PART FIVE - WITH GOD: devotional series
By: Hillary Grantham
It’s fitting that we have been studying what God says about the tithe and becoming a generous people prior to studying ways to grow in intimacy with God. Strategic?
The law was given to God’s people to expose sin, give us a standard for righteous living, and ultimately provide a way for an unholy people to relate to a holy God. The law wasn’t a harsh line drawn between us and our God, rather the law was an expression of God’s love towards us, His people. The Law was given as an act to draw us in. The law had EVERYTHING to do with intimacy.
It’s easy to read the truth of God’s word and conclude that the converse about God and His nature must also be true. For example, if we consider the tithe and the blessing that comes with giving, it seems logical to conclude that if I struggle to give I will be cursed. Fire-breathing wizard. God is angry and I’m out. Or, if God is silent, then I must have done something wrong and God is not pleased. But what if intimacy with God has more to do with Him than it has to do with us? What if it is more about God’s goodness than it is about our good behavior?
It isn’t a stretch to arrive at the conclusion that my goodness directly parallels God’s closeness to me. After all, even when God gave the law to Moses on Mt. Sinai, the Israelites were not allowed to go up on the mountain or even touch it’s boundaries or they were to be stoned to death or shot with arrows. This doesn’t exactly sound like a well, thought-out introduction for a God that wants to dwell among His people. The Israelites told Moses to just tell them what God says and they would listen, but they didn’t want God to speak directly to them. He was too scary. Moses could have a relationship with God for them and they would remain at a safe distance. But that’s just it! God wanted to restore His relationship with man. And the law made a way that intimacy could be shared between man and the divine.
In order to build intimacy in any relationship, there must first be trust. Before we can move beyond the letter of the Law and experience the Spirit of the Law, we first have to trust that God is good and is capable of caring for all that concerns us. And life has a way of testing this relatively simple concept. Disappointments, tragedies, and failures all threaten to draw a line that separates and breeds distrust in God.
So back to Mt. Sinai, following a blood sacrifice, the covenant the Lord made with the Israelites was confirmed in giving them the Law. God firmly established His promise that the Israelites would be His people and He would be their God. Then Moses and the leaders of Israel went up the mountain and something surprising happened. They saw the God of Israel and he did not destroy them! “In fact, they shared a meal together in God’s presence (Exodus 24:9-11).” Incredible! They saw God’s feet standing on “what seemed to be a pavement of brilliant sapphire, as clear as the heavens” and yet they ate chicken and potatoes with Him (or something like that).
The marriage relationship is the most intimate relationship and the Bible speaks about our relationship with Christ being like this. A marriage relationship based on distrust would be quickly identified as a dehumanizing and possibly even abusive relationship. Yet we often approach our relationship with Jesus like someone in an abusive relationship. We tend to approach God out of fear and rely on others to hear from God for us.
Jesus called us his friends and desires that we respond to his love as a good friend or as a son to a father or as a bride to her groom. Sonship is not achieved through ability or knowledge or even right behavior. Son is a definition of relationship. A bride is a definition of relationship. Within the relationship between a son and father, a bride and a groom, we see how God wants to relate to us. Can you imagine loving your children only when they were obedient or withholding your love when they disappointed or angered you?
REFLECTION & APPLICATION
In considering our relationship with Christ and the depth of our relationship with Him, it might be helpful to ponder some questions that perhaps shed a light on any issues of distrust that might hinder us from responding to His great love for us.
Do I trust God with the details of my life, or if I’m honest, do I generally operate from a place of fear--a place that attempts to control and stresses about outcomes resulting in my favor?
Is my faith at risk when prayers aren’t answered with the results I anticipate?
Am I surprised by the idea that God wants to share a meal with me?
God, may we see you as a loving shepherd that desires to live among us and eat with us. Help us place our trust in you when circumstances threaten to undermine our belief that you are good. May we trust in your kindness and good plan to redeem all things. May your kindness lead us to repentance and may your love as a father transform us that we might be a reflection of you to the world.