Fresh from the Creator's hand, our first parents were not placed in a city environment, and there was a very good reason; there were no other people, so no city!
God in His wisdom specifies where He placed the first generation of humanity. “And the LORD God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed…and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it.” – Genesis 2:8,15. So God put Adam and Eve in a garden, a rural setting, uncluttered with neighbours and peaceful amongst nature.
“God placed Adam in a garden. This was his dwelling. The blue heavens were its dome; the earth, with its delicate flowers and carpet of living green, was its floor; and the leafy branches of the goodly trees were its canopy. Its walls were hung with the most magnificent adornings – the handiwork of the great Master Artist.
“It was the design of God that man should find happiness in the employment of tending the things He had created, and that his wants should be met with the fruits of the trees of the garden.” – Faith I Live By, p.250
Not long into the Bible after Adam and Eve, we have another example of living in the country. By the time we get to Genesis 5, we have a man whom we read nothing of ill repute at all. “And Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him…By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God.” – Genesis 5:24; Hebrews 11:5
While we don't have any Biblical evidence of where Enoch lived, we do know that He pleased God so much that God took him to live with Him. By the time we get to Genesis 5 we read of the record of Enoch, and by this time there would have been enough people to populate a city. As we turn to the Spirit of Prophecy, the example of his living was so important, that is still current for us today. “As God's commandment-keeping people, we must leave the cities. As did Enoch, we must work in the cities but not dwell in them.” – Evangelism, p.77,78
So here we read that Enoch lived in the country, but came into the cities to do his outreach, then went home to his country dwelling. Here is some more on that. “The cities must be worked. The millions living in these congested centers are to hear the third angel's message. This work should have been developed rapidly during the past few years. A beginning has been made, for which we praise God. Outpost centers are being established, from whence, like Enoch of old, our workers can visit the cities and do faithful service.” – Review & Herald, July 5, 1906
Here is another faithful man that found favour with God. “And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God.” – James 2:23
If Abraham was a friend of God, one could well ask, what environment did he live in? “And there was a strife between the herdmen of Abram's cattle and the herdmen of Lot's cattle: and the Canaanite and the Perizzite dwelled then in the land. And Abram said unto Lot, Let there be no strife, I pray thee, between me and thee, and between my herdmen and thy herdmen; for we be brethren. Is not the whole land before thee? separate thyself, I pray thee, from me: if thou wilt take the left hand, then I will go to the right; or if thou depart to the right hand, then I will go to the left.
“And Lot lifted up his eyes, and beheld all the plain of Jordan, that it was well watered every where, before the LORD destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, even as the garden of the LORD, like the land of Egypt, as thou comest unto Zoar. Then Lot chose him all the plain of Jordan; and Lot journeyed east: and they separated themselves the one from the other.
“Abram dwelled in the land of Canaan, and Lot dwelled in the cities of the plain, and pitched his tent toward Sodom. But the men of Sodom were wicked and sinners before the LORD exceedingly.
“And the LORD said unto Abram, after that Lot was separated from him, Lift up now thine eyes, and look from the place where thou art northward, and southward, and eastward, and westward: For all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed for ever.” – Genesis 13:7-15
As the tensions grew between Abraham and Lot's families, it came time for them to move apart and have their own space. Abraham graciously offered Lot the choice of living on the urbanised and well watered plains with its glamorous cities, or take on the mountainous and rural countryside and lifestyle. Lot chose the best there was and capitalised on Abrahams kind offer to get the best for his family, but there was one problem – and it was a big one. In verse 13 we read, “But the men of Sodom were wicked and sinners before the LORD exceedingly.” Further in the Scriptures, the city life that Lot took on did not earn him the title, “friend of God.” He escaped from that wicked and morally filthy city with his two girls and they didn't prove to be very upright moral citizens either. (Genesis 19)
But Abraham dwelt in tents in the mountainous countryside, where the morals were upright and minds were able to dwell more on God and nature. “For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the LORD, to do justice and judgment; that the LORD may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him.” – Genesis 18:19
“After the separation from Lot, Abraham again received from the Lord a promise of the whole country. Soon after this he removed to Hebron, pitching his tent under the oaks of Mamre and erecting beside it an altar to the Lord. In the free air of those upland plains, with their olive groves and vineyards, their fields of waving grain, and the wide pasture grounds of the encircling hills, he dwelt, well content with his simple, patriarchal life, and leaving to Lot the perilous luxury of the vale of Sodom.” – Patriarchs and Prophets, p.133
John the Baptist
“In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea…And the same John had his raiment of camel's hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins; and his meat was locusts and wild honey.” – Matthew 3:1,4
“The character and experience of John the Baptist, the forerunner of Christ, should be an encouragement to parents in the training of their children. John did not make his home in the cities and villages. From childhood to youth, and from youth to manhood, he lived in the wilderness. But he did not live thus for any selfish purpose.” – Signs of the Times, Feb 18, 1897
John spent His life in the quiet of the country as well and yet He was a great man. “For I say unto you, Among those that are born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist: but he that is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.” —Luke 7:28
We have reviewed the lives of four men, well respected and spoken well of by God Himself – friends of God – dwelt in the quiet of the country, yet were all active in God's service. In all this, is there any counsel for us in our day? Well, yes there is. Reference is given in the quotes revealed above that in Enoch, Abraham and John's day, is an example for us as well. When we turn to the Spirit of Prophecy for our day, we find plenty to pull our families out of the cities into the quiet retired places. It is interesting to read the emphasis on families to get out – when the young minds are forming their characters for their futures, but when we read the Spirit of Prophecy counsel, it is not just words of advice to look at country settings, but there seems a definite urgency in the words.
Get Out of the Cities!
“Serious times are before us, and there is great need for families to get out of the cities into the country.” —Country Living, p.17
“The time has come, when, as God opens the way, families should move out of the cities. The children should be taken into the country.” —Country Living, p.24
So one wonders why such a urgency. Is there a reason to seriously get out of the city environments? Yes, there is a reason. One is God's people will have to face the venom of rigid Sunday laws, the other is problems with trade unions.
“The Protestant world have set up an idol sabbath in the place where God's Sabbath should be, and they are treading in the footsteps of the Papacy. For this reason I see the necessity of the people of God moving out of the cities into retired country [places,] where they may cultivate the land and raise their own produce. Thus they may bring their children up with simple, healthful habits.” —Country Living, p.21
“The trades unions and confederacies of the world are a snare. Keep out of them, and away from them, brethren. Have nothing to do with them. Because of these unions and confederacies, it will soon be very difficult for our institutions to carry on their work in the cities. . . . Educate our people to get out of the cities into the country, where they can obtain a small piece of land, and make a home for themselves and their children. . . .
“Erelong there will be such strife and confusion in the cities, that those who wish to leave them will not be able.” —Maranatha, p.180
“The time is fast coming when the controlling power of the labor unions will be very oppressive. Again and again the Lord has instructed that our people are to take their families away from the cities, into the country, where they can raise their own provisions; for in the future the problem of buying and selling will be a very serious one. We should now begin to heed the instruction given us over and over again: Get out of the cities into rural districts, where the houses are not crowded closely together, and where you will be free from the interference of enemies.” –2 Selected Messages, p.141
“The trades unions and confederacies of the world are a snare. Keep out of them, and away from them, brethren. Have nothing to do with them. Because of these unions and confederacies, it will soon be very difficult for our institutions to carry on their work in the cities. My warning is: Keep out of the cities. Build no sanitariums in the cities. Educate our people to get out of the cities into the country, where they can obtain a small piece of land, and make a home for themselves and their children.” —2 Selected Messages, p.142
“Our restaurants must be in the cities; for otherwise the workers in these restaurants could not reach the people and teach them the principles of right living. And for the present we shall have to occupy meetinghouses in the cities. But erelong there will be such strife and confusion in the cities, that those who wish to leave them will not be able. We must be preparing for these issues. This is the light that is given me.” —General Conference Bulletin, April 6, 1903.
Strife and Confusion
In this last quote, there is the statement that, “erelong there will be such strife and confusion in the cities, that those who wish to leave them will not be able.” Here in Christchurch, when the earthquakes struck in February 2011, we saw this prophecy fulfil in a few minutes. People could not literally leave the city as bridges stayed where they were and roads dropped about a metre. Traffic was stifled and could not move, plus financially people were stuck. Their homes were damaged beyond habitation and while they all of a sudden had to find rent to pay, they also had to maintain mortgage repayments on a home that was uninhabitable.
In all the quotes in this editorial, there is one thing in common with them all. Who gives the counsel to get out of the cities and live in the quiet country setting? God does! Who gives the counsel for our day to raise our own provisions to sustain ourselves and our families? God does! We need to, above everything else, listen to and do what God says. It is written for our admonition. He means it when He says it.
If you can look out of the window in your home and look into the window of another family's home, you are way too close. We need to get away from close proximity and have space around us. These words are very direct and forceful, “Serious times are before us, and there is great need for families to get out of the cities into the country.” —Country Living, p.17
Brethren and sisters, we are much closer to the serious times mentioned in this quote than when they were penned. There is an urgency to get out as efficiently, economically, and practically as you can. We have already seen the disadvantages of city living. It is where police concentration is, it is where domestic disturbances are more likely to erupt. Most sections now don't allow for gardens of any size for necessary provisions, and even waste removal can be more difficult in cities.
We have both preached and listened to many messages about the times ahead of us over the years and no doubt we have imagined many scenes of what the times of trouble will be, but with this last pandemic scare that every one of us have just experienced, it has brought it to more than an imagined scene, a foretaste of things to come.
When the disciples came to Jesus and asked of the end times, Jesus said “And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes in divers places.” — Matthew 24:6,7
We naturally respond that these are very present in our world today and that time has run out and the world is coming to its end, but the very next verse gives us a time frame, “All these are the beginning of sorrows.” - verse 8.
From verse 8, there are another 43 verses - all detailing the end. So from now until the end of the chapter, there is much ahead of us - and it will all be as real as this last experience. Stay close to Jesus Christ, He has it all in hand and will see His faithful children through all the trials of the whole of chapter of Matthew 24.