10 For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater:
11 So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it. (Isaiah 55:10-11)
Here Isaiah compares the word of God to rain in order to show how the word of God works in our lives. We see the rain come down and hit the ground, but we are not usually watching to see it soak in. We don’t see how it nourishes sees and roots and how it helps plants to grow. And the positive effect of rain on plants is not immediately visible; it takes a little time to see wilty plants perk up or seeks sprouting, but it is effective.
In the same way, when we teach gospel principles or when we see gospel principles taught, we don’t always get to see it penetrate a heart and inspire a person to change their life and repent. We don’t see who is impacted or to what extent. Rarely do we get to see signs this is happening, nor does it happen all at once. However, it does work. It works in our lives, if we let it, and it will work in others’ lives. And I suppose that even if the harvest is not entirely what we would expect, the harvest will be what God intended.
I think Isaiah was inspired to give this principle to people who were so impatient to see results of their preaching that they got discouraged if listeners didn’t immediately change in the way they wanted. With that kind of attitude, if immediate change is not seen, one tends to start believing that the word of God is not effective at all, that it “returns void” of results. Isaiah assured his people (and us) that the word of God is effective, but takes time and patience, that it works where we can’t see, and it does what God pleases, not necessarily what we please.
Of course the other principle that complements this one is agency. Everyone gets to choose to follow the Lord or reject His influence. Everyone gets to discover the consequences of their choices. One of the major purposes of the Lord’s word is to make us aware of our choices, to bring to our attention the best possible choices along with the eternal blessings in the hopes that we will choose His way. Another purpose of the Lord’s word is to remind us that it isn’t too late to be redeemed by Christ’s power, nor is it too late to repent and make better choices. Those purposes are always fulfilled, even if a person makes the wrong choice.
No matter how far down we fall, there is always a part of us that yearns to be obedient to the Lord’s word. The Holy Ghost speaks directly to this part of us. Following is the challenge of a lifetime.
What good choice are you going to make or what change are you going to make in your life today because of the word of the Lord that was sent to you?