Have you ever wondered that? Am I really useful? This week I’ve been pondering Isaiah 54 in greater depth. I then realized it is a jewel in a beautiful setting. It’s long been one of my favorite chapters in Scripture, and a few years ago my youngest daughter helped me design a ring to remind me of it. I have always focused on verse 1. It sounded hopeful when I felt like my past hadn’t been very useful, like it had been a big waste. “Shout for joy, O barren one, you who have borne no child; Break forth into joyful shouting and cry aloud, you who have not travailed; For the sons of the desolate one will be more numerous Than the sons of the married woman,” says the LORD. Isaiah 54:1 (NASB)
Can my life be useful?
This week the passage prompted a question for me. I had seen the passage as a beautiful promise before, but this week I realized it reveals how I can be useful again.
First, what hinders our lives from fulfilling the big dream God envisioned for us? The same things that shatter our hearts and wreck our souls, acting as limitations on our success in fulfilling those big dreams. The spiritual death that entered all mankind when Adam and Eve failed in the garden of Eden. Our own personal choices. Our experiences that result in shame, confusion or disappointment and break our hearts. As I share what this spoke to my heart this week, I pray it also speaks to you.
But we can break forth. Isaiah is telling us we can shatter all those limitations. Verse two is where I focused most of the week. 2 “Enlarge the place of your tent; Stretch out the curtains of your dwellings, spare not; Lengthen your cords And strengthen your pegs. Isaiah 54:2 (NASB)
The words describe something familiar to a nomadic people who lived in tents. When the family grows, so must the tent. They will need bigger tents for the increase God is bringing them.
What does this verse tell me?
First, God wants to bring increase to my life, too. I can have greater success in my life, increased usefulness in how I fulfill God’s big dreams for me.
When I looked carefully at the “place of my tent,” I understood that true wisdom comes when I remember that God still has the ability to bring back together all that is needed in my life. Usefulness is not over. We can have the kind of relationship where my soul capacity is enlarged and I fulfill the purpose He envisions. A tent is a portable place in which to camp for a short time. It reminds me the ways I currently think and believe, the thinking patterns that have been guiding my actions, can change. I thought they were useful, but it’s time to enlarge my “tent” to see the usefulness of my life like God sees it, not in the limited way I’ve seen it.
Curtains and relearning
My limited thoughts have guided my life in limited ways. How can I possibly change what I’ve been living by? God still sees that we can operate as one united team, just as He planned for all of us in the garden of Eden. The change happens as I relearn some truths. I need to correctly learn who God says I am. He can then show me what He plans for my life. This relearning process takes time to fully develop just like fruit takes time to mature from a seed.
Relearning requires that I stretch out curtains. What do curtains have to do with learning? The curtains here refer to the covering over the Tent of Tabernacle Israel used in their wilderness journey. God can help me see how the way I’ve thought in the past (my own wilderness journey) has hindered me. I saw that I’ve allowed small thinking to cover and limit what God wants to do. Stretching out the curtain means to pay attention to something new. As I allow Him to expose those areas and pay attention to what He wants to do instead, I will discover that God can help me grow exponentially in soul capacity. This growth and new thinking will be where I can then dwell. The limits of small thinking are removed and I will realize just how limited my life has been.
The process is an exchange process. I give up my old thought patterns for God’s life-giving patterns. I will again become “pregnant” with what God plans. How does this happen? Like it did for Mary, the mother of Jesus. God spoke a word and the Holy Spirit breathed life into it. As I read Scripture (God’s words to me at the moment), the Holy Spirit breathes life into them and they become living words.
The result will be just like the angel told Mary: 37 “For nothing will be impossible with God.” Luke 1:37 (NASB). The literal translation the verse is “No rhema (living) word of God is impotent.” The Scriptures become living words, able to bring birth to what God said. God does not plant “seed” in our hearts and bring us part way. Through Isaiah, God promised He does not bring to the point of birth and then fail to deliver. He does not shut the womb. (Isaiah 66:9) God was talking about bringing the nation of Israel back from exile, restoring usefulness. It’s a promise for us, too. His words will produce what He sent them to do in our lives. They accomplish what He sends them to do. (Isaiah 55:11)
Cords, pegs and purpose
If you get a bigger tent, you will need longer cords and stronger tent stakes to hold it in place. How can I lengthen cords in my thinking? By remembering that God planned something wonderful for my life and He has not changed it. In His mind, that purpose has been set in place from the beginning and will not change. He doesn’t see failures and weaknesses as the end of the story but merely as an opportunity to begin something “new” in my life. He began a good work in my life and He will complete it. (Philippians 1:6)
In Ezra 9:8, “pegs” refers to a share in God’s plan. I definitely have a share in God’s plan. The purpose He has for me is a part of His grand purpose for all. A peg is also driven in a wall so something can be hung things on it. When my pegs are strengthened, I’ve begun to overpower the hindrances of the past. Now God can hang on that peg the infinite possibilities He sees for me. The big dreams He envisions for me.
How can this be possible?
This morning I realized I have read the chapter in isolation. I went back and read the chapter before. It is the reason chapter 54 can be possible in my life.
3 He was despised and rejected by people. He was a man of sorrows, familiar with suffering. He was despised like one from whom people turn their faces, and we didn’t consider him to be worth anything. 4 He certainly has taken upon himself our suffering and carried our sorrows, but we thought that God had wounded him, beat him, and punished him. 5 He was wounded for our rebellious acts. He was crushed for our sins. He was punished so that we could have peace, and we received healing from his wounds. Isaiah 53:3-5 (GW)
Imagine Jesus, the son of God Himself, being despised by people. Yet, He chose to take on our sorrow (the emotional pain we suffer) and our diseases and sicknesses. Even our rebellious refusal to acknowledge what He has done for us. Because of what He has done, we can again have real life, peace and healing.
This great gift is what makes Isaiah 54 possible, what enables us to shatter the limitations around our thinking and lives and experience what God really has for us.
What is the result?
3 You will spread out to the right and left. Your descendants will take over other nations, and they will resettle deserted cities. Isaiah 54:3 (GW)
When I read about descendants, I think about what my body produces. My life also produces, either success, mediocrity or failure. But no rhema (living) word of God is impotent. The seed of God’s dreams planted in my heart will certainly produce again the success and usefulness God envisions.
So why the ring like it is? God is rebuilding my life to look like His dream for me. His rebuilding uses sapphires, rubies, sparkling stones (diamonds) and precious stones. (photo by Carol Boggess)
11 “You suffering, comfortless, storm-ravaged city! I will rebuild your city with precious stones. I will reset your foundations with sapphires. 12 I will rebuild your towers with rubies, your gates with sparkling stones, and all your walls with precious stones.” Isaiah 54:11-12 (GW)
If you are living in a one-man pup tent, believing what you have been or done in the past also determines your future, I encourage you to allow God to give you a bigger tent. To trust that He doesn’t see your future as ended, but beginning again in big ways.
Carol Boggess, author and speaker
Rivers – A Journey of Restoration From Broken to Breakthrough and God Sees Broken Hearts