abundant grace and ability to provide. God will provide the rain our crops so desperately need! We will make it through another growing season! Have faith in God’s abilities! For this passage from Isaiah speaks beyond the rains and seed of the fields. It gives testimony to the power and fruitfulness of God’s words. God’s words are the rains and the seed. They come to us not only through scripture but through prayer and witness. God speaks to us in a variety of ways. Sure, his words are recorded in the Bible and can be easily heard. But his words also come to us in prayer and experience with the people and places of our daily lives. God speaks to us through people and situations. God speaks to us through trials and tribulations. God’s words are all around us, all the time. We simply need to stop and listen to them. But whether we listen or not, Isaiah teaches us that God’s word has a way of producing fruit. God says, “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.” God’s word does what it sets out to do. It is not a fruitless word. God’s word produces fruit. Just as we have faith that God will provide the needed rain for our crops, we must have faith that God’s word will sustain and grow our lives.
1 Praise is due to you, O God, in Zion; and to you shall vows be performed, 2 O you who answer prayer! To you all flesh shall come. 3 When deeds of iniquity overwhelm us, you forgive our transgressions. 4 Happy are those whom you choose and bring near to live in your courts. We shall be satisfied with the goodness of your house, your holy temple. 5 By awesome deeds you answer us with deliverance, O God of our salvation; you are the hope of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest seas. 6 By your* strength you established the mountains; you are girded with might. 7 You silence the roaring of the seas, the roaring of their waves, the tumult of the peoples. 8 Those who live at earth’s farthest bounds are awed by your signs; you make the gateways of the morning and the evening shout for joy. 9 You visit the earth and water it, you greatly enrich it; the river of God is full of water; you provide the people with grain, for so you have prepared it. 10 You water its furrows abundantly, settling its ridges, softening it with showers, and blessing its growth. 11 You crown the year with your bounty; your wagon tracks overflow with richness. 12 The pastures of the wilderness overflow, the hills gird themselves with joy, 13 the meadows clothe themselves with flocks, the valleys deck themselves with grain, they shout and sing together for joy.
In this psalm, we lift our praise and thanksgiving for God’s consistent and abundant provision. Our God is a good and gracious God. Through his word, he continues to deliver us from despair and hopelessness. Through his word, he continues to create both awesome opportunities and the stillness needed to listen and recognize them. Through his word, he provides the materials for life to flourish. God’s word is an awesome and mighty word. The prophet Isaiah testified to its fruitfulness but David testifies to its fruit. God’s word enables us and all of creation to shout with joy. God’s word feeds and sustains us. God’s word itself creates an abundance. You know, God wants us to know abundance. God doesn’t want us to live in need or want. And in him there is great abundance…there is great life! Because we experience his abundance, we naturally overflow with appreciation and gratitude. Thanks be to God for all that He provides each and every day of our lives!
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2For the law of the Spirit* of life in Christ Jesus has set you* free from the law of sin and of death. 3For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and to deal with sin,* he condemned sin in the flesh, 4so that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.* 5For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit* set their minds on the things of the Spirit.* 6To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit* is life and peace. 7For this reason the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law—indeed it cannot, 8and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
9But you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit,* since the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10But if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit* is life because of righteousness. 11If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ* from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through* his Spirit that dwells in you.
As we heard last week, Paul’s letter to the Romans revealed his struggle over his worthiness to receive God’s grace and mercy. Paul felt he didn’t deserve to receive God’s grace and mercy because he persisted in his sinful behavior. He couldn’t stop sinning as none of us can stop sinning. We are all sinful creatures. But our God isn’t so much concerned with our worthiness as he is with our willingness to accept his grace and mercy. Remember, God wants us to know abundance. God wants us to live fruitfully. God wants us to live joyously! And because he wants these things, God showers us with grace and mercy whether we deserve them or not. God showers us with his word. It is our responsibility to listen and receive his word…his grace and mercy. We must be willing to listen and receive. Once we receive his word into our lives, the Spirit comes and dwells within us. When we have the Spirit within us, we are freed from slavery to sin and death. We have life within us…abundant life
Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23
13That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the lake. 2Such great crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat there, while the whole crowd stood on the beach. 3And he told them many things in parables, saying: ‘Listen! A sower went out to sow. 4And as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up. 5Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and they sprang up quickly, since they had no depth of soil. 6But when the sun rose, they were scorched; and since they had no root, they withered away. 7Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. 8Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. 9Let anyone with ears* listen!
18‘Hear then the parable of the sower. 19When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown in the heart; this is what was sown on the path. 20As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; 21yet such a person has no root, but endures only for a while, and when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, that person immediately falls away.* 22As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the lure of wealth choke the word, and it yields nothing. 23But as for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.’
All this discussion about rain and seed and God’s word and the Spirit is wonderfully illustrated by Jesus’ parable of the sower. We hear how God showers us with his word, both the deserving and undeserving alike. God is the sower, his word is the seed, and we are the soil. Some of us are good soil that provide just the right space and nourishment for God’s word to bear fruit in our lives and the lives of those around us. Some of us are rocky, hardened soil that all his word to sprout without any roots. The trials of life happen and God’s word is quickly killed without a firm foundation. Some of us don’t even allow God’s word to sprout in our lives. Life snatches God’s word away in an instant. Some of us have thorns in our soil that grow around God’s word and suffocate it. Heeding the wisdom of Isaiah, I suppose we could say that God’s word fulfills a purpose in all 4 instances, whether it was to feed us or those around us. But I suspect Jesus wants us to be the good soil. God’s word is intended to grow beyond a seedling or a rootless plant. God’s word is intended to blossom into a strong plant with lots of fruit to feed all sorts of people. So let us seek to be the good soil. Let us rid our lives of rocks and thorns and hardness. Let us seek to provide the best soil by living God-pleasing lives of service and righteousness. Let us be good and faithful disciples of Jesus.
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.