In the middle of last week’s hectic Sunday morning, I sat down to read an article by Omar Miller, director of the mission-oriented Hillcrest Home in Arkansas. “Is serving the Lord the most important thing in life?” he wrote. “I submit that even more important than serving the Lord is to know and to love Him−to have a genuine relationship with Him. God longs for that even more than we do, and more than our service!”
The words hit me unexpectedly and made me want to cry.
Actually, I did cry. In the kitchen, after everyone else had left for church. Mom rushed back into the house–she had forgotten something and saw me hurrying to get ready, tears slipping silently down my cheeks.
“What’s wrong, Luci?”
You mean besides the fact that I was tired, and I am always overly emotional when I am tired?
“I don’t understand why God loves me so much,” I said.
Overly emotional or not, I could never have put it more aptly than that.
I still don’t understand it.
The Creator of the universe.
Why would He want to have a friendship with me? And yet, if one believes the Bible–and I do–this desire of God for intimate friendship with man is written deep into its storyline. The Bible describes God’s relationship with man in terms sometimes so intimate as to be shocking. Here are a few of the ways He is described:
Friend: As in pal, neighbor, associate, someone who finds you pleasant to be with. There are friends, which are nice, and there are true friends, which are better. Jesus said, “No one has greater love than this, that someone would lay down his life for his friends. You are My friends if you do what I command you.” (John 15:13-14 HCSB)
Father: Of all the descriptions of God, I believe the description of God as a father is my favorite. It is so natural, so full of trust.
“As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear Him. For He knows what we are made of, remembering that we are dust.” (Psalm 103: 13-14 HCSB)
The New Testament takes this description of God as father from a comparison to an actual adoption:
“In the same way we also, when we were children, were in slavery under the elemental forces of the world. When the time came to completion, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba, Father! So you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.” (Galatians 4:4-6 HCSB)
Servant: It is only natural that men should serve their Master, right? Jesus said as much when he told his disciples, “In the same way, when you have done all that you were commanded, you should say, ‘We are good-for-nothing slaves; we’ve only done our duty.’” (Luke 17:10 HCSB)
What becomes surprising is when we consider that this King also serves his subjects. Jesus told his disciples that for those slaves found faithfully awaiting their master’s return: “I assure you: He will get ready, have them recline at the table, then come and serve them.” (Luke 12:37 HCSB)
Husband to a Harlot: In what has to be the the amazing object lesson of all time, God told the prophet Hosea, “Go and marry a promiscuous wife and have children of promiscuity, for the land is committing blatant acts of promiscuity by abandoning the LORD.” When Hosea’s wife lived up to her sordid reputation, God told him to “Go again; show love to a woman who is loved by another man and is an adulteress, just as the LORD loves the Israelites though they turn to other gods and love raisin cakes.” (Hosea 1:2 and 3:1 HCSB)
Many times in the Old Testament prophets, this allegory of Israel the adulterous wife is used. Ezekiel the priest was instructed by God to tell the story like this:
“This is what the Lord GOD says to Jerusalem…’As for your birth, your umbilical cord wasn’t cut on the day you were born, and you weren’t washed clean with water. You were not rubbed with salt or wrapped in cloths. No one cared enough about you to do even one of these things out of compassion for you. But you were thrown out into the open field because you were despised on the day you were born.
“‘I passed by you and saw you lying in your blood, and I said to you as you lay in your blood: Live! Yes, I said to you as you lay in your blood: Live! I made you thrive like plants of the field. You grew up and matured and became very beautiful. Your breasts were formed and your hair grew, but you were stark naked.
“‘Then I passed by you and saw you, and you were indeed at the age for love. So I spread the edge of My garment over you and covered your nakedness. I pledged Myself to you, entered into a covenant with you, and you became Mine.'”
God went on to say that he had clothed this young woman in gorgeous finery, and she became known among the nations for her beauty. She grew proud and promiscuous. “But you were confident in your beauty and acted like a prostitute because of your fame. You lavished your sexual favors on everyone who passed by… In all your detestable practices and acts of prostitution, you did not remember the days of your youth when you were stark naked and lying in your blood.”
God promised to judge this promiscuous woman and to expose her to her many lovers in all her nakedness. In spite of God’s judgment on his adulterous wife, divorce is never mentioned. He says, “But I will remember the covenant I made with you in the days of your youth, and I will establish an everlasting covenant with you.” (Ezekiel 16 HCSB)
Bridegroom: In the New Testament, the relationship between Christ and his people is compared to the mysterious bond between a man and a woman. “In the same way, husbands are to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hates his own flesh but provides and cares for it, just as Christ does for the church, since we are members of His body. For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. This mystery is profound, but I am talking about Christ and the church.” (Ephesians 5:28-32 HCSB)
This relationship, though not yet completely fulfilled, is an unbreakable betrothal. At some future time, Christ’s followers will be united to him in the deepest and most pleasure-filled of possible unions. This is how the marriage was described to the Apostle John in a vision, “Then I heard something like the voice of a vast multitude, like the sound of cascading waters, and like the rumbling of loud thunder, saying: ‘Hallelujah, because our Lord God, the Almighty, has begun to reign! Let us be glad, rejoice, and give Him glory, because the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has prepared herself. She was given fine linen to wear, bright and pure. For the fine linen represents the righteous acts of the saints.”(Revelation 19:6-8 HCSB)
While I can understand that a Creator would hold some sense of responsibility towards his created, I do not know why a holy God, complete in himself, would seek for intimate union–friend, parent, lover–with me. Who am I to garner such affection?
I do not understand it. I only know that it is.
For this I am grateful.