Here is William Carey’s text for his famous sermon in which he called his hearers, and us, to expect great things from God and to attempt great things for God: “Enlarge the place of your tent, and let the curtains of your habitations be stretched out; do not hold back; lengthen your cords and strengthen your stakes” (54:2). Isaiah is addressing Israel: “Sing, O barren one” (54:1), that is, Israel who has suffered and whose future appears hopeless and without children. These Isaiah encourages to look to the future, a future in which her place will be enlarged, a future in which “you will spread abroad to the right and to the left, and your offspring will possess the nations and will people the desolate cities” (54:3).
God had disciplined his people but he will now bless them: “’For a brief moment I deserted you, but with great compassion I will gather you. In overflowing anger for a moment I hid my face from you, but with everlasting love I will have compassion on you,’ says the Lord, your Redeemer” (54:7,8). Israel will be blessed, but Isaiah’s view is larger still: “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters”(55:1) and drink freely! Did you catch that? Let everyone who thirsts come and drink. That invitation is given to you and to me! And, so, with Israel, we can sing and declare that salvation has now, also, come to us!
Savior, sprinkle many nations;
Fruitful let thy sorrows be;
By thy pains and consolations
Draw the Gentiles unto thee.
Of thy Cross the wondrous story
Be it to the nations told;
Let them see thee in thy glory
And thy mercy manifold. --A. Cleveland Coxe