Woe unto them that join house to house, that lay field to field, till there be no place, that they may be placed alone in the midst of the earth!
It is often hard to reconcile contemporary life in today’s cities and towns with what was likely the norm during the time when the above scripture was written. Even then there seemed to be a love hate relationship with progress and solitude. Convenience builds closely in order to maximize efficiency. As population centers grow and more space is needed urban sprawl is the easy answer. Ever pushing the margins of the frontier away from the middle in circles wider and wider urban sprawl satisfies the desire for convenience at the expense of moments alone with God and the beauty of His creation.
So it was in 1982 just outside of Casper Wyoming that I first noted the King James Version of Isaiah 5:8 with a sense of total agreement. Two is company and three is a crowd. Having been born and raised in a bedroom county of Atlanta I had experienced urban sprawl most of my life. Farms and fields sold for developments were a sign of progress and a fact of life in the West Georgia area. Now in Wyoming during the late seventies and early eighties I experienced an openness I had never known. I liked it. A ten minute drive took you out of town and it stayed that way for miles. I saw the vastness of a winters night sky on the high plains and felt a solitude I had never felt before. Oneness with creation. The maddening crowds were hundreds of miles away and I didn’t miss them.
Unfortunately the boom and bust economy of Wyoming went bust in the early eighties. My job went with it. I didn’t miss the maddening crowds back east but I needed work and Georgia red clay was still between my toes! I never made much of cowboy anyway, always got tangled up in the rope.
During the nineties one or more of metro Atlanta’s counties were often listed among the top ten fastest growing counties in the US. Progress, more of God’s children needing more goods and services and requiring more space in West Georgia! Can I find solitude today? Of course! Though it is difficult to reconcile with my first interpretation of Isaiah 5:8, when the Creator is the one worshiped one can always be awed by His presence even in a crowd. When the created world and it’s beauty is worshiped the crowd is often resented and blamed for spoiling the divine. Certainly it appears to be a matter of misplaced allegiances. Hug a tree or hug your brother? It was at the writing of this that I realized the woes of Isaiah 5:8 were not the inability to find solitude in a crowded world but the choice of man to live alone in midst of this beautiful world. When I returned to Georgia in 1983 I joined my brother in a landscaping business. One of the first and hardest lessons I had to learn was that the most important part of the landscape are the people in it. The New Living Translation of Isaiah 5:8 says, What sorrow for you who buy up house after house and field after field until everyone is evicted and you live alone in the land. We are told in scripture that the entire creation groans and travails under the penalty of sin. Can we worship nature and be redeemed by one under the same penalty as ourselves?
This autumn I will be so refreshed by the great outdoors and the beauty of nature but I’ll only be renewed by the washing and regeneration of the One who created it all, Jesus Christ!