by Stephen Simpson
Publication: One-to-One, Winter 2008

EVEN AS OUR VISION EXPANDS, WE MUST CONTINUE TO STRENGTHEN OUR FOUNDATIONS

Chord attached to a stakeI’m not exactly the world’s greatest outdoorsman. I love to watch TV shows like “Deadliest Catch” and “Man vs. Wild,” but that’s not quite the same thing as actually personally risking your life on the Bering Sea or camping amidst crocodiles. There’s an interesting verse in the Bible that says this:

“Enlarge the place of your tent, and let them stretch out the curtains of your dwellings; Do not spare; lengthen your cords, and strengthen your stakes” (Isaiah 54:2).

One thing we need to know right away about this verse is that the Prophet is not giving us a camping seminar, but he is using a metaphor. A student once asked, “What’s a meta for?” Well, in these few brief paragraphs, I will attempt to tell you.

During the past four years, the Lord has continued to lead me back to the book of Isaiah for study, wisdom, and refreshing. The entire book is a message of redemption for God’s people and for the whole earth.

Isaiah spoke of the corruption and uncleanness that had come into the earth and the judgment of a holy God upon sin. But Isaiah had a vision from the Lord and saw God’s glory. He was swept up in worship and awe. He was filled with the Holy Spirit and given the task of declaring God’s purpose in the earth. Isaiah prophesied clearly and repeatedly about the coming Messiah and the deliverance and redemption that was coming through Him.

Isaiah also testified that this coming deliverance was not just for Israel, but for all those who would receive Israel’s Messiah. Isaiah says that god’s people would be delivered and anointed as a testimony to all people everywhere. This was a radical idea for the people of Israel, who saw God as being only their God, only for them.

But Isaiah told them that God was doing a new thing (see Isaiah 43) and that He was going to remove their barrenness and make them abundantly fruitful again-that He was going to cause them to bear more children from among the nations. In order to prepare for this new growth, Isaiah instructed the people to “expand the place of their tent,” by adding to and stretching out the tent flaps, and lengthening the cords that held the curtains. This is exciting! He said, “Do not spare any effort or material in growth!”

But, he also instructed the people to “strengthen their stakes,” which speaks of foundational issues. We are often far more excited about the visible signs of growth than we are about doing the “dirty work” of foundational preparation and maintenance. In fact, we often think that if our foundations have been good enough to securely fasten us thus far, then they will probably be good enough for whatever is coming ahead. Not so, says the Lord.

What God has for His people in days ahead requires us to lift our vision higher and drive our faith down deeper into the rock of His word and His promises. As we look toward new methods and means of communicating the Gospel to the world and to the emerging generation, we do not have the option of weakening or neglecting our biblical foundations.

My dad often quotes Les Brown: “Methods are many, principles are few; methods may change, but principles never do.” As we hurtle through the momentous year of 2008, let us be flexible in our methods and wise in knowing how to act in fast-changing circumstances, but let us hold fast to our confession and to the revealed Word of God. Let us give attention to those foundational truths and disciplines, and to the mission that is ever before us: to extend the kingdom of God…one person at a time.

Scripture Reference: Isaiah 54:2; Isaiah 43