What does the New Year hold for us? As we look forward to 2013, what do we expect? Are we looking for a continuation of what we have been experiencing in 2012? Are we just glad to have survived this year and 2013 can’t be worse? Will we fall off the fiscal cliff? Or have we already gone over the fiscal cliff and it’s just a matter of the landing? Will we have a hard or soft landing?
In Acts 15, the apostle James quotes the prophet Amos when he said, “After this I will return and will rebuild the tabernacle of David which has fallen down. I will rebuild its ruins, and I will set it up, so that the rest of mankind may seek the LORD, even all the Gentiles who are called by My name, says the LORD who does all these things.” James refers this to the Gentiles coming into the church. Since James refers to the church as a “tabernacle,” which is simply another word for tent, when Isaiah, speaking for God in chapter 54, verse 2 of his prophecy, tells Israel to “enlarge the place of your tent,” I hear a word for the church.
Pastors tend to go to this Scripture when they want to introduce a building program. I don’t think that is what God is saying to us. In verse one, God says that “more are the children of the desolate than the children of the married woman.” Jesus said that in the Kingdom, “there is no one who has left house or parents or brothers or wife or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who shall not receive many times more in this present time, and in the age to come everlasting life” (Luke 18:29-30). Anyone who gets serious about the church realizes that “church” becomes family. Fellow believers become parents, brothers, and children. We are received into other peoples’ homes as members of the family.
So when Isaiah tells us to “enlarge the place of your tent,” I believe he is speaking to the church to enlarge our hearts, to enlarge our attitudes; to be more accepting of others, to receive others into our fellowship; not to make our buildings larger but to enlarge our ministries. We are to “lengthen your cords, and strengthen your stakes.” Whatever our experience has been in 2012, in 2013 we will be sailing into some rough waters. We need to make sure our stakes are driven deep. As we expand our ministries and our outreach, we need to “no longer be children, tossed back and forth and carried about with every wind of doctrine.” As people all around us “depart from the faith, paying attention to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons,” our hearts must remain open and our tents ever-expanding to welcome into our fellowship those who become disillusioned by this world’s methods and madness, who are seeking real answers instead of our culture’s counterfeits.
As Christians, Jesus is not just the reason for the Christmas season; He is the reason for all of life. We cannot allow this present world to squeeze us into its mold. Let’s enlarge our tents and stretch out the curtains of our habitations. It is not a time to retreat or run and hide. It’s a time to move ahead because the God of the whole earth is with us. He will strengthen us; He will help us; He will uphold us with His righteous right hand (Isaiah 41:10).