For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, and returns not thither, but waters the earth, and makes it bring forth and bud…
1. Repeatedly has one come across good people making out, to their own satisfaction and comfort, that the non-return of God's Word to Him void just means that, when it does not soften and save it hardens, convicts, and condemns a man. And they think that dire result is the accomplishment of God's pleasure — is prosperity in the thing whereto He has sent His Word. It is true, of course, that where God's Word does not save, it condemns. But this is not the truth of these two verses. There is to reference in them to God's sovereignty as bent upon getting something or other out f the work of His Word; or to alternative purposes of His in sending it; or to some unknown, mysterious will of His that is served by the apparent or actual failure of His revealed will; or, indeed, to any judicial, punitive purpose or after-thought of his that comes into operation when His first and gracious purpose proves abortive. he verses contain no warning to impenitent sinners, but an encouragement to doubting believers in front of promises, like those in this, chapter, which seem almost too good to be true. They do not set forth God's sovereign purpose in sending His Word as other than a sovereignly gracious purpose, and always gracious. They give a definite assurance, enforced and illustrated by "the rain and the snow in heaven," of God's kindness, of His power to make good His gracious Word, of faithfulness to His beneficent promises. The similitude of the fertilizing, fruit producing snow and rain, and the statement of vers. 12, 13, forbid other than a gracious purpose in God's sending His Word. When, therefore, it is asserted that His Word shall not return to Him void, all that is meant is that this gracious purpose shall be affected, by His Word, before it goes back to Him. It does not tail. There is no lack of life, virtue, or grace in it. As regards its saving purpose, it never does return to Him void.
2. But how? Now, here we come to the true causes of the failure of God's Word to produce its legitimate and Divinely intended results, where it happens to fail. Just as the rain and the snow may, in some cases and under some conditions, very exceptional and mostly incidental, become a curse and not a blessing, so may God's Word fail to save men and only harden and condemn them. Men may be condemned in spite of Christ's coming to save the world. Men may bring upon themselves the wrath to which God did not appoint them. If so, it is in every case because God's purpose was resisted or thwarted; or the conditions of its fulfilment dependent on men were not complied with. The failure is not owing to Gods pleasure that it should occur. It is an indirect consequence of His purpose, for which men alone are responsible. For, in the ease of the rain and snow, God's purpose is realized only as men comply with the fitting and necessary conditions of using these aright. The rain and snow from heaven must be met by suitable conditions on earth by man's contribution of active preparation, careful husbandry, and seasonable watchfulness and diligence. Rain will not make sea-sand fertile. Rain will not make seed grow even in rich soil where no seed is sown, or where the seed, if sown, may be choked by weeds. There will be no seed sown, or And so one can to the sower who sows none; no bread to the cater who eats none. see that where God's Word fails to effect His purpose of grace, it is simply and solely from causes for which man is responsible. It does not work mechanically, by lifeless necessity, regardless of man's freedom and man's contribution to its success. God's Word fails, wherever it does fail, just because men do not comply with the simple, ordinary, commonplace, but essential conditions of spiritual husbandry.
(A. Warrack, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: 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: