Sometimes we think of the word “return” negatively. If we buy something that we don’t like, we return it to the shop. However it can also be a good term, such as when we return home after a voyage.
Isaiah 55:10-11 tell us that the Word of God returns to Himself.
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.
The King James translation says, God’s words, “shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.” Nothing God says or does is wasted. It is always for our benefit. The Word was given to us with a definitive purpose and we are blessed to have it. To live life without it would be extremely challenging.
So, if God’s Word doesn’t return to Him empty, it obviously returns to Him full, but full of what? Simply put, when we soak in the Word and let it do its powerful, enlightening work within us, we can offer up more of ourselves to God. The Word shines the light of truth upon the dark, concealed places within us – the ugly places that need healing. The more that the Word reveals within us that needs change, the more of our thinking and priorities we must give to Him.
It’s like a game of tennis, with an endless back and forth; a limitless loop of give and return. God continues to give us Himself in new ways daily, and we in turn give ourselves to Him. Our relationship with God is a lifelong series of God giving, and us returning. He gives us gifts, which we return to Him in service. He gives us grace, which we return in living with joyous freedom. He gives us love which we give to Him and others. He offers His Son, and we offer our praises. We are chosen vessels, with the tremendous privilege of being used by Him for His glorious purposes.
1 Thessalonians 2:13 says, “And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is indeed at work in you who believe.”
That’s very encouraging. The Bible is not like any other book, so we can’t treat is as such. It is not a textbook, or a novel, or a history book, or a how-to book. It is the word of God which works within those of us who believe it, and unlike every other book we’ve read (unless we travel in literary social circles perhaps), we actually know the Author! Its words give us direction, truth, freedom, wisdom and joy. We learn about Christ, the Father, the Holy Spirit, and those believers who have gone before us. In its pages, we are presented with the majesty of creation, the saving grace of the gospel, and the mysterious end of all things. 66 books written in three different languages (Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic), by about 40 different authors (including prophets, fishermen, tax collectors, etc) over approximately 1500 years – and it all points to who God is, and who we are in Him. That’s due to the fact that as 2 Timothy 3:16 states, “all Scripture is God-breathed.” It has power beyond any book, and thus it alone has, and continues to, inspire endless books, songs, and sermons, let alone all the lives it has saved and transformed. We never stop learning from it, but we must examine the condition of our heart when we approach the Word. How many discussions and choices has the Word prompted within your life? How has it stirred you to do the right thing, and stopped you from doing the wrong thing? How many times has God brought a specific verse to your mind to help you, or someone else? How often do you meditate upon it? How many Scriptures can you remember compared to how many facts you can easily recall (sports scores, Hollywood gossip, etc)? How often do you actually obey the Word rather than just read or listen to it (James 1:22)? Is the Bible the first thing you read in the morning, and the last at night? Has your Bible been untouched for days, or weeks, only to be looked at when the preacher asks you to open it during a sermon? These are all challenging questions we must ask ourselves. The Bible is such a precious gift. It is a glorious representation of God’s character and story. People have been persecuted, tortured and killed for its translation and promotion. We must embrace it with joyful thanksgiving.
God deposits the Word inside our hearts for the purpose of it working within us, so it does not return to Him empty. That’s why when we pray for the preaching, teaching or reading of the Word, we don’t only pray for the speaker, but we pray for the listener. We need soft, humble hearts to let the Word dwell within us and do its work. We can reject it, or we can accept it. His truth may be challenging or convicting, but it’s also life. As Jesus taught in the Parable of the Sower (Matthew 13), the choice of how we accept the Word belongs to us. We must not fight the Word when it settles in our heart, or dismiss it just because we find its truth inconvenient, uncomfortable or unpopular. Our sinful heart will always want to rebel, but we need to choose to allow the Word to fall upon a life that is willing to be transformed, and repent and change as needed.
With the work of the Word coming alive within us, it returns to Him having achieved His purpose, leaving us changed as we further reflect His likeness.
“Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long. Your commands are always with me
and make me wiser than my enemies. I have more insight than all my teachers,
for I meditate on your statutes. I have more understanding than the elders,
for I obey your precepts. I have kept my feet from every evil path
so that I might obey your word.
I have not departed from your laws,
for you yourself have taught me. How sweet are your words to my taste,
sweeter than honey to my mouth! I gain understanding from your precepts;
therefore I hate every wrong path. Your word is a lamp for my feet,
a light on my path.”
“With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may bring to fruition your every desire for goodness and your every deed prompted by faith.We pray this so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
2 Thessalonians 1:11-12