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When Alone

SECOND QUARTER 2019

SABBATH SCHOOL INSIGHT #4

APRIL 27, 2019

“WHEN ALONE

 

 

Definitions of the word alone include separate, apart, isolated from others, lacking companions or companionship, solitary. Who of us hasn’t experienced a sense of aloneness at times?

 

MADE IN GOD’S IMAGE, MADE FOR COMPANIONSHIP

“And the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.’” Genesis 2:18, NKJV.

Many a prayer has undoubtedly referenced this week’s memory text.  Perhaps a prayer that goes something like this:  “But Lord, You said that it is not good to be alone.  You created marriage!  It is one of the first and finest gifts you gave to humanity.  And here I am single.  Please Lord, lead me to someone with whom I can share my life.  I am lonely!”  Or maybe for the person dealing with the breakup of a marriage or relationship the prayer is: “Lord, what happened?  What went wrong?  Why?  The pain and loneliness, the sense of failure, the abandonment, and the betrayal is unbearable!”

Man was not made to dwell in solitude; he was to be a social being.  Without companionship the beautiful scenes and delightful employments of Eden would have failed to yield perfect happiness.  Even communion with angels could not have satisfied his desire for sympathy and companionship.  There was none of the same nature to love and to be loved.  PP 46.

God celebrated the first marriage.  Thus the institution has for its originator the Creator of the universe.  "Marriage is honorable"; it was one of the first gifts of God to man, and it is one of the two institutions that, after the fall, Adam brought with him beyond the gates of Paradise.  AH 25, 26.

Yes, we were created to live in harmonious community, and the family unit is the social order God ordained.  Of course a profound theological truth about God is implied in the words, “It is not good that man should be alone.”  In Genesis 1:26 we read, “And God said, Let Us make man in Our image, after Our likeness.”  The Godhead is the prototype family.  In all eternity past the triune God has never been alone!  And how could it be otherwise?  God is Love.  God is agape.  This other-centered love cannot exist alone.  It lavishes its affections, attentions, and creative power outward away from self.  It expresses itself in mutual sharing and like-mindedness.  In the Gospel of John many verses point to the oneness, the complete cooperation and unity of the Godhead.  I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent Me.  If I bear witness of Myself, My witness is not true.  There is another that beareth witness of Me; and I know that the witness which He witnesses of Me is true. John 5:30-32.  But when the Comforter is come, Whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceeds from the Father, He shall testify of Me… John 15:26.  Jesus directs attention to His Father.  The Father bears witness to the Son.  The Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and bears witness of Jesus.  The oneness of the Godhead permeates the Gospel of John and indeed all of scripture.  Jesus desires His followers to experience this oneness.  “…that they may be one, as We are.”  John 17:11

 

THE CAUSE OF ALONENESS

And the LORD God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou?  And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself. Genesis 3:9-10.  The lesson points out that while human beings were not meant to be alone, sin entered and ruined what had hitherto been harmonious and joyful companionship.  Isn’t it interesting that after partaking of the forbidden fruit Adam and Eve seek to be apart from God?  They go and hide!  Sin is the root cause of all aloneness.  A reading of the book of Genesis makes this readily apparent.  Discord, alienation, and death is introduced in chapter three and continues throughout the book.

Aloneness often confronts the characters in the second half of Genesis.  Hagar and Ishmael are sent away to dwell apart from the family of Abraham.  Abraham ascends Mt. Moriah with Isaac, the promised heir, all the while imagining the unimaginable ̶ descending the mountain alone.  Death separates Abraham from Sarah.  Jacob, fleeing from home, lays his head upon a stone feeling utterly forsaken and alone.  He works for Laban seven years anticipating receiving Rachel but is given Leah instead.  Poor unloved, unlovely Leah!  The names she bestows on her first three sons tell the story of her personal struggle with rejection and loneliness.  “The Lord has looked upon my affliction, maybe my husband will love me now.  The Lord has heard that I am unloved.  Now this time my husband will become attached to me.” (Genesis 29:32-34).  The final chapters of Genesis are largely devoted to Joseph, betrayed by his own brothers, separated from family, living in a foreign country, put in prison for a crime he didn’t commit.  But while Joseph is living apart from the family so is Judah.  His father’s inconsolable grief was a constant reminder of the brothers’ crime and deception in which he, Judah, had taken the leading role.  It’s not that hard to figure out why Judah departs from his family for a time.  What a dysfunctional family at every turn so it seems!   And we shouldn’t be surprised.  Sin is the cause of all aloneness.  It isolates and alienates.   We are all infected by the leprosy of sin.  In Leviticus we read the law concerning the unfortunate person pronounced a leper.  He shall dwell alone; without the camp shall his habitation be.  Leviticus 13:46.

 

THE CURE FOR ALONENESS

But while Genesis is a story of God’s perfect creation gone awry, it is above all the story of a covenant keeping God.  It is a story of forgiveness, mercy, love, and redemption.  It is a story of creation and recreation.  Yes, the cure is the Gospel, and the Gospel is ever present in the story of Abraham’s family!

 

God provides water for Hagar and Ishmael in the wilderness.  He speaks to Hagar.  She too is loved.  God calls Abraham, “my friend.” (Isaiah 41:8).  “Between perfect friends there is a perfect understanding.  So God called Abraham his friend, because they perfectly understood each other.  This sacrifice fully revealed the character of Abraham.  God had said before, “I know him;” and now again He said; “Now I know that thou fearest God.”  And Abraham on his part understood the Lord.  The sacrifice of his only begotten son indicated that he knew the loving character of God, who for man’s sake had already given His only begotten Son.  They were united in a mutual sacrifice and a mutual sympathy.  No one could appreciate the feelings of God so well as Abraham could.  The Everlasting Covenant 09: The Call of Abraham – The Test of Faith/ The Present Truth July 2, 1896 by E. J. Waggoner.

 

Abraham is bowed down with grief at the loss of his beloved Sarah, yet faith and hope make the loss bearable.  The separation is temporary.  “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1

 

And what of lonely Jacob?  That first night, parted from his family, he receives in a dream the promise of the everlasting covenant.  Jacob awakes realizing he is not alone!  God is present.

 

Leah’s focus changes at the birth of her fourth son, “Now will I praise the Lord.”  Genesis 29:35.  And Judah, this fourth son?  His transformation of character is evidenced by his speech before the prime minister of Egypt pleading that he become the slave and Benjamin be allowed to go free.  Remembering the anguish and loss he had previously caused his father his speech is full of love for his father and a desire to spare him.  Jealousy and selfishness are gone.  How can I go back to my father if the boy is not with me?  No!  Do not let me see the misery that would come on my father.” Genesis 44:34 NIV.  Judah concludes his speech and it is enough for Joseph.  The Covenant keeping God has wrought transformation in the brothers.  The family is reunited.

 

Redemption is creation.  Redemption is the same power that was put forth in the beginning to create the world and all that is in it, now put forth to save men and the earth from the curse of sin…..The Scriptures are very clear on this point.  The Psalmist prayed, "Create in me a clean heart, and renew a right spirit within me” (Psalms 51:10). The apostle says, that "if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature," (2 Corinthians 5:17) or a new creation. ………….  Now the same power that in the beginning made the earth from nothing, takes man, if he is willing, and makes of him that which is "to the praise of the glory of His grace” (Ephesians 1:6). E. J. Waggoner from “The Gospel in Creation”. 

 

Both A. T. Jones and E. J. Waggoner write at length of the vital connection between creation and redemption.  And indeed redemption is foreshadowed in the creation story (Genesis 2:21-25).  The last Adam like the first Adam was put to sleep/death.  His death was the means through which His bride was given life.  “But one of the soldiers with a spear pierced His side, and forthwith came there out blood and water.”  John 19:34.  “For we are members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones.  For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh.  This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.”  Ephesians 5:30-32.

The marriage of divinity to humanity!  What a theme for contemplation!  Jesus is the cure!

By His life and His death, Christ has achieved even more than recovery from the ruin wrought through sin.  It was Satan's purpose to bring about an eternal separation between God and man; but in Christ we become more closely united to God than if we had never fallen.  In taking our nature, the Savior has bound Himself to humanity by a tie that is never to be broken.  Through the eternal ages He is linked with us.  "God so loved the world, that He gave His only-begotten Son." John 3:16.  He gave Him not only to bear our sins, and to die as our sacrifice; He gave Him to the fallen race.  To assure us of His immutable counsel of peace, God gave His only-begotten Son to become one of the human family, forever to retain His human nature.  DA 25

 

THE GREATEST ALONENESS

“ And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.” Genesis 3:15.  “I have trodden the winepress alone; and of the people there was none with me:” Isaiah 63:3.  It was in the garden that Adam and Eve lost their innocence and their one accord became notes of discord and separation.  In another garden the unity of eternal ages was broken up.

The Garden of Eden, with its foul blot of disobedience, should be carefully compared with the Garden of Gethsemane, where the world's Redeemer suffered superhuman agony when the sins of the whole world were rolled upon him.  Listen to the prayer of the only-begotten Son of God, "O My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless not as I will, but as Thou wilt." And the second time He prayed, saying, "O My Father, if this cup may not pass from Me, except I drink it, Thy will be done." And the third time He prayed, saying the same words. Oh, it was here the mysterious cup trembled in the hands of the Son of God!   E. G. White, Signs of the times, April 17, 1893

We can have but faint conceptions of the inexpressible anguish of God's dear Son in Gethsemane, as He realized His separation from His Father in consequence of bearing man's sin.  He became sin for the fallen race.  The sense of the withdrawal of His Father's love pressed from His anguished soul these mournful words: "My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death." Matthew 26:38. . . .  AG 169

The Majesty of heaven was as one bewildered with agony.  No human being could endure such suffering; Manuscript 42, 1897. CTr 266

God spared not His only-begotten Son.  To show the depth of His love for man, He delivered Him up for us all.  "Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world" (John 1:29).  Behold Him dying on the cross.  Behold Him who was equal with God, mocked and derided by the mob.  Behold Him in Gethsemane, bowed under the burden of the sins of the whole world.  HP 15.4.

The value of a soul, who can estimate? Would you know its worth, go to Gethsemane, and there watch with Christ through those hours of anguish, when He sweat as it were great drops of blood.  Look upon the Savior uplifted on the cross.  Hear that despairing cry, "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?" Mark 15:34.  Look upon the wounded head, the pierced side, the marred feet.  Remember that Christ risked all.  For our redemption, heaven itself was imperiled.  At the foot of the cross, remembering that for one sinner Christ would have laid down His life, you may estimate the value of a soul. COL 196

 

PERSONAL REFLECTIONS

The gospel is the solution but as long as we live in this sinful world we all face seasons of aloneness.  In the last couple of weeks two dear friends have gone to their rest.  Family and friends grieve.  As we approach the end of all things, and the contest between the truth and the lie intensify, the problem of aloneness becomes more acute.  We rub elbows daily with many who have or are experiencing incredible loss and aloneness.  In addition, feeling unloved, unwanted, unappreciated, misunderstood, ignored, ridiculed, scorned, criticized, unattractive, inferior, or marginalized (the list goes on) can and do contribute to a sense of aloneness.  If we ourselves have struggled with one or more of the aforementioned we should of all people be most empathetic and sympathetic to the lonely.

The lesson gave many examples of bible characters who were confronted with aloneness.  We can find great comfort in bible biographies!  We relate to the various characters’ perplexities, struggles, failures and triumphs.  We are not alone after all.  And again, truly the Gospel is the answer!  We have a Savior, a representative who experienced the lot of humanity and knows our temptations.  Hebrews 4:15.

He walks with us.  Keep cheerful.  Do not forget that you have a Comforter, the Holy Spirit, which Christ has appointed.  You are never alone.  If you will listen to the voice that now speaks to you, if you will respond without delay to the knocking at the door of your heart, "Come in, Lord Jesus, that I may sup with Thee, and Thee with me," the heavenly Guest will enter.  When this element, which is all divine, abides with you, there is peace and rest. AH 350.  

 Our pilgrimage would indeed be lonely were it not for Jesus.  "I will not leave you comfortless" (John 14:18), He says to us.  Let us cherish His words, believe His promises, repeat them by day and meditate upon them in the night season, and be happy.--MS 75, 1893, 2MCP 468.

As a single person I have known what it is to be alone.  For years I believed I would marry.  I had very much looked forward to sharing my life with a husband and to having children.  Unfortunately in my search for happiness I made many wrong choices.  I often was wounded, caused grief, and brought grief upon myself.  I am deeply grateful for God’s forgiveness, mercy, love, and abundant blessings.

At this point in my life I am content to remain single.  While I have been privileged to witness a number of marriages that are powerful testimonies to the creative and redemptive love of God, I’m not aware of any perfect marriages.  I’ve yet to find anyone living the utopian life, married or single.  I resonate with the words of the song, This World is not my home.

After her vision of Heaven, Ellen White had this to say.  “Then an angel bore me gently down to this dark world.  Sometimes I think I can stay here no longer; all things of earth look so dreary.  I feel very lonely here, for I have seen a better land.  Oh, that I had wings like a dove, then would I fly away and be at rest!”  CCh 36.  Don’t we all long for Heaven? - a place where misunderstanding does not exist, a place where love is perfectly expressed, a place of true intimacy and pure unselfish desire, a place where the beauty of individuality is preserved and yet a meeting of minds occurs.  No conflict!  Heaven will more than compensate for any dashed dreams and disappointments of this life.  The spiritual reality is always greater than the type.  The marriage of the Lamb and His bride is the greater reality.  Oh what a glorious restful union! 

But even prior to Heaven we can look forward to the time that surely is right before us.  A time when “One interest will prevail, one subject will swallow up every other,--Christ our righteousness.  RH, December 23, 1890 par. 19.  This experience is going to unite God’s people.  May the desire of our hearts be - Christ in us, the hope of glory.  (Colossians 1:27)

~Martha Ruggles