The new buzzwords and phrases are everywhere – flatten the curve, self-quarantine, and my favorite – social distancing. Social distancing is defined as deliberately increasing the physical space between people to avoid spreading illness.(1) In many articles the recommendation is to stay at least 6 feet away from someone, others stories recommend that, if you can, stay at home and not worry about interaction as all.(2) Heck, introverts everywhere have been social distancing for years, they just didn’t know the cool new word!
My favorite article lists the 25 things we need to try and remember to do to keep from getting sick and potentially dying. Really? I have already dropped the 2 or 3 new habits I tired to adopt for the New Year and Lent and now I am supposed to add 25 other things? The last sentence of the piece does state, “Do what you can and develop habits you can stick to, but don’t panic if you can’t do everything.”(2) Hello paradox – “do these 25 things or you might die, but if you can’t, don’t worry or you might die”. Maybe I should just get back into the Word.
As I thought about this distancing thing, I was reminded about the various important Bible figures, including Jesus, who purposefully distanced themselves. From my reading and studying, the reason for this isolation was because of one of two things – they were either running from danger or getting closer to the Lord. In most cases the danger was not a “vile sentient killer bat pig virus”, but instead foes like Esau, Saul, Absalom, Ahab and Jezabel. ‘
I can’t remember anything specific with Adam, Noah, Abraham and Isaac, but Jacob ran away from Esau and Laban. He also spent an evening probably praying, but definitely wrestling with a “man” (Jesus!) in Genesis 32. Much later, Moses advocated for self-quarantining during Passover to escape from the wrath of the Lord. He also spent a bunch of time alone with the Lord starting in Exodus 19 during the 10 Commandment story and then through several more books while writing about what the Lord said concerning the Law.
After the great examples of Jacob and Moses, I found various times when it was mentioned that Elijah, Elisha, David and Isaiah isolated themselves, either to protect them selves from something, or to be closer to the Lord. As always, Elijah was a groundbreaker in that he did both – prayed for direction from the Lord and hid from Ahab and Jezabel (COVID 800 B.C.).
42 So Ahab went to eat and drink. But Elijah climbed to the top of Mount Carmel and bowed low to the ground and prayed with his face between his knees. – 1 Kings 18:42
3 Elijah was afraid and fled for his life. He went to Beersheba, a town in Judah, and he left his servant there. 4 Then he went on alone into the wilderness, traveling all day. He sat down under a solitary broom tree and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life, for I am no better than my ancestors who have already died.” – 1 Kings 19:3-4
I love this passage in Daniel that occurs right before King Darius is tricked into throwing him into the lion’s den. Faithful Daniel is, as you probably know by now, one of my favorites.
10 But when Daniel learned that the law had been signed, he went home and knelt down as usual in his upstairs room, with its windows open toward Jerusalem. He prayed three times a day, just as he had always done, giving thanks to his God.
– Daniel 6:10
And then we get to Jesus. The New Testament is filled with stories where Jesus would heal or teach, and then He would get away from the crowds and even the disciples and exist with the Lord for awhile.
35 Before daybreak the next morning, Jesus got up and went out to an isolated place to pray. – Mark 1:35
37 Every day Jesus went to the Temple to teach, and each evening he returned to spend the night on the Mount of Olives. – Luke 21:37
22 Immediately after this, Jesus insisted that his disciples get back into the boat and cross to the other side of the lake, while he sent the people home. 23 After sending them home, he went up into the hills by himself to pray. Night fell while he was there alone. – Matthew 14:22-23
Jesus’ and Daniel’s examples are perfect for us to emulate today. We have been forced to run away from something that could harm us, but we have also been given the opportunity to spend at least a little more time than we did before with the Lord. Let’s take the opportunity. I guarantee that if we do, we won’t find ourselves so stressed out with the 25 new things we need to learn. And if we do, maybe it will be something that you find has stuck with you by the time things get back to normal.