What does it mean that the Word of God will not return void?Question: "What does it mean that the Word of God will not return void?"
Answer: Isaiah 55:10–11 says, “As the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, . . . So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void” (KJV). The word void means “empty.” The remainder of verse 11 explains what it means to “not return void,” saying that God’s Word “will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”
Rain and snow are part of a cyclical water process. Precipitation comes upon the earth, drains into the land, and produces great benefit in the growth of crops, the refreshment of souls, and the sustaining of life. Rain and snow come from above and do not return back above without accomplishing their purpose. God compares His Word to the rain and snow because, like the precipitation, God’s Word always fulfills His good purposes.
When God says that His Word will not return to Him void, we can know that He has an intention for His Word. God’s Word is from above. He “breathed out” His words to us, and they were recorded in the Bible. Every word He gave humanity is purposeful and was given for a reason. Like the rain and snow, God’s words bring forth life (John 6:63) and produce good fruit in our lives. Through His Word, we know that God loves us and that Jesus died to free us from sin and death; we also learn how to live in light of those truths.
When God says that His Word will not return to Him void, we are encouraged to abide in His Word, allowing it to absorb into our lives, soaking it up as the ground soaks up the rain and snow. The truth will not return void as our hearts are changed. God’s Word rebukes us and corrects us when we are wrong, and it trains us in godly living (2 Timothy 3:16–17). His Word is a light guiding us in this dark world (Psalm 119:105). It is relevant to every pressing and practical problem. God’s Word will always accomplish what He desires, whether it is teaching, correcting, training, leading us to Him, revealing our sin, or some other good and profitable end.
When God says that His Word will not return to Him void, we understand that God is sovereign. The promise is that God’s Word will accomplish what He wants it to, not necessarily what we want it to. We may share the Word with the purpose of changing someone’s mind—and the person’s mind doesn’t change. Was God’s Word void? No, but our personal goals may have been different from God’s. Like the wind that “blows wherever it pleases,” the Holy Spirit moves in mysterious ways (John 3:8). And God may use His Word in surprising ways, at surprising times, and in surprising people. We can’t predict exactly how God will use His Word any more than meteorologists can predict with certitude the rainfall and snowfall.
God’s Word will not return void. It is too powerful. When God said, “Let there be light,” the immediate result was that “there was light” (Genesis 1:3). When Jesus said, “Peace! Be still!” the wind ceased and the sea calmed (Mark 4:39). God’s Word will always prosper; God will succeed, and those who receive His Word will be overcomers as well (1 John 5:4).
Recommended Resource: Isaiah, Holman Old Testament Commentary by Trent Butler
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