Recently, my wife and I purchased a home and we were pretty pumped about it, and I think still are, at least for now. But here is the thing, and I’m sure most of you could’ve told me this, once you buy a home, you’re a homeowner. Which means what? If something breaks, you fix it or pay someone else to fix it.
So, not long after buying our home, we had that nasty storm roll through. – Do you remember that one in mid-June? – and as the storm was dumping rain, lighting, and thunder, like it was no one’s business I was cleaning up at our old home, a condo, when my phone rang. It was my wife, there was water in the basement. I feared the worst, but then she told me it was our reverse osmosis water filtration system. I had her turn it off and said I’d take a look at it later. Well here is the part that was leaking. And I’ll tell you I spent a solid two weeks researching and asking all kinds of people what this thing was and what it did, because I could not figure it out. It didn’t exist in the manual, it didn’t have any purpose as far as I could tell other than to leak whenever I hooked it back up.
Now I’ll come back to this part later because I want to show you something else that many people, including ourselves, don’t always understand the purpose of, it’s a book. A very old book. Older than all of us combined. Now from what I’ve heard only the best books are printed multiple times so I guess that would make this the “best” book ever made because it was painstakingly copied before movable print existed and to this day remains the number one seller. You know what it is it is the bible. But what is the purpose of the Bible?
Because here is the problem. There are a lot of people who pick up this book and say a lot of different things about it. “It’s made up.” “It’s good advice.” “It’s a history book.” “It’s the very Word of God.” “It’s bigoted, intolerant.” “It’s a tool to control the simple-minded.” Well, one thing is not like the other and I’m guessing you caught the one description of this book that was different. This book is God’s Word, right.
And what is so incredible about this Word of God is the purpose of these Words that Isaiah describes for us. “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” Rain and snow have a purpose. No, it doesn’t exist to flood your basement, ruin your picnic, cause your roof to collapse, or make you mow your lawn more than twice a week. No, the purpose of rain and snow, the purpose of water is to make things “bud and flourish” to bring things to life. And you know as well as I do what happens when there is no moisture, no rain, no snow.
Things dry up. It doesn’t take long for grass to become yellow and go dormant. It doesn’t take long for rivers to slow to a trickle and for lakes to drop in depth. In the ancient Near East where Isaiah was located rain spelled the difference between life and death. If the rains came at the appropriate time, there would be good crops, food for all. If the rains did not come, no crops, no food, famine. But what does this have to do with this book? What does this have to do with the purpose of the words on these pages?
In our lives, when we are watered with the Word of God, when we open up this book and read, it’s as if rain is pouring down on us, and like plants we suck up that thirst-quenching water. We grow. We live. We flourish. How? How can mere words do such a thing? “So is my word that goes out from my mouth.” These are not mere words. Can I show you?
God said at creation, “Let there be light,” and there was light.” God said to Abraham, “I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you” Abraham’s descendants numbered in the millions as they entered the promised land. God said, “Ask for whatever you want me to give you.” And Solomon became the wisest man to ever live. God said on the cross, “It is finished.” And sin and death were defeated cast down as he rose victorious.
This book is not mere words, and maybe we say it so often that it starts to mean very little, but this book, is the Word of God. And the words of my mouth God says, “will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” Think of any other book you have read, an article, a blog, whatever. Do the words you read not have a purpose? Are they not meant to inform you or persuade you in some way? Well, this book, God’s Words has a purpose. It accomplishes what he desires. We saw that in the examples I just went through. So then, how do these words make us alive? How do these words make us flourish? Because that is what God desires, that is the purpose God has given to his words. Look! Look at what his Words say!
“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” God’s Words reveal a sinful condition in each of us. A condition we can’t fix, “not by works.” A condition that deserves death, “If you live according to your sinful nature, you will die” God tells us in Romans. But that is not what God desires, that is not the ultimate purpose of his Words! This is! God wants “all to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth” to come to the knowledge of the truth about who your Savior is, not yourself, but my Son, Jesus. This is what I desire he says. I want you to live trusting in him for the forgiveness of your sins!
But now I must ask, when you open God’s Word is that the purpose you see? Or is it like you’re reading some article about the top 10 ways to be successful and, frankly, you think it’s all a bunch of hogwash or that those 10 ways aren’t nearly as good as your top 10 ways. Does that happen to you?
Do you open this book and wonder why? Why does God want me to live this way, free from the top 10 things he calls sin? Why does God threaten sinners with death they can’t escape if he wants to save all people? How does it work? How does it work, as his Word says, that faith in Jesus, trust in Jesus, brings life and salvation? Why can’t I save myself? It’s frustrating, isn’t it?
Our sinful nature hates the fact that we need a Savior. It detests the idea that salvation is found in some Words and revealed to us by some Spirit. And it rebels; we rebel. Sometimes subtly by making us feel like we don’t have time during the day to open his Word and read it for a few minutes alone or with our families. Sometimes boldly as we choose to ignore certain words of God that we find offensive or outdated. And then there are other times when we don’t rebel, but we doubt.
We doubt that God’s Words really are living and active. That they will accomplish what he desires, because as we study his Word we fail to see a difference in our lives. No abundance of blessings. No flourishing success. Likewise, when we share his Word we don’t find people receiving it with open ears and being brought from death to life. No, instead they ridicule and mock us or ignore us.
And so we put the book on the shelf. We shelve the only Words that can bring spiritual life. We cut ourselves off from the rain and snow, from the life-giving water of Christ, and we die. Maybe not right away, but slowly over time, until this book really is just a book and these words just some words.
But these Words have purpose. And if on a given day you don’t see that purpose or you doubt that purpose remember what God had Isaiah write, “It will not return to me empty.” God promises each of us that his Words are “living and active.” Let the Word do the talking and listen. Let it paint the story of salvation history as you walk with Abraham who trusted in the promise of a Savior and David who looked forward to the comfort he would bring. See the joy of those shepherds who heard announcement of Jesus’ birth. Weep with the disciples as this Jesus was nailed to a tree and rejoice with them as they saw him arisen, their Savior. Listen to the Words through which the Spirit works and find peace and joy in your Savior.
This is the purpose of these words. Not to provide physical comfort, wealth, and success, not to nudge you in the right direction so you can save yourself, no, God’s wish, God’s desire is to bring joy and peace to the sinner – and both come from his Word – peace with God through Christ and joy in the redeeming, the buying back, Christ accomplished. Here is the purpose! Here is God’s will! Your Salvation! May God’s will be done!
And it is being done right now as you hear these words! Right now, God’s Word is reminding you of the unearned title you have – a child of God. Right now, your soul is being watered by these living words and your Spirit is rejoicing in knowing your Savior and the forgiveness you have through him. Right now, these words of purpose are pointing you ahead not to the struggles of a new week, but to the promise of an eternity of peace in heaven forever.
Surround yourself with these words of purpose! Use them to grow in your faith and your knowledge of the Lord. Use them to fight off your sinful nature and the temptations of the devil. Use them to uplift a fellow brother or sister. Use them in your conversations with strangers dead to sin. Rain God’s Spirit down upon them that he might make them alive through Christ.
You know this part for my water filtration system turned out to be some old flow regulator. A part that wasn’t needed at all – it had no purpose. I removed it and my system works great. But here in this book, though it looks ordinary and by many is considered to have no purpose, are the very words of God. Words that have a purpose. Open it up; take a look. Amen.