Intimacy with Israel
Abraham’s descendants end up in Egypt, and when enslaved, cry for help. God heard their groaning and he remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac and with Jacob. So God looked on the Israelites and was concerned about them. (Exodus 2:23-25) Moses has been prepared and God gets his attention. Moses initially recoils in fear in God’s presence. Then he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God (Exodus 3:6), but after experiencing God’s deliverance he sings, “He is my God, and I will praise him” (Exodus 15:1-18). They come out of Egypt to worship God at Sinai. With growing intimacy, (40 days and nights spent with God), Moses becomes a passionate worshipper who longs for more of I AM. The LORD would speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks with his friend. (Exodus 33:11); And the LORD said to Moses, “I will do the very thing you have asked, because I am pleased with you and I know you by name.” Then Moses said, “Now show me your glory.” (Exodus 33:17-18). Time in God’s presence showed on Moses’ radiant face. (Exodus 34:11).
We see the Spirit of God at work in individuals chosen to work with the Godhead, eg. Numbers 11:16-17. The whole plan and purpose of the Tabernacle speaks of God’s desire for sinful humans to be able to come to him. ‘You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites (Exodus 19:4-6). He was preparing a people through whom Messiah would come.
Israel’s idolatry, termed adultery, caused great pain and anguish to her husband, God, as numerous passages in the prophets detail. Intimacy was broken by their sin and he longed for their return to him. We see his longing and desire for his wayward people poignantly expressed in Hosea 11:1-4,8: “When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son. But the more I called Israel, the further they went from me. They sacrificed to the Baals and they burned incense to images. It was I who taught Ephraim to walk, taking them by the arms; but they did not realize it was I who healed them. I led them with cords of human kindness, with ties of love; I lifted the yoke from their neck and bent down to feed them. “How can I give you up, Ephraim? How can I hand you over, Israel? My heart is changed within me; all my compassion is aroused.” Hosea 14:4: “I will heal their waywardness and love them freely, for my anger has turned away from them.”
His faithfulness to the covenant, his love and compassion and willingness to forgive and restore is recorded for us through the Old Testament writings. Malachi (4:6) ends with a verse speaking of restored relationships between fathers and their children, a picture of his desire for himself and his children. “I the LORD do not change. So you, O descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed. Ever since the time of your forefathers you have turned away from my decrees and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you,” says the LORD Almighty. “They will be mine,” says the LORD Almighty, “in the day when I make up my treasured possession. I will spare them, just as in compassion a man spares his son who serves him. (Malachi 3:6-7, 17).
Intimacy Restored through Christ
With the coming of Jesus, the plan of salvation is fulfilled. He spent his time showing his disciples how to know the Father, revealing himself as “the life, the truth and the way” through whom they would be restored to life, know the truth and find the way back to the Father. His death and resurrection opened the way into the presence of God again, the completion of all the Old Testament pictures of sacrifice and covenant (Hebrews 12:22-29). At the moment of his death, the veil of the temple was torn from top to bottom, signifying that the way into the Most Holy Place was now open (Hebrew 10:19-22). The heart of stone is removed and a heart of flesh, and a new spirit given, and God puts his Spirit in all who repent and believe (Ezekiel 36:26-27, Acts 2:38).
We hear the heart of God as Jesus prays in John 17: 20-26 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world. Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.” This is the desire of the Godhead for we who believe.
I had known, in theory at least, that God loves us and desires us to love him. The first commandment makes that clear – Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength (Deuteronomy 6:5). But what I have seen in over sixteen years of prayer ministry, is that God is absolutely besotted with us and longs that we might know him, his passionate love, tender care and awesome presence. He longs for the return of the prodigal to his embrace. Jeremiah reminded the wayward children of Israel:
This is what the LORD says:
“Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,” declares the LORD. (9:23-24)
“I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness.” (31:3)
“Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.” (33:3)
And speaking to Jerusalem:
“Nevertheless, I will bring health and healing to it; I will heal my people and will let them enjoy abundant peace and security. I will bring Judah and Israel back from captivity and will rebuild them as they were before. I will cleanse them from all the sin they have committed against me and will forgive all their sins of rebellion against me. Then this city will bring me renown, joy, praise and honor before all nations on earth that hear of all the good things I do for it; and they will be in awe and will tremble at the abundant prosperity and peace I provide for it” (33:6-9).
Marriage as a Picture of Intimacy with God
In the centre of our Bibles is a book that many find difficult. The Song of Songs, with its picture of sexual love, offends some and they say that it shouldn’t be in the Bible, while others think it irrelevant and ignore it.
Hosea gives us the picture of God as Israel’s husband and the New Testament the picture of Christ as the bridegroom and the church as the bride of Christ. This should make us realise there is more to this book. It is the centre, which in Hebrew structure denotes its importance.
Can we hear God say to us
1:15 How beautiful you are, my darling! Oh, how beautiful! 2:14 show me your face, let me hear your voice; for your voice is sweet, and your face is lovely. 4:1a How beautiful you are, my darling! Oh, how beautiful! 4:7 All beautiful you are, my darling; there is no flaw in you. 4:10a How delightful is your love 6:9a my perfect one, is unique, 7:6a How beautiful you are and how pleasing, O love, 8:13c let me hear your voice! ?
Debbie Cossu has written, Longing For You, a 21st century Song of Solomon. A review says, “It speaks passionately and clearly to all who desire intimacy with Father God. The language of romance and a sense of God’s heart are embedded throughout the lines of this appealing book.” God Calling by Two Listeners, Amy Carmichael’s If: His Thoughts said… His Father said…, Come Away My Beloved by Frances Roberts, and more recently Colin Urquhart’s My Dear Son (Hodder Christian books) and My Dear Child – Listening to God’s Heart, and Sheri Rose Shepherd’s “His Princess” series, such as His Princess: Love Letters from Your King, encourage readers to hear God’s word to them. Modern day prophets and intercessors all speak of the present day longing for intimacy with God in the publication of books like Gary Wiens’ Bridal Intercession: Authority in Prayer Through Intimacy With Jesus and Come to Papa: Encountering the Father That Jesus Knew; God’s Ultimate Passion: Unveiling the Purpose Behind Everything by Frank Viola; Mike Bickle’s After God’s Own Heart; The Seven Longings of the Human Heart by Mike Bickle and Deborah Hiebert; The Rewards of Fasting: Experiencing the Power and Affections of God by Mike Bickle and Dana Candler; and John Bevere’s Drawing Near: A Life of Intimacy with God.
The Church of England’s Solemnization of Marriage service includes these words:
Marriage is a gift of God in creation through which husband and wife may know the grace of God. It is given that as man and woman grow together in love and trust, they shall be united with one another in heart, body and mind, as Christ is united with his bride, the Church.
Before this service was updated the man would say these words when he put the ring on his beloved’s finger:
With this ring I thee wed, with my body I thee worship, …
Worship as a Way to Reach Intimacy
For many of us, worship is a wonderful expression of our relationship with God. With an anointed worship leader we are led into the presence of God and feel intimately connected with him.
The word “worship” comes from the Old English, “weorthscipe”, meaning the act of giving honour to someone of worth. Three words are used in the Bible:
“proskyneo”, which literally means “to kiss the hand of one.” The word emphasizes exclusive worship addressed to the Lord. It means to share in public worship, to offer prayers of adoration (see Revelation 4:11; 5:9; 7:12; 19:1,3,4).
“sebomai” and its various cognates is used most frequently. The word has “fear” as its root meaning and involves reverence that stresses the feeling of awe. The term is used frequently to express a sense of worship (see Acts 18:7,13; 1 Timothy 2:10; 5:4; 2 Peter 1:3; 3:11)
A third term, “latreuo”, is a general term for worship denoting prayer (see Acts 13:2-3); giving (see Romans 15:27, 2 Corinthians 9:12); or the ministry of the gospel (see Romans 15:16). The word liturgy is derived from this word. Basically, litreuo describes the total manner of life pleasing to God (Romans 12:1).
On his website, The Soul of Worship, Mark D Roberts writes (in Worship as responding to God):
“Whatever else we might believe about Christian worship, it is essentially and necessarily a response to God. It is our reaction to a God who has initiated relationship with us, reaching out to us in love and grace through Jesus Christ.
“But if true worship is really a response to God’s initiative, then the worship leader should focus less on getting people to do something or feel something and more on pointing them to God’s revelation of himself in Christ and in Scripture.”
As Jesus told the woman at the well, “Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshippers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshippers must worship in spirit and in truth” (John 4:23-24).