Making the Most of Solitude
Last summer our Prayer & Pose class did a Beth Moore study titled “The Quest. One of my big take-aways from that study is that God does not rebuke us for our questions. Scholars estimate that the Bible is home to about thirty-three hundred questions depending on the translation. Some of these questions are asked one person to another. God asks questions of us- not because He doesn’t know, but to make us think and show He cares. Other questions are asked from us to God—seeking the why or the how. I imagine many of us are here right now, as social distancing measures unfold. As a Christian that believes everything happens for a reason, I’m led to ask why have been pulled away from our normal.
We first see forced physical separation at the tower of Babel in Genesis 11:1-8. The people of this region united in a plan to express their own greatness, and to live independently of God- living sedentary in one place as opposed to God’s command in fill the earth (1:22; 28; 9:1 &7) This first scattering included confusing the languages of the people, and was a judgement. The people of this time weren’t seeking to worship & obey God- they were seeking a representation of their own strength and power, to be famous.
A divine separation doesn’t always indicate judgement. Sometimes God allows scattering that will accomplish a blessing. His as he did the New Testament church resulting in a The persecution of believers in the book of Acts scatters them, causing the gospel to be spread widely- listing places such as Phonecia, Cyprus, Cyrene, and Antioch. .Acts 11:21 says that the power of the Lord was with these scattered believers, and that a large number of Gentiles repented and turned to the Lord.
Moses was a Hebrew raised in the palace as an Egyptian (Exodus 2). Torn between his Egyptian life and Hebrew heritage, Moses witnesses an Egyptian beating a Hebrew slave and murders him, burying him to hide the evidence. His actions found favor with neither the Egyptians or Hebrews, and he fled for his life to Midian. Acts 7:28 tells us Moses’ lived as a foreigner in Midian 40 years. So what happens next? God grabs the attention of Moses in a burning bush, commanding him to return to Egypt from this 40 years of separation to lead the Israelites out of slavery. Moses had been pulled away in preparation to lead God’s people our of slavery into a life that included miracles such as the parting of the Red Sea.
In 1 Kings 17 Elijah is sent away to first to a time of solitude where he is fed by ravens by a brook, and soon after to the care of a widow and her son. This pulling away lasted for the three years following Elijah’s prophetic announcement to evil King Ahab of a drought. It bought protection to Elijah and preceded God once again moving in a miraculous way. Elijah summons 450 prophets of Baal and 400 prophets of Asherah (a female goddess consort of Baal) to a showdown with Jehovah at Mount Carmel. Keep in mind Baal was considered to be a god of the weather and storm who’s provision was to ensure their crops- and they had just been shamed with a 3 year famine. The challenge was to see which god was powerful enough to set fire to an alter. The priests of Baal went first, dancing, cutting, and crying out to Baal to light his altar. They raved into the evening, but there was no reply from their false god. When Elijah’s turn came to call on Jehovah God, he upped the stakes by digging a reach and filling it with water, in addition to pouring four large jars of water over the altar- three times. 1 Kings 18: 36 reads “At the usual time for offering the evening sacrifice, Elijah walked up to the altar and prayed”. Immediately the fire of the Lord flashed down from heaven and burned up the young bull, the wood, the stones, and the dust. It even licked up all the water in the trench. And when the people saw it, they fell face down on the ground and cried out, “The Lord, - he is God!”. Sometimes God pulls us away to remind us of who He is.
In Galations Paul speaks of a time pulled away to Arabia in preparation for ministry: “God chose me and called me by his marvelous grace… to reveal his Son to me so that I would proclaim the Good News about Jesus to the Gentiles. When this happened, I did not rush out to consult with any human being. Nor did I go up to Jerusalem to consult with those who were apostles before I was. Instead, I went away into Arabia.” (Galatians 1:15-17). Scholars believe Paul spent about 3 years in Arabia during they time of preparation.
In Mark 1:12-13 we see Jesus pull away for forty days of temptation in the wilderness, precluding His return to Galllea for ministry. Jesus also pulled away to solitude regularly for prayer.
Times like these warrant an extra does of self examination. Have we forgotten our need for a Savior? Do we determine morality Biblically, seeking God for wisdom? Or do we reject the Bible as moral authority in our lives, allowing our own logic and emotions to trump Scripture in our beliefs and actions.
Julie Roys has courageously brought to light some very ugly stuff that has been going on in today’s churches, most being mega church pastors caught in sexual misconduct, dishonesty, and misuse of church funding. Before you read my next comment- please know I’ve been very blessed by the ministry of some very large churches. Their budgets allow large conferences that have inspired me to serve God in better, and grow in my personal relationship with Him. With that said- I have to wonder if having a mega church attendance brings extra challenges of lessened accountability. I grew up in a very small church- probably about 75 people. Any questionable behavior on the part of our pastor would have been addressed, and probably by multiple people because everybody was living life close up and in relationship with the pastor. Our entire church was in relationship with one another. I’d like us to consider friends- could God just want to spread us out, to gift us with the deeper relationships and accountability that come from a place where only 2 or 3 are gathered? (Matt 18:3)
None of us actually know why this is happening right now, or how it will turn out. My hunch is that as most experiences do- the reasons for our time of social distancing will include both new lessons in changing old behaviors, mixed with unexpected blessings we will treasure for forever.
In “The Quest” Beth Moore offers some questions we may well want to use as a personal heart check. These are questions God asks in various places of Scripture wit the purpose of helping us see and understand ourselves from a Godly point of view:
Where are you (Genesis 3:9) Who told you that? (Genesis 3:11) What are you seeking (John 1:38) Why are you afraid? (Matthew 8:26 How much more? (Luke 11:13)
Solitude often precedes a world-changing explosion of God moving. Could it be that God is about to do something amazing? Could it be that He sees us living in a world that makes it so very hard to pull away, and He has gifted us with forced solitude as preparation for what is to come? Could it be you need to go deeper before an event to come?
Dig into the Word. Seize these precious moments. Examine our hearts. Pray. And anticipate the MIRACULOUS.
March 29th, 2020
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