In many cities in the dry west of the USA, there are huge concrete ditches made to gather heavy rainfall overflow and direct it away from streets and buildings to prevent flooding. These waterways are necessary because in areas where rainfall is generally light, the ground cannot receive a lot of rain at once as it becomes hardened in the lack of it, and flooding is easy. Contrast this to more verdant areas, with much higher rainfall, where it takes long soaking rains to actually cause flooding. The soil is conditioned to receive rain more easily and stays softer and more fertile as a result. In both cases, the rain will eventually find its way back into the water table and out to open water again to start its next journey.
Closer to home, when house plants or gardens are neglected in watering, the dirt becomes hard and it cannot receive much water at all. The solution is not to just dump lots of water on the plants but to lightly water them repeatedly for a few days. This allows the soil to become soft enough to receive the water again.
God tells us His Word is like water; it comes down to earth, and it will eventually return to Him, but not before it accomplishes its work. What does that mean? If it is like water, it falls onto all our hearts, both hard and soft. Those soft to receive it will consequently be nourished and become fertile for growing things. Those harder will slough it off and let it run away to find purchase somewhere else. Eventually He says it will return to Him again.
“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven
and do not return there but water 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 shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.”
One principle seen here is our need to keep a tender heart and water it with the Word often. If a heart is hard, not recently and often watered with the Word, then it won’t receive the Word when it is heard. What are the consequences? Ephesians 5 says Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her, “that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the Word so that He might present the church to Himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.” If I am part of Christ’s Bride-church, I want to be without spot or wrinkle, holy and without blemish, and Christ accomplishes that by washing me with the water of the Word. So having hard soil in my heart means I miss out on His cleansing work in me, and the water of His Word will slough off, running away to find the places where it can soak in and be received as nourishment. He assures us His Work will be accomplished; His Purposes will be realized. To be part of that work I need to continually soak my heart-soil in His Water, in His Words.
The next time you water a plant or watch rain fall, think about the different ways it will wash, nourish and soften the soil before dripping back down to a stream or river to return to heaven and start its cycle again. Ask God to let your heart be soft to receive the washing of the Water of His Words to you.