Day 230

Intimate Relationships

Wisdom Psalm 99:1-9
New Testament 1 Corinthians 12:1-26
Old Testament Song of Songs 1:1-4:16

Introduction

In his book All I Want is You, Bishop Sandy Millar writes, ‘When I first visited the Vineyard Church in California I discovered that one of their principal values was “intimacy with God”. So when I came back I started to talk about that as being one of our values too.’

He continues, ‘One of the very nice members of our congregation at that time took me to one side and said, “Please don’t use the word ‘intimacy’ because we don’t use that word in that context.” So I started talking about “the closest possible relationship with God” which is quite a mouthful. But after a bit I stopped because what I really meant was “intimacy” and I think that’s what the Bible means for our relationship with God too.’

There is a hunger deep in our souls for an intimate relationship with God and with other human beings.

Wisdom

Psalm 99:1-9

Psalm 99

1 The Lord reigns,
  let the nations tremble;
he sits enthroned between the cherubim,
  let the earth shake.
2 Great is the Lord in Zion;
  he is exalted over all the nations.
3 Let them praise your great and awesome name —
  he is holy.

4 The King is mighty, he loves justice —
  you have established equity;
in Jacob you have done
  what is just and right.
5 Exalt the Lord our God
and worship at his footstool;
he is holy.

6 Moses and Aaron were among his priests,
  Samuel was among those who called on his name;
they called on the Lord
  and he answered them.
7 He spoke to them from the pillar of cloud;
  they kept his statutes and the decrees he gave them.

8 Lord our God,
  you answered them;
you were to Israel a forgiving God,
  though you punished their misdeeds.
9 Exalt the Lord our God
and worship at his holy mountain,
for the Lord our God is holy.

Commentary

Intimacy with God

You and I are created for an intimate relationship with God. It is personal: ‘The Lord our God’ (v.9). Yet intimacy with God is not to be taken for granted. God is mighty, holy and just.

‘The Lord reigns… he sits enthroned between the cherubim’ (v.1). The cherubim are the symbol of God’s holiness (see Genesis 3:24, Ezekiel 1:4ff,10:1ff). God’s throne is pictured, ‘between the two cherubim’ (Numbers 7:89). This is the place from which God speaks.

This psalm highlights the holiness of God. The word ‘holy’ (Psalm 99:3) emphasises the distance between God and human beings. God is not only mighty and holy; he is also just: ‘He loves justice’ (v.4). The appropriate response is to ‘worship at his footstool’ (v.5).

Somehow, this gulf between God and us has been bridged. We know now that this is through Jesus and what he did for us by the cross and resurrection, and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. This psalm anticipates the intimacy with this God of power, holiness and justice made possible through Christ.

God ‘spoke to them’ (v.7). He spoke to Moses, Aaron and Samuel (v.6). He spoke to individuals. He speaks to us individually. ‘They prayed to God and he answered them’ (v.6, MSG).

Not only is he a God of justice, he is a God of mercy and forgiveness – ‘a forgiving God’ (v.8). He is ‘our God’ (vv.8–9). His majesty is undiminished, but the last word is now given to intimacy.

Prayer

Lord, it is amazing that you are all-powerful, holy and just, yet you call me into an intimate, personal relationship with you. Thank you that you are my God.

New Testament

1 Corinthians 12:1-26

Concerning Spiritual Gifts

12Now about the gifts of the Spirit, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed. 2 You know that when you were pagans, somehow or other you were influenced and led astray to mute idols. 3 Therefore I want you to know that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus be cursed,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.

4 There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. 5 There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. 6 There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.

7 Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. 8 To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 10 to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.

Unity and Diversity in the Body

12 Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free —and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. 14 Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.

15 Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 19 If they were all one part, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body.

21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” 22 On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, 24 while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, 25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.

Commentary

Intimacy with one another

There is so much loneliness in our society. The elderly are often marginalised, isolated and alone. Also, many, especially young people today, have nowhere to process their pain. They turn to alcohol, drugs, promiscuity or some other way in an attempt to deal with their pain.

You are not intended to live alone. God created you for community – a community as close and as interdependent as the various parts of the human body. Paul develops the analogy of the church being like the body of Christ. The Holy Spirit has given different gifts to every member of the church (vv.1–11).

‘The body is a unit’ but ‘it is made up of many parts’ (v.12). People come into the church from all different backgrounds, nationalities and positions in society – ‘Jews or Greeks, slave or free’ (v.13b). Yet regardless of where we have come from, ‘Each of us is now a part of his resurrection body, refreshed and sustained at one fountain – his Spirit – where we all come to drink’ (v.13, MSG).

We now belong to one another. Our relationships are as intimate as the different parts of a body. We are utterly dependent on each other (vv.12–13).

The more different we are, the more we need each other. The eye needs a hand more than it needs lots of other eyes (vv.16–17). Variety is essential (v.17b). This is true not just of the local church but of the global church. We should not look at the different parts of the body of Christ and say, ‘They are different, there must be something wrong with them.’ Rather, we should say, ‘They are different, we really need them.’

‘The old labels we once used to identify ourselves... are no longer useful. We need something larger, more comprehensive’ (v.13, MSG). It is time to drop the labels – describing ourselves or others as a particular type of Christian.

God has designed the body so that there will be this mutual dependence: ‘I also want you to think about how this keeps your significance from getting blown up into self-importance. For no matter how significant you are, it is only because of what you are a part of’ (vv.19–20, MSG).

We particularly need the parts that ‘seem to be weaker’ (v.22). Our internal organs ‘seem to be weaker’ in the sense of being more vulnerable. That is why they need protection. However, they are ‘indispensable’ (v.22). Likewise, those parts of the body that are ‘unpresentable’ are treated with ‘special modesty’ (v.23). No one would suggest that these parts are not important. Indeed, they are vital.

Because we need each other so much there should be ‘equal concern for each other’ (v.25). There should be such intimacy and love that ‘if one part suffers, every part suffers with it’ (v.26a). This is the community we need where people can process their pain. It is also a place where people can share their joys: ‘If one part is honoured, every part rejoices with it’ (v.26b). As St Augustine said, ‘Take away envy and what I have is yours too. And if I banish envy all you possess is mine!’

Prayer

Lord, help us to demonstrate such a unity, love and intimacy with our brothers and sisters that makes Christ beautiful to the world.

Old Testament

Song of Songs 1:1-4:16

1Solomon’s Song of Songs.

She

2 Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth—
  for your love is more delightful than wine.
3 Pleasing is the fragrance of your perfumes;
  your name is like perfume poured out.
  No wonder the young women love you!
4 Take me away with you—let us hurry!
  Let the king bring me into his chambers.

Friends

We rejoice and delight in you;
  we will praise your love more than wine.

She

How right they are to adore you!

5 Dark am I, yet lovely,
  daughters of Jerusalem,
dark like the tents of Kedar,
  like the tent curtains of Solomon.
6 Do not stare at me because I am dark,
  because I am darkened by the sun.
My mother’s sons were angry with me
  and made me take care of the vineyards;
  my own vineyard I had to neglect.
7 Tell me, you whom I love,
  where you graze your flock
  and where you rest your sheep at midday.
Why should I be like a veiled woman
  beside the flocks of your friends?

Friends

8 If you do not know, most beautiful of women,
  follow the tracks of the sheep
and graze your young goats
  by the tents of the shepherds.

He

9 I liken you, my darling, to a mare
  among Pharaoh’s chariot horses.
10 Your cheeks are beautiful with earrings,
  your neck with strings of jewels.
11 We will make you earrings of gold,
  studded with silver.

She

12 While the king was at his table,
  my perfume spread its fragrance.
13 My beloved is to me a sachet of myrrh
  resting between my breasts.
14 My beloved is to me a cluster of henna blossoms
  from the vineyards of En Gedi.

He

15 How beautiful you are, my darling!
  Oh, how beautiful!
  Your eyes are doves.

She

16 How handsome you are, my beloved!
  Oh, how charming!
  And our bed is verdant.

He

17 The beams of our house are cedars;
  our rafters are firs.

She

2I am a rose of Sharon,
  a lily of the valleys.

He

2 Like a lily among thorns
  is my darling among the young women.

She

3 Like an apple tree among the trees of the forest
  is my beloved among the young men.
I delight to sit in his shade,
  and his fruit is sweet to my taste.
4 Let him lead me to the banquet hall,
  and let his banner over me be love.
5 Strengthen me with raisins,
  refresh me with apples,
  for I am faint with love.
6 His left arm is under my head,
  and his right arm embraces me.
7 Daughters of Jerusalem, I charge you
  by the gazelles and by the does of the field:
Do not arouse or awaken love
  until it so desires.

8 Listen! My beloved!
  Look! Here he comes,
leaping across the mountains,
  bounding over the hills.
9 My beloved is like a gazelle or a young stag.
  Look! There he stands behind our wall,
gazing through the windows,
  peering through the lattice.
10 My beloved spoke and said to me,
  “Arise, my darling,
  my beautiful one, come with me.
11 See! The winter is past;
  the rains are over and gone.
12 Flowers appear on the earth;
  the season of singing has come,
the cooing of doves
  is heard in our land.
13 The fig tree forms its early fruit;
  the blossoming vines spread their fragrance.
Arise, come, my darling;
  my beautiful one, come with me.”

He

14 My dove in the clefts of the rock,
  in the hiding places on the mountainside,
show me your face,
  let me hear your voice;
for your voice is sweet,
  and your face is lovely.
15 Catch for us the foxes,
  the little foxes
that ruin the vineyards,
  our vineyards that are in bloom.

She

16 My beloved is mine and I am his;
  he browses among the lilies.
17 Until the day breaks
  and the shadows flee,
turn, my beloved,
  and be like a gazelle
or like a young stag
  on the rugged hills.

3All night long on my bed
  I looked for the one my heart loves;
  I looked for him but did not find him.
2 I will get up now and go about the city,
  through its streets and squares;
I will search for the one my heart loves.
  So I looked for him but did not find him.
3 The watchmen found me
  as they made their rounds in the city.
  “Have you seen the one my heart loves?”
4 Scarcely had I passed them
  when I found the one my heart loves.
I held him and would not let him go
  till I had brought him to my mother’s house,
  to the room of the one who conceived me.
5 Daughters of Jerusalem, I charge you
  by the gazelles and by the does of the field:
Do not arouse or awaken love
  until it so desires.

6 Who is this coming up from the wilderness
  like a column of smoke,
perfumed with myrrh and incense
  made from all the spices of the merchant?
7 Look! It is Solomon’s carriage,
  escorted by sixty warriors,
  the noblest of Israel,
8 all of them wearing the sword,
  all experienced in battle,
each with his sword at his side,
  prepared for the terrors of the night.
9 King Solomon made for himself the carriage;
  he made it of wood from Lebanon.
10 Its posts he made of silver,
  its base of gold.
Its seat was upholstered with purple,
  its interior inlaid with love.
Daughters of Jerusalem, 11 come out,
  and look, you daughters of Zion.
Look on King Solomon wearing a crown,
  the crown with which his mother crowned him
on the day of his wedding,
  the day his heart rejoiced.

He

4How beautiful you are, my darling!
  Oh, how beautiful!
  Your eyes behind your veil are doves.
Your hair is like a flock of goats
  descending from the hills of Gilead.
2 Your teeth are like a flock of sheep just shorn,
  coming up from the washing.
Each has its twin;
  not one of them is alone.
3 Your lips are like a scarlet ribbon;
  your mouth is lovely.
Your temples behind your veil
  are like the halves of a pomegranate.
4 Your neck is like the tower of David,
  built with courses of stone;
on it hang a thousand shields,
  all of them shields of warriors.
5 Your breasts are like two fawns,
  like twin fawns of a gazelle
  that browse among the lilies.
6 Until the day breaks
  and the shadows flee,
I will go to the mountain of myrrh
  and to the hill of incense.
7 You are altogether beautiful, my darling;
  there is no flaw in you.

8 Come with me from Lebanon, my bride,
  come with me from Lebanon.
Descend from the crest of Amana,
  from the top of Senir, the summit of Hermon,
from the lions’ dens
  and the mountain haunts of leopards.
9 You have stolen my heart, my sister, my bride;
  you have stolen my heart
with one glance of your eyes,
  with one jewel of your necklace.
10 How delightful is your love , my sister, my bride!
  How much more pleasing is your love than wine,
and the fragrance of your perfume
  more than any spice!
11 Your lips drop sweetness as the honeycomb, my bride;
  milk and honey are under your tongue.
The fragrance of your garments
  is like the fragrance of Lebanon.
12 You are a garden locked up, my sister, my bride;
  you are a spring enclosed, a sealed fountain.
13 Your plants are an orchard of pomegranates
  with choice fruits,
  with henna and nard,
14 nard and saffron,
  calamus and cinnamon,
  with every kind of incense tree,
  with myrrh and aloes
  and all the finest spices.
15 You are a garden fountain,
  a well of flowing water
  streaming down from Lebanon.

She

16 Awake, north wind,
  and come, south wind!
Blow on my garden,
  that its fragrance may spread everywhere.
Let my beloved come into his garden
  and taste its choice fruits.

Commentary

Intimacy in marriage

This book can be read on many different levels. It describes the joy and mutuality, beauty and power, agony and ecstasy of human sexual love. It speaks of marriage as it ought to be – the beautiful intimacy of marital love between man and woman.

Yet marriage is, in a sense, a metaphor to describe something even more beautiful – the relationship of God to his people. Supremely, it is used to describe the relationship between Christ and his church (Ephesians 5:21–33). It is a picture of God’s deep and passionate love for you and your intimate relationship with Jesus, whose ‘banner over [you] is love’ (Song of Songs 2:4). For this reason, throughout church history, people have used this book as a metaphor to express the intimacy between God and the church.

However, it is interesting that the Bible has a whole book celebrating erotic love in marriage. It shows what a high view the Bible has of sexual intimacy in marriage. It speaks of delight and contentment – a love that is wholehearted and passionate – holding nothing back.

It is clear that this kind of sexual intimacy is for marriage alone. This is the love between a bride and a bridegroom. The lover refers to his love as ‘my bride’ (4:8–12ff). In a world of loveless sex, it proclaims that sex should never be separated from love and lifelong commitment.

There is a warning against opening this gift before marriage: ‘Do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires’ (2:7; 3:5). Or as The Message puts it, ‘Don’t excite love, don’t stir it up, until the time is ripe – and you’re ready’ (2:7, MSG). You risk spoiling this beautiful gift if you open it too early.

There is also a warning about ‘the little foxes’ that spoil the vine (v.15). Our relationships are often destroyed not so much by big issues but by little ones – seemingly insignificant choices and compromises.

As Joyce Meyer writes, ‘Watch the “little foxes” in your life; forgive even the most minor offence so that your heart stays clean, do not cut corners in your finances or on the job when you think no one will notice, do not expose yourself to ungodly influences, thinking, It won’t hurt me if I do it just this once. Little things add up to big things, and before you know it, little foxes can ruin a strong, healthy vine.’

This intimate love relationship described is both exclusive and inclusive. They have eyes only for each other: ‘My lover is mine and I am his’ (v.16). Yet this relationship is also, as in all the best marriages, a blessing to others. The friends say, ‘We rejoice and delight in you. We will praise your love more than wine’ (1:4).

Prayer

Lord, thank you that the beautiful intimacy of marriage is ultimately a picture of the intimate love between Christ and the church. Help us to grow in this intimacy and love with you and with one another.

Pippa adds

1 Corinthians 12:26

‘If one part suffers, every part suffers with it…’

When I broke my metatarsal (which is a small bone in my right foot), it definitely affected my whole body. I could hardly walk at all for six weeks. I can understand now how something so small can affect the whole body. And in the same way, if anyone in the church is suffering we are all suffering along with them.

Verse of the Day

Psalm 99:6, MSG

‘They prayed to God and he answered them’.
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References

The One Year® is a registered trademark of Tyndale House Publishers. Used by permission.

Joyce Meyer, The Everyday Life Bible (Faithwords, 2018), p.1036.

Sandy Millar, All I Want is You (Alpha International, 2005).

Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.

Scripture marked (MSG) taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.

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