It is nearing dusk when I head out into the descending flakes. They’re large and gentle, with no trace of wind. The world is hushed. I walk until I reach the fields of a nearby college, where I know there are ample pines. Nothing quite highlights the chiaroscuro beauty of snow like the dark branches of a pine tree.
One particular cluster of trees beckons. As I approach, I notice how the boughs have protected shadows of bare grass like a paper cutout shields a cake from sifted sugar. I walk in among the trees. It is lovely in here. Like a safe haven.
In an odd way, like a tent.
Isaiah, as usual, has been in my head. This time, he has created an image that is as intriguing as it is foreign to my modern life.
2 “Enlarge the place of your tent,
stretch your tent curtains wide,
do not hold back;
lengthen your cords,
strengthen your stakes.
3 For you will spread out to the right and to the left;
your descendants will dispossess nations
and settle in their desolate cities. (Isaiah 54:2-3)
Keep in mind, this is a part of the aftermath of the triumph of the Suffering Servant of the previous chapter. The Messiah, after being crushed by the LORD, has “seen the light of life” (53:11) and has a “portion among the great” (53:12). Now, Isaiah turns to the effect this victorious, redemptive work has on God’s people.
These verses are easy to understand, even for non-nomads like us. God is going to expand their space. Dramatically. Spread literally translates to burst. In essence, he is saying, get ready! The LORD is going to fill your tent till it bursts at the seams.
This is not simply about growing families. It ties into his original purpose of filling the earth with those who know him like the waters cover the sea (Hab. 2:14). God’s people are going to spread. And as they go, they will bring life to desolate places.
I stand at the edge of my little evergreen sanctuary and think about this. It requires faith to believe in this promised expansion. And it requires a willingness to be unsettled. It is much easier to stay in the safety of the status quo. To keep in the stillness of the pines, out of the storm, where the ground is less tricky.
But if this is what comes in the victory of the cross, how can I not expand my tent? And what does it mean to me in these days of isolation and disconnectedness?
There has never been an easier time to connect to people globally. And so, I am opening up my schedule and my life to a small group of young “creatives” for whom I am convening a virtual session this coming week. I hope it will be the start of a regular gathering for encouragement and vision-casting.
Will it take off? Only God knows.
But his command here is to make room. That much I can do. The growth comes from him.
Father, this is the challenge you have given your church for ages, and we have sporadically heard and responded. Help us to make room for the growth you intend to bring. For your kingdom is ever-growing and evergreen.
Reader: I’d love to hear how you are expanding your “tent” to make room for people.