Second in a series of studies in Isaiah 54
“Enlarge the place of your tent,
And let them stretch out the curtains of your habitations;
Do not spare;
Lengthen your cords.
And strengthen your stakes.
For you shall expand to the right and to the left,
And your descendants will inherit the nations,
And make the desolate cities inhabited” (Isaiah 54:2-3).
Furthering the assurance of the great increase in numbers that God has promised Israel, He tells her to make extensive preparation. The metaphor here goes back to the days of Israel as a nomadic tribe when she lived in tents.
The “tent” is a symbol of her dwelling place; and the “curtains,” “cords,” and “stakes” are items used to make the tents functional and keep them stable. Having more tents will automatically require more curtains, cords, and stakes.
The primary level of this prophecy continues to promote optimism. The prophet assures Israel that she will come out of the numerically depressed state she experienced in captivity and will rise to surpass those around her who do not have a relationship with God. She is to prepare for her blessing.
The secondary level of this prophecy is its reference to the Christian Age when, not only Jews but also Gentiles, would be together in obeying the gospel and in planting the Lord’s church. Literally thousands left their former ways—some from Judaism and many from idolatry—and were born again as true children of God.
First in a series of studies in Isaiah 54
“ ‘Sing, O barren.
You who have not borne!
Break forth into singing,
And cry aloud,
You who have not travailed with child!
For more are the children of the desolate
Than the children of the married woman,’ says the Lord” (Isaiah 54.1).
When Israel returns from the bondage of Babylon, she finds that her numbers have significantly decreased, leaving her with fewer than the number who had returned from Egyptian bondage so many years before.
On the primary level of the prophecy, the “desolate” are Gentiles who do not have a relationship with God—they have been blessed and their numbers have increased. The “married woman” stands for the Israelites who experienced a devastating decrease in number during the captivity.
But Isaiah here tells the Israelites they have reason to rejoice. He says they should break forth into song and express their gratitude to God because they are looking to a better future.
The secondary meaning of the prophecy is about the church and the Christian Age. The "desolate" are those who do not have a scriptural relationship with God, but sometimes it appears they are abundantly blessed. The "married woman" represents those who have come to Christ but are not always blessed so much in this life: their real blessing will be in the age to come.
“For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for My sake will find it” (Matthew 16:25).
Pagan rulers were executing severe persecutions against Christian converts when Jesus says these words, and He is mixing the idea of physical life and spiritual life.
Christians who would denounce Jesus to save their physical life would end up losing their spiritual life and the hope of heaven; and those who stood firm against the persecutors, even to the point of death, by refusing to denounce Jesus would save themselves spiritually and would receive the final reward in heaven.
In teaching these early Christians, Jesus emphasizes for us that living a long time is not what is most important in this life; being faithful to God and to Him bring us a far greater reward in eternity.
“Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit’; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away” (James 4:13-14).
The uncertainty of life is a reality that has been obvious in every age of divine history. Since the day that Adam and Eve violated God’s command and ate the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden, mankind has never been certain about what tomorrow holds.
James here refreshes our memory of this reality and warns about leaving God out of our plans for the future. God is, after all, in control; and our lives are but a passing moment in the overall picture.
The warnings that come from this reality are that we should always keep God’s will in sight as we plan for the future and that we conduct our lives in such a way that we are always prepared to meet Him in judgment.