Did you ever think about how God felt the day Adam and Eve left Eden? They didn’t exactly leave of their own accord. The Bible says that God “sent him forth from the garden...”. We know, of course, that this was as a result of their rebellion. As I pondered the passage mentioned here, which is taken from Genesis 3:23, I decided to read a few commentaries on this phrase, “sent them forth from the garden.” One comment that really struck me was Matthew Poole’s commentary which says that this phrase is “the same word which is used concerning divorced wives.” Certainly, separation is a painful experience.
Which of you parents could do that? Divorce your child and put him out? How would you feel? Would you follow after him or her with, “....and STAY out!”? For the most part, I seriously doubt it. Most likely, IF you put a rebellious child out, you would spend a lot of sleepless nights, and perhaps even devise a way to get that child back home. The Bible tells us that we are made in the image of God. If we are made in His image, then--think about it--our feelings are a mere faint reflection of His. Of course, there’s the exception, but for a parent who loves their child, I believe that the pain in their heart would far exceed the fear of the future in the heart of the child. Certainly, there’s just something enduring about the love of a parent.
I believe we need to carefully consider these facts as we contemplate the “time of trouble, such as never was” Daniel 12:1. The reason I believe this is because of the things I hear people so often say: a fearful heart’s hand-wringing statements such as, “I don’t want to live my life in fear!”, or “I’m afraid I’ll die before I perfect my character!”, or “I don’t want to be lost!!”, etc. Right well we should fear an offended God, right? I mean, after all, He could crush me with a thought! Certainly, fear has produced her infidels.
The Bible paints a very different picture of God; one that I believe will turn our eyes away from a selfish concern for our own salvation. Selfish? How could I say such a thing? Go again to the parent illustration. Look at Luke15 and the familiar story of the prodigal son. We know he was selfish; that he only wanted what “goods” his father had to offer. He didn’t love his father. That is an interesting fact I think we should seriously ponder! “Although surrounded with the blessings of His love, there is nothing that the sinner, bent on self-indulgence and sinful pleasure, desires so much as separation from God. Like the ungrateful son, he claims the good things of God as his by right. He takes them as a matter of course, and makes no return of gratitude, renders no service of love.” Christ’s Object Lessons, page 200. Certainly God grieves, for He says, “Woe is Me for My hurt! My wound is grievous...My tabernacle is spoiled, and all My cords are broken: My children are gone forth of Me,” Jeremiah 10:19, 20.
In this story, as we are told in Christ’s Object Lessons, page 201, “The love of God still yearns over the one who has chosen to separate from Him, and He sets in operation influences to bring him back to the Father's house.” That selfish one, the one who only wanted the benefits; that one, God yearns over. “No sooner does the sheep go astray than the shepherd is filled with grief and anxiety.” Christ’s Object Lessons, page 188.
And as that one “comes to himself”, and, still selfish, but softening, turns his steps toward his Father, “he knows not that one is watching for his return. But while he is yet "a great way off" the father discerns his form. Love is of quick sight. Not even the degradation of the years of sin can conceal the son from the father's eyes. He "had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck" in a long, clinging, tender embrace.” Christ’s Object Lessons, page 203. Would YOU run to meet a rebellious child who, broken and needy had turned his steps toward home? You know you would run for all your might! And God? Certainly, “though all are precious in His sight, the rough, sullen, stubborn dispositions draw most heavily upon His sympathy and love; for He traces from cause to effect.” Education, page 294.
I find it interesting that Luke 15:17 says that the prodigal “came to himself.” In Ecclesiastes 9:3, it says that “...the heart of the sons of men is full of evil, and madness is in their heart while they live...” This young man, while living in sin, was essentially insane, but when the Holy Spirit got through and he responded, he “came to himself.” This is repentance! Certainly, “we must know our real condition, or we shall not feel our need of Christ's help. We must understand our danger, or we shall not flee to the refuge. We must feel the pain of our wounds, or we should not desire healing.” Christ’s Object Lessons 158. Certainly, true love begins in our hearts with repentance!
What about “the other son” in the prodigal story? There is a very important lesson here. The elder son, the faithful, dutiful son, was very unhappy with the return of the penitent prodigal. Why? Certainly, pride has produced many infidels! (See 2 Corinthians 10:12,18).
“He who feels whole, who thinks that he is reasonably good, and is contented with his condition, does not seek to become a partaker of the grace and righteousness of Christ. Pride feels no need, and so it closes the heart against Christ and the infinite blessings He came to give. There is no room for Jesus in the heart of such a person. Those who are rich and honorable in their own eyes do not ask in faith, and receive the blessing of God. They feel that they are full, therefore they go away empty. Those who know that they cannot possibly save themselves, or of themselves do any righteous action, are the ones who appreciate the help that Christ can bestow. They are the poor in spirit, whom He declares to be blessed.” Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing, page 7. Certainly (a warning to Laodicea) pride is the death knell to faith and love.
What does all of this have to do with “the time of trouble, such as never was” that we mentioned earlier? Everything! What would a parent do for a child in crisis? (And which of those two sons was really in the greatest crisis?) When the children of Israel were in the Egyptian captivity, what did God do for His people who were enslaved and fearful? He sent Moses as a deliver. Moses himself was about to walk into a long and serious time of trouble. And to Moses, the representative of Jesus on earth, in his fear to stand before Pharaoh and to lead God’s children out, God said, “Certainly I will be with thee.” Exodus 3:12.
In their crisis Moses and the children of Israel were given an object lesson in Divine parenting tactics and in Divine Fatherhood in the wilderness tabernacle. The Bible says in Isaiah 52:2 that, “your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid His face from you, that He will not hear.” Sin separates, and separation brings fear, just like it did in Eden and to the prodigal son. But what did God do? What did Love do? Love said, “let them make me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them.” Exodus 25:8. Certainly, in separation, love gets as close as it can.
We need to think now about Jesus, the Second Adam. (See Romans 5). We need to think about Jesus on Calvary when He “feared that sin was so offensive to God that Their separation was to be eternal.” Desire of Ages, page 753. With all the accumulated sin of the ages piled upon Him, crushing Him, separating Him from the Father, what did He say? No! What did He SCREAM? (Matthew 27: 46 says it was “with a loud voice”). “My God, My God! Why hast Thou forsaken Me?” Did a child ever cry for a parents help when in trouble only to be voluntarily unheeded? Jesus did. What would you do? How would you feel, as a parent, not to be able to rescue your suffering child, let alone CHOOSING not to do so. Certainly, God so loved that He gave...
Pondering this parental example, can we imagine that the God Who “brought us into existence because we were needed” (Signs of the Times, April 22, 1903) would do less than everything to rescue us? Didn’t Jesus, in our flesh, experience a far greater test of faith than we could ever be called to endure? When fear cries out, “The LORD hath forsaken me, and my Lord hath forgotten me.”, The Father responds, “Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee.” Isaiah 49:14,15. Certainly, God wants us in heaven far more than we want to be there!
I remember that time when I was a child and I was riding my Mom’s horse in our round pen. Something spooked the horse and we parted ways in spite of my efforts to hold on. I don’t remember my flight, but I do remember that awful landing. But you know, that landing was completely eclipsed by what I looked up to see. Now, as you picture this, you have to understand that my mother is only 4’11”, and our round pen was at least as tall. I looked up from my humiliation just in time to see my mom taking very large strides towards the pen and, without breaking stride, put one hand on top a post, swing her legs over the boards with the agility of a track star, and with another stride or two, scoop me up in her arms. I’ll never forget it. Remember now, we are created in God’s image. Would God do less if His child were to fall? Ah! Certainly, more than that, He says He is “able to keep you from falling.” Jude 1:24.
So what is that element that will most readily lock the longing soul in fear for it’s own salvation, and thereby in a morbid fear of that “time of trouble?” I believe it is ignorance of the love of God. Certainly, “there is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.” 1 John 4:18. Certainly, when we understand God’s character then, “herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: (WHY?) because as He is, so are we in this world.” 1 John 4:17. Therefore, in our own great time of trouble, “our only questions will be, What is God's command? and what His promise? Knowing these, we shall obey the one, and trust the other.” Desire of Ages 121. Certainly, “if you are right with God today, you are ready if Christ should come today.” Maranatha, page 98. Certainly....”Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” Luke 12:32.
As I ponder the Father in the light of our parent/child illustration, and in the light of our tendency to waywardness, pride and fear, I can’t help but think of how He must long for this separation to end. What normal parent could be happy knowing their child lived in fear that they were not loved, or in fear of being cut off from the family, or even in a pride “too good” to really come near? The fear that the Bible says we are to have toward God is actually respect and love! We must remember, it is love that truly keeps the commandments! (John 14:15). Hasn’t our Creator suffered enough from our unbelief? Certainly there needs to be, in a very real way, “Salvation to our God,...and unto the Lamb.” Revelation 7:10.