The Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden, and there He put the man whom He had formed. . . . Then the Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it” (Genesis 2:8,15, NKJV).
Weighty topics such as creation by design, the Creator God, the seventh-day Sabbath, the origin of sin, or the plan of salvation are usually our focus when discussing the first two chapters of Genesis. These beliefs are fundamental to Seventh-day Adventists. But in those same chapters, could God also be introducing another vital pillar of faith that should be unique to us as a people?
The entire newly-created earth was Eden. In the center of this paradise, God “planted a garden” for Adam and Eve’s first home. Even though the climate was temperate, with no rain or storms as we know them (Genesis 2:2, NKJV), He could have created a lovely walled home which would have allowed them to observe the full panoply of creation. It could have had plenty of windows and skylights and been single story—not ostentatious, but a humble Christian home. Calling such a dwelling into existence would have been as easy for Him as speaking trees, birds, animals, and waterfalls into reality. It could forever serve as a pattern of God’s ideal.
Instead, our first parents’ home “was to be a pattern for other homes as their children should go forth to occupy the earth. That home, beautified by the hand of God Himself, was not a gorgeous palace. . . . 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. In the surroundings of the holy pair was a lesson for all time—that true happiness is found . . . in communion with God through His created works” (Patriarchs and Prophets, 49).
The pattern home God created for Adam and Eve maximized their moment-by-moment connection with Him. As they worked the soil and cared for plants and animals, their knowledge of the Creator and life’s natural laws grew. As they walked in the cool of the evening with angels or with the Creator/Son of God, their minds were in tune with heavenly thoughts because of their daily, constant communion with the divine. Our first parents were also the first students.
But sin broke man’s unveiled connection with his Creator. The earth was no longer Eden. Only God’s first pattern home, now seen behind cherubim-guarded gates, testified of a perfect creation. Outside the garden, sin took its toll. Weather temperatures varied, animals and humans presented dangers, nighttime sleep became necessary, and a desire for privacy necessitated human shelters constructed with protective walls and doors.
It was symbolic. Where before the first couple, clad in divine light, had been “visited by angels, and were granted communion with their Maker, with no obscuring veil between”(Patriarchs and Prophets, 50), they were now separated by walls and homemade clothing.
What became of God’s “pattern” home? Was it forever lost within an unattainable Eden? Or, as the precious foundations of our faith as outlined in Genesis continue in their power and validity, is not His home pattern also in effect and attainable?
“The system of education instituted at the beginning of the world was to be a model for man throughout all time. As an illustration of its principles, a model school was established in Eden, the home of our first parents. The Garden of Eden was the schoolroom, nature was the lesson book, the Creator Himself was the instructor” (Education, 20).
One doesn’t have to look far in Genesis to see that not only did the pattern not change, but it became vital to the preservation of man’s worship of the true God. The faithful (typified by Seth) remained in rural settings in the hills. Cain and his descendants established cities where intense lawlessness and evil flourished.
“For some time the two classes remained separate. . . . So long as this separation continued, [Seth’s descendants] maintained the worship of God in its purity. But in the lapse of time they ventured, little by little, to mingle with the inhabitants of the valleys. This association was productive of the worst results” (Patriarchs and Prophets, 81). Sodom was born.
Prior to the flood, “[Enoch] did not locate in Sodom, thinking to save Sodom. He placed himself and his family where the atmosphere would be as pure as possible”(Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, E. G. White Comments, vol. 1, p. 1087). Enoch followed God’s pattern; he pleaded with the inhabitants of Sodom while living outside of its destructive influences.
“The cities are to be worked from outposts. Said the messenger of God, ‘Shall not the cities be warned? Yes, not by God’s people living in them, but by their visiting them, to warn them of what is coming upon the earth’” (Evangelism, 77).
By the time Noah completed the ark, only eight of the earth’s inhabitants had hearts sensitive enough to hear God’s call and recognize their need of salvation. The others had beheld only evil and become changed into its likeness. After the flood, scripture tells us that “Abram dwelt in the land of Canaan, and Lot dwelt in the cities of the plain and pitched his tent even as far as Sodom” (Genesis 13:12). Sodom was reborn, with tragic results.
The Bible and after history are filled with examples of obeying God’s pattern versus following a more convenient or comfortable path. But truth was kept alive by a faithful few, such as the Waldensians, who ran to the vastness of the mountains rather than relinquish their faith.
“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” (Country Living, 9,10).
We know that the Bible is clear on a future time of trouble (Daniel 12:1). But the Lord’s instructions are in the imperative present tense: “again and again” He has instructed that we “are” to take our families into the country, in preparation for “the future.”
If we agree that God’s primary purpose for the human race is our salvation, surely buying or selling can’t be the only reason He “again and again” instructs His people to move their families to the country. Could the choice of country versus urban/suburban living relate directly to our families’ spiritual and physical eternal life?
“There is not one family in a hundred who will be improved physically, mentally, or spiritually by residing in the city. Faith, hope, love, happiness, can far better be gained in retired places, where there are fields and hills and trees. Take your children away from the sights and sounds of the city . . . and their minds will become more healthy. It will be found easier to bring home to their hearts the truth of the word of God” (The Adventist Home, 137).
ASI was born in 1947, partly to assist the General Conference in its effort to draw Seventh-day Adventist attention back to the importance of country living. In his “Association of Self-Supporting Institutions” report dated June 6, 1954,2 GC Secretary Wesley Amundsen included a section entitled “Counsel to Leave Cities.”
In his message, Elder Amundsen urged ASI members to join with the General Conference in urging our church members and our institutions to consider following the counsel of Ellen White to move to a country location. The booklet, From City to Country Living, by Elder Arthur White and Dr. E. A. Sutherland (currently available at Adventist Book Centers), documents the General Conference actions in regard to rural living. ASI and the Commission on Rural Living was jointly led by Dr. E. A. Sutherland; hence, ASI and the General Conference Office of Rural Living have common roots.
“Parents can secure small homes in the country, with land for cultivation, where they can have orchards and where they can raise vegetables and small fruits to take the place of flesh meat, which is so corrupting to the life blood coursing through the veins. On such places the children will not be surrounded with the corrupting influences of city life. God will help His people to find such homes outside the cities” (Medical Ministry, 310).
But how can this be done? Our heavenly Father reminds us: “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with my eye” (Psalm 32:8, NKJV). “I have spoken it; I will also bring it to pass. I have purposed it; I will also do it” (Isaiah 47:11, NKJV).
ASI renews its appeal to Seventh-day Adventist members to give serious, prayerful study to the implementation of God’s country living pattern.