Alex Dryburgh, Ontario
Most Christians know and enjoy the truth of Isaiah 53. Fewer know and enjoy the truth of Isaiah 54. If there had been no Isaiah 53 then there would have been no Isaiah 54. The truth of those seven words, 'Lengthen thy cords, and strengthen thy stakes" we would like to trace in the gospels, in the Acts of the Apostles and then in the epistles.
When we think of lengthening the cords, we are thinking of preaching the gospel. When we think of strengthening the stakes, we are thinking of ministering the word. Having been with assemblies for 49 years, one looks back and thinks of assemblies that lengthened the cords, but did not strengthen the stakes. Also we can think of assemblies that did strengthen the stakes but did not lengthen the cords. Both are bad balances, for God hates looseness as well as legality.
LENGTHEN THE CORDS
It has often been said, but still needs to be repeated, 'If we don't evangelize we will fossilize." In the gospel of Mark we see the truth of lengthening the cords. "Go home to thy friends" (Mark 5:19). Go your way into the village" (Mark. 11:2) 'Go ye into the city" (Mark 14:13). "Go ye into all the world" (Mark 16:15). Remember, God will not send a man across the sea before he sends him across the street. As we consider the commission, not only do we have the thought of lengthening the cords, but we also have the truth of strengthening the stakes. We have to make disciples by preaching, and we have to mark them by baptism, then we mold them by teaching.
When we come to the Acts of the Apostles and as we think of the early church, we have the thought of lengthening the cords and strengthening the stakes. The early church was a praying church. Not only did they pray, but they preached. "They ceased not to teach and to preach that Jesus was the Christ." So they lengthened the cords. But they also strengthened the stakes. They continued stedfastly in the apostles doctrine and fellowship and in breaking of bread and in prayers.
Paul the apostle was a man who not only lengthened the cords but also strengthened the stakes. In coming to Rome his desire was that he might have fruit among them. Here we have the thought of lengthening the cords. Then he adds 'that he might impart to them some spiritual gift, to the end that ye may be established," which carries the thought of strengthening the stakes. Paul speaks about himself being a preacher and an apostle, which conveys the thought of lengthening the cords. Then he adds 'a teacher" which indicates the thought of strengthening the stakes. Those two truths are beautifully seen in Acts 20. He speaks about testifying to the Jews and the Greeks, repentance to God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. To testify of the gospel of the grace of God, Paul also tells us in that chapter that he is pure of the blood of all men. So in these verses we see the thought of lengthening the cords. In the same chapter Paul says "I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God." He also says, 'therefore watch and remember that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears." And in these verses we have the thought of strengthening the stakes.
Paul was a man who had ambition. In a world where men are ambitious for fame and power and wealth, Paul was ambitious for three things: That he might please God (2 Cor. 5:9 RV) . Wherefore also we make it our aim, whether at home or absent to be well pleasing unto him. "And herein do I exercise to have a conscience void of offence towards God and men" (Acts 24:16). "Yea making it my aim so to preach the gospel not where Christ was already named, that I might not build upon another man's foundation" (Rom. 15:20 RV). So in Paul's ambitions in life we see him lengthening the cords, as well as strengthening the stakes.
When we consider the Church of the Thessalonians we see an assembly that lengthened the cords. "For from you hath sounded the word of the Lord, not only in Macedonia and Achaia but also in every place, your faith to Godward is spread abroad so that we need not speak any thing" (1 Thess. 1:8). They lengthened the cords, but we see them also as a church that is waiting and working and walking and warring so they also strengthened the stakes.
The assemblies today need men with a burden. It is no use speaking to sinners if you don't have a burden for their souls. Paul says 'My hearts desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they might be saved." There is no use speaking to saints if you don't have a burden. Samuel said "God forbid that I should sin against the Lord in seeking to pray for you. I will teach you the good and right way." The men we need on the platform are men who have something to say, not men who want to say something.
We need men of behavior - men like Joseph, who behaved himself piously; men like David, who behaved himself wisely; men like Jacob, who behaved himself princely; and men like Paul, Silas and Timothy, of whom it is said "How holily and justly and unblameably we behaved ourselves among you that believe."
We need men of beauty. Not the beauty of the face, but the beauty of the feet. "How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things."
We need men of balance in our assemblies. "Lengthen thy cords, and strengthen thy stakes.'
If the Saviour's won your heart
And for heaven you have made a start.
Keep your eye upon the chart.
And Go On.
Buy the truth and sell it not
Hold for God the bit you have got
Be content what e'er your lot.
And Go On.
Feed on Christ the Living Bread.
Drink of Him the Fountain Head.
Think on why His blood was shed.
And Go On.
Bear in mind that what you know.
Proves its worth by what you show.
Ever keep your light aglow.
And Go On.