By Elder Tan Chin Tiong
As I was reflecting on what to share with you, these verses came to my mind even as most of us are gearing up to do our annual Spring cleaning to usher in the Lunar New Year.
Enlarge the place of your tent, stretch your tent curtains wide, do not hold back; lengthen your cords, strengthen your stakes. For you will spread out to the right and to the left; your descendants will dispossess nations and settle in their desolate cities.
Do not be afraid; you will not suffer shame. Do not fear disgrace; you will not be humiliated. You will forget the shame of your youth and remember no more the reproach of your widowhood. For your Maker is your husband – the Lord Almighty is his name – the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; he is called the God of all the earth.
The message from the prophet was to the Israelites who had experienced the brutal invasion of the Assyrians and the Babylonians. Subsequently, they were exiled to a foreign land and for many years, they were not allowed to worship God the way they did at home. For a long time, they were forced to assimilate foreign culture and practices. Their unique spiritual identity was slowly fading away.
Now God is telling them; “Return, Rebuild and Restore the city. I want to give you a fresh start with Me.”
I believe this message is for us today even as we do our de-cluttering and beautify our homes. How can we respond to this call of God?
1) Enlarge our hearts for God
Verse 2 is filled with many action words – Enlarge, Stretch, Lengthen, Strengthen.
Like the Israelites, we may not be living to our fullest potential as God meant for us, but we need not stay where we are. God wants us to live broader, larger, richer life for Him. And we can start by:
- Clearing out and free up more space within our hearts for something that is of concern to God. Some of us have gotten too comfortable in our modern Babylon. We not only have learned that art of peaceful coexistence with Babylon, but we have also flourished, which was the case of many Jews, who finally did not return to Jerusalem even though they were given the chance to do so. They were too comfortably settled in to make drastic changes to their lives. Besides, it was too much hard work.
- As we come to the end of the year, perhaps it is timely for us to do a spring cleaning and clear up more space in our hearts for our Lord. We need to throw away things and past baggage that are not helpful for us and start to re-orientate our lifestyle that befits the spiritual temple that God wants to establish in us.
2) Enlarge our vision of God
- He is like our husband
Any husbands worth his salt would seek to love, provide and protect his wife. He will take full responsibility for the wellbeing of his wife. Such is the intimacy and closeness of a husband to his wife. Such is the tender loving care that God our Father has for us too.
Question: When was the last time you heard from the Lord assuring you of His love for you? When was the last time, you shed tears of joy because you experienced the most wonderful feeling of being loved by Him and in the midst of a crisis or depressing time, you felt His arm tightly embracing you?
- He is our Lord Almighty
Our God can command legions of angels under His charge. He is mightier than the Pharaohs of Egypt. He is all powerful, all supreme, and He is in full control. He can raise up one nation and dispose another.
Remember the Sunday school song we sang as a kid? – He’s able, He’s able, I know He’s able, I know my God is able to carry me through?
Question: When was the last time you remembered God through His mighty power, He brought you out of your pits of depression, rescued you from dangers, protected your family members from harm, put a hedge around you against your enemy? When was the last time, He answered your prayers, however feeble it may be?
- He is our Redeemer
This is the God who is going to rescue His people from the hands of the Babylonians. He is going to free them from the captivity. He is not Santa Claus, out to catch you doing wrong and rewarding good kids with presents. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. That is the issue and for this reason, Jesus came.
Question: Have we started giving ourselves excuses for our sins because somehow, it is no longer seen as such a big deal anymore? Measured against the world’s standard of morality, we are actually not so bad. And slowly we begin to accommodate “certain imperfection and even tolerate small sins” Can we honestly say we are hopelessly in need of our Redeemer – all the time?
- He is the God of all the earth
This is the great God of the earth and the entire universe. Exactly how great is our God? Well, gather together all the greatness of men and what they have achieved, and still, they cannot fully contain the essence of the greatness of God. Are we thrilled and awe by this fact?
Question: Many of us here believe that He is great with the creation things millions of years ago but we have our doubts if He still can perform any great things anymore, especially in my life. We tell ourselves, “We are too old, too weak, too timid, too shy, too stuck in our old ways….” But our God is the God of creation and RE-creation. He is able to create a New Heart in you and me today. He can breathe new life in us (2 Cor 5:17). Do you believe?
My dear friends, heed the call of God to “Return, Rebuild and Restore” as we begin the new year and there is no better way to start then by Enlarging our hearts for God and Enlarging our vision of God.