James Taylor wrote a song many years ago which begins:
There’s something in the way she moves,
Looks my way or calls my name,
That seems to leave this troubled world behind.
And if I’m feeling down and blue, or troubled by some foolish game,
She always seems to make me change my mind.
I feel fine any time she’s around me now,
She’s around me now almost all the time.
And if I’m well you can tell she’s been with me now,
She’s been with me now, quite a long, long time, and I feel fine.
Now, I’m not suggesting that we begin to get our theology from recording artists, but it strikes me that he had found an experience of intimacy with another human being that throws some light on the kind of intimacy that our creator created us for.
In Matthew 25 Jesus tells the story of the 10 Bridesmaids – five wise and five foolish. When the ones without the oil eventually turned up at the feast and ask to be let in, the Bridegroom gives a chilling response: “Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.” (verse 12). The word that is translated “know” literally means “to look eye-to-eye”. Now, we only really gaze eye-to-eye with someone we are intimate with – so this response from the bridegroom implies that the oil they were missing was the oil of intimacy. They couldn't get it from someone else, they had to get their own - hence the scramble to go and buy some when the Bridegroom arrives!
In the next verse he says, “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.” Jesus is serious about our need to pursue a relationship of intimacy with the Father through him. The parable implies that we have to buy the oil for ourselves; we cannot acquire it from anyone else.
At the beginning of the Song of Solomon the young woman says:
“While the king was at his table, my perfume spread its fragrance.” (Song of Solomon 1:12)
This is a striking picture of how our worship – spending time in his presence, seeking his face – truly gives off a pleasing aroma to the Lord. The Bible is full of exhortations to true intimacy with God – it’s also gratifying that in recent years we have rediscovered and found access to this kind of intimacy in our worship.
The other day I was listening to “The Pledge” by Misty Edwards – one part really touched my heart powerfully:
This is my prayer it’s my solemn vow
With all that I am with all that I have
I will love you, I will love you
With all of my heart my soul and my mind
I pour out an offering of worship and cry
I will love you, I will love you.
True intimacy with God is not simply a feeling on a par with a romantic relationship. It goes much deeper than emotion, down to our very souls and reflected by our actions. Jesus is the model of intimacy with God because he and the Father are one (John 10:30) and no relationship can be closer than that oneness with the Father that Jesus experienced. His relationship with the Father was characterised by love and obedience. In love, Jesus came to earth to do his Father’s will. He did nothing on his own, but in everything did the will of his Father (John 5:30). This was most evident in the Garden of Gethsemane the night before his crucifixion. Suffering the agony of anticipating what was to come, Jesus asked that the fate He was about to suffer might be removed from Him, but He ended the plea by saying,
“Yet not My will, but Yours be done” (Luke 22:42).
Here we see a perfect example of true intimacy reflected in obedience as Jesus yielded his will to that of his Father.
If we hope to attain true intimacy with God, Jesus must be our model. We love God because he first loved us (1 John 4:10), and we prove our love for him by obeying him. Jesus told his followers “If you love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15). By obeying him and keeping what He has commanded, he promised that we will remain in his love, just as he remains in the love of the Father by doing the Father’s will (John 15:10). There can only be intimacy with God when we are in good fellowship with him through walking in obedience. Then we can know the joy and peace that comes from trusting him and yielding to his will, just as Jesus did.
Intimacy with God begins when we radically pursue him with our whole heart. David wrote,
“When You said, ‘Seek My face,’ my heart said to you, ‘Your face, O Lord, I shall seek’” (Psalm 27:8).
God invites us in James 4:8 to
“Draw near to God and he will draw near to you.”
We are instructed in Psalm 46:10, “Be still, and know that I am God.” The word “be still” literally means to cease from striving. It means to let go and relax, to turn down the volume of the world and listen to the quiet whisper of God. It’s getting still and coming into a place of rest. It means soaking in God’s presence. The result is – you will know he is God. The word translated “know” in this context is literally an experiential knowledge of God. It’s not being still and knowing about God. It’s being still and experiencing his manifest presence. You will experience God. You will know the presence of God.
As we focus our heart, spirit, soul, mind, and body (the whole person) on his manifest presence, we become oblivious to the natural/physical world around us. The key is where your focus is – on the things of God or on things of this world. The last word is left to the Psalmist who exhorts us:
“How lovely is your dwelling place, Lord Almighty! My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.” (Psalm 84:1-2)