Isolated No More
In this time of isolation, I have been searching the scripture for examples of those who were isolated and found strength from God in their circumstances.
To be honest, some of my searches have ended in a less than encouraging place. For example, John the Baptist was placed in prison isolation for speaking candidly about King Herod Antipas’ sinful behavior toward his brother Philip’s wife Herodias. While in prison, John the Baptist struggled with his faith and sent some of his disciples to confirm Jesus’ Messiahship. John was ultimately executed by King Herod at the request of Herodias’ daughter Salome. There’s more to the account, but let’s just say isolation isn’t necessarily the pathway to happiness.
But it does provide an opportunity. Even in John the Baptist’s case, his doubts led to this amazing statement by Jesus in Matthew 11:4-6, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor. Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me.”
I believe I can make a theological case for the notion that Jesus was never isolated against His will. In this way, His situation was different than John the Baptist’s. The only thing that comes close is Jesus’ abandonment on the cross where He cried out to His Father, “Why have you forsaken me?” But again, this horrific moment was not forced upon Jesus. Instead, it was a result of His choice to empty Himself of glory to absorb our shame.
This brings me to a place of isolation that bookends that moment on Calvary. At the cross Jesus said, “It is finished.” But at the other end of His ministry was a wilderness where Jesus voluntarily fasted for 40 days. I would call His experience there “solitude” were it not for the battle He fought, and the redemptive plan of God that hung in the balance.
In Jesus’ wilderness isolation, He faced three temptations by Satan. They came in the form of these challenges: 1) “If you are the Son of God, turn these stones into bread”, 2) “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, ‘He will command His angels concerning you’”, and 3) Showing Jesus all the kingdom of the world in all their splendor, Satan said, “All of this I will give you, if you will bow down and worship me.”
In each of these three cases, Jesus responded with the Word of God, respectively: 1) “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God”, 2) “Do not put the Lord your God to the test, and 3) “Worship the Lord your God, and serve Him daily”.
I could easily write many devotional thoughts on Jesus’ time in the wilderness. However, my desire here is to pose the question of whether or not it is possible for anyone, human or Divine, to be completely isolated, as long as God’s Word is present.
Scripture is “God breathed” (2 Timothy 3:16), and its truth comes to us as clearly as it did to those who first heard it. When we hear it, read it or remember it, the presence of God is revealed.
My point is that we are never alone as long as we have the Word of God. I am not speaking metaphorically in the same sense we are not alone as long as we have a good novel by our favorite author. Rather, the Word is alive. It is His very breath and presence.
This means, if you are feeling isolated during this time of crisis, and you access God’s Word, you are no longer alone. As soon as you engage on any level with the Word, you are connecting with God. Perhaps, in this way, once John the Baptist heard Jesus’ response from his disciples, he was no longer isolated. Jesus was, after all, the Word of God, the Divine Son. I would like to think John was comforted by Jesus’ words, in spite of his demise.
For this reason, I encourage you to read God’s Word in your isolation. If you don’t already have a Bible reading plan, just start reading. I would suggest the Psalms, the book of Proverbs or the Book of John as good places to start.
Oh. And one more suggestion.
When you read God’s Word, try to find a quiet place so you can concentrate on what God is saying. When you do, your isolation will cease.
You may be quarantined.
But you won’t be alone.