Isaiah 55:10-11 (NRSVCE)
For 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,
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.
A simple enough image. The rain and snow fall from above, wetting the earth and enabling it to bring forth plants, which in turn become food and further seed for planting. Rain brings life. It makes it possible and helps it to flourish. Rain never falls in vain—it is always either enriching the soil or feeding the plants or washing minerals away into the seas for the fish. It always succeeds. And eventually that rain returns to the skies, having accomplished what it was sent forth to do.
Similarly, God’s word has a purpose. God’s word brings life to us. You can take “God’s word” here to both mean “The Bible” or Jesus himself—it remains equally true. In Scripture, God communicates life-giving truths to us. In Scripture, we discover who God is, how God has been present and active all throughout history, the truth of our human condition, and how God has always had a plan for our salvation. And in Scripture we encounter the Christ, the Word that goes out to bring life to the world. St. John tells us that it was through the Word that all life came to be (John 1:3), and so too it is through the Word that our life shall be made anew. And that new life consists of one thing: returning us to our Father. The Word returns to the Father, but He does not return empty. He joins us to Himself, in the one Body of Christ, so that we all may return together.
Without the Word sent out, we would be like dry earth. We would have no means to grow, no means to bear fruit, and everything around us would wither, die, and be scattered by the winds, for there would be no roots to provide stability. Without the word, we would be lost and hopeless. But because the word goes out from the mouth of the Father, we have the nourishment we need. Our roots make us strong, and we are capable of bearing good fruit. Because God’s word gives us life, we are thus able to nurture and bring forth life around us. The old song “This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine” is about shining the light that God gives you into the darkness—about spreading the blessings you were given. That’s what this passage is talking about. God’s word “waters” us, like the rains, not only so that we might sprout and prosper ourselves, but so that we might provide seed to the sower, and bread to the eater. So that we might spread the life we have been given.
The challenge, of course, is actually allowing ourselves to be “watered”. The power that sin has over us is such that instead of a dry earth, we might be more akin to water-repellent earth. God pours his blessings on us in massive overabundance, and yet we are too often able to go through life without ever getting wet. Indeed, our sin even causes us to try push Him away. But no matter how powerful of a hold sin has over us, it is never powerful enough to withstand the torrential onslaught of God’s blessings. Even in the darkest of moments, a shimmer of light will always make it through. All we need to do is receive it, and that light will begin to grow.