“The rain and snow come down from the heavens
and stay on the ground to water the earth.
They cause the grain to grow,
producing seed for the farmer
and bread for the hungry.
It is the same with my word.
I send it out, and it always produces fruit.
It will accomplish all I want it to,
and it will prosper everywhere I send it.
You will live in joy and peace.
The mountains and hills will burst into song,
and the trees of the field will clap their hands!
Where once there were thorns, cypress trees will grow.
Where nettles grew, myrtles will sprout up.
These events will bring great honor to the LORD’s name;
they will be an everlasting sign of his power and love.” (Isaiah 55:10-13)
Just as no one would write a car repair manual as a set of limericks, so the words of Isaiah’s poem cannot be read the same way as instructions on how to put together a newly purchased piece of furniture.
Isaiah promised the Israelites future joy and happiness, a time of abundance in contrast to their self-inflicted hardship that had left the land parched, stripped of all its wealth and people. Neither Isaiah nor his listeners expected inanimate objects to suddenly become noisy and animated. Isaiah’s point—God’s point—is that the suffering of the moment, the punishment of the moment, is just that: for the moment. Good times would come again, because God really did love them and his only reason for punishing them was because that’s what they had needed: it really was all for their own good and some day they would understand that. “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:11).
Their happiness would be just as extreme as their suffering had been.