Day 78

How to Develop Intimacy with God

Wisdom Psalm 35:11-18
New Testament Luke 2:41-52
Old Testament Numbers 7:66-9:14

Introduction

The life and ministry of the American pastor, John Wimber, has had a great influence on my own life, our church and many other churches around the world.

He said, ‘The ability to hear what God is saying, to see what God is doing, and to move in the realm of the miraculous comes as an individual develops the same intimacy with and dependence upon the Father [as Jesus had].’ How did Jesus do what he did? The answer is found in his relationship with the Father. How will we do the ‘greater things than these’ which Jesus promised (John 14:12)? By discovering the same relationship of intimacy, simplicity and obedience.

God loves you with an intimacy that surpasses all your dreams. He wants you to have a close, personal relationship with him of intimacy, simplicity and obedience. This is an extraordinary honour and privilege. Moses, David and, of course, Jesus had an intimate relationship with God. But how do you develop intimacy with God?

Wisdom

Psalm 35:11-18

11 Ruthless witnesses come forward;
  they question me on things I know nothing about.
12 They repay me evil for good
  and leave me like one bereaved.
13 Yet when they were ill, I put on sackcloth
  and humbled myself with fasting.
When my prayers returned to me unanswered,
  14 I went about mourning
  as though for my friend or brother.
I bowed my head in grief
  as though weeping for my mother.
15 But when I stumbled, they gathered in glee;
  assailants gathered against me without my knowledge.
  They slandered me without ceasing.
16 Like the ungodly they maliciously mocked;
  they gnashed their teeth at me.

17 How long, Lord, will you look on?
  Rescue me from their ravages,
  my precious life from these lions.
18 I will give you thanks in the great assembly;
  among the throngs I will praise you.

Commentary

Openness, vulnerability and honesty

There were times when David was down; his soul felt empty (v.12, MSG). He was honest and open enough to talk about the challenges:

1. Opposition

David faced great opposition from those who repaid evil for good and attacked him. You also may face great opposition from those who repay evil for good and attack you (vv.12,15b). They may slander (v.15c), or maliciously mock (v.16a). Opposition does not only come through the world – it can even come from God’s people (v.16).

2. ‘Unanswered’ prayer

There may be times when your prayers do not seem to be heard: ‘My prayers returned to me unanswered’ (v.13). He says to God, ‘How long are you going to stand there doing nothing?’ (v.17, MSG).

3. Failure

We all stumble (v.15a). We can feel we are walking with the Lord quite happily and then suddenly we stumble. There may be times when we fail to meet our own standards, let alone God’s.

Like David, speak to God about all these challenges. Do not pretend that all is well. Speak from the depth of your heart. He will not be surprised or shocked by anything you say. It is this openness, vulnerability and honesty that draws you into an intimate relationship with God.

Prayer

Lord, thank you that you listen to the cries of my heart. Thank you that you rescue me and enable me to say, ‘I will give you thanks in the great assembly; among the throngs I will praise you’ (v.18).

New Testament

Luke 2:41-52

The Boy Jesus at the Temple

41 Every year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the Festival of the Passover. 42 When he was twelve years old, they went up to the festival, according to the custom. 43 After the festival was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it. 44 Thinking he was in their company, they traveled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends. 45 When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him. 46 After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. 47 Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers. 48 When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.”

49 “Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” 50 But they did not understand what he was saying to them.

51 Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart. 52 And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.

Commentary

Grow in wisdom

Even as a child Jesus had astonishing wisdom: ‘And all who heard him were astonished and overwhelmed with bewildered wonder at his intelligence and understanding and his replies’ (v.47, AMP).

As someone has said, ‘Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad!’ Knowledge is horizontal. Wisdom is vertical. It comes down from above. It is far more important to grow in wisdom than to grow in wealth. Wisdom outweighs wealth. Intimacy with the Father leads to growth in wisdom.

After Jesus’ parents find him in the temple courts he says to them, ‘Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?’ (v.49b). Or as The Message translation puts it, ‘Dealing with the things of my Father’ (v.49b, MSG).

On the one hand, Jesus’ relationship with his ‘Father’ was unique. On the other hand, he also enables you to call God ‘Father’. He prayed to God as ‘Abba’ (the Aramaic word used by children on intimate terms with their father), and he taught his disciples to do the same (11:2). St Paul, writing about the Holy Spirit, says, ‘For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father”’ (Romans 8:15).

We can learn four things about the wisdom that comes from intimacy with the Father by examining Jesus’ example in these verses.

1. Wisdom comes from listening

Wisdom is willingness to listen to and learn from others. Jesus was ‘sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions’ (Luke 2:46).

Sir Isaac Newton said, ‘I find intelligence is better spotted when analysing the questions asked rather than the answers given.’

Often, those who know most speak least. When we are talking, we are usually merely repeating what we already know. When we are listening, we may learn something new.

Asking good questions is the key to being a good conversationalist. It was said of President J.F. Kennedy that he made you think he had nothing else to do except ask you questions and listen, with extraordinary concentration, to your answer. You knew that, for the time being, he had blotted out both the past and the future for you.

2. Wisdom leads to simplicity

Wisdom brings clarity. Jesus knew where he should be and what he should do. He declared, ‘Didn't you know I had to be in my Father’s house?’ (v.49). Knowledge leads us from the simple to the complex; wisdom leads us from the complex to the simple.

3. Wisdom is holistic

Wisdom is shown not only in what we say, but also in how we live: ‘Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them’ (v.51). Wisdom is about the whole of life, rather than just our intellect or our words.

4. Wisdom should grow

Through his intimate relationship with God, ‘Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and people’ (v.52) – a very similar description to that used of Samuel (1 Samuel 2:26).

Wisdom should grow as we get older. Not that Jesus’ wisdom was flawed or imperfect, but it grew as he matured, as it should with us.

This is a prayer we often pray for our children – that they would grow in wisdom and stature and in favour with God and people.

Above all, Jesus’ wisdom came from his intimate relationship with God. God was his Father. He knew he had to be in his Father’s house, and his intimacy with his Father was the foundation of his wisdom.

Prayer

Father, thank you that you have given me the Spirit of adoption by which I can cry, ‘Abba, Father’. Thank you that you call me into the same relationship of intimacy that Jesus had with you. Help me to grow in this relationship of intimacy, simplicity and obedience. Through your Spirit may I grow in wisdom and stature, in favour with God and people.

Old Testament

Numbers 7:66-9:14

66 On the tenth day Ahiezer son of Ammishaddai, the leader of the people of Dan, brought his offering.

67 His offering was one silver plate weighing a hundred and thirty shekels and one silver sprinkling bowl weighing seventy shekels, both according to the sanctuary shekel, each filled with the finest flour mixed with olive oil as a grain offering; 68 one gold dish weighing ten shekels, filled with incense; 69 one young bull, one ram and one male lamb a year old for a burnt offering; 70 one male goat for a sin offering; 71 and two oxen, five rams, five male goats and five male lambs a year old to be sacrificed as a fellowship offering. This was the offering of Ahiezer son of Ammishaddai.

72 On the eleventh day Pagiel son of Okran, the leader of the people of Asher, brought his offering.

73 His offering was one silver plate weighing a hundred and thirty shekels and one silver sprinkling bowl weighing seventy shekels, both according to the sanctuary shekel, each filled with the finest flour mixed with olive oil as a grain offering; 74 one gold dish weighing ten shekels, filled with incense; 75 one young bull, one ram and one male lamb a year old for a burnt offering; 76 one male goat for a sin offering; 77 and two oxen, five rams, five male goats and five male lambs a year old to be sacrificed as a fellowship offering. This was the offering of Pagiel son of Okran.

78 On the twelfth day Ahira son of Enan, the leader of the people of Naphtali, brought his offering.

79 His offering was one silver plate weighing a hundred and thirty shekels and one silver sprinkling bowl weighing seventy shekels, both according to the sanctuary shekel, each filled with the finest flour mixed with olive oil as a grain offering; 80 one gold dish weighing ten shekels, filled with incense; 81 one young bull, one ram and one male lamb a year old for a burnt offering; 82 one male goat for a sin offering; 83 and two oxen, five rams, five male goats and five male lambs a year old to be sacrificed as a fellowship offering. This was the offering of Ahira son of Enan.

84 These were the offerings of the Israelite leaders for the dedication of the altar when it was anointed: twelve silver plates, twelve silver sprinkling bowls and twelve gold dishes. 85 Each silver plate weighed a hundred and thirty shekels, and each sprinkling bowl seventy shekels. Altogether, the silver dishes weighed two thousand four hundred shekels, according to the sanctuary shekel. 86 The twelve gold dishes filled with incense weighed ten shekels each, according to the sanctuary shekel. Altogether, the gold dishes weighed a hundred and twenty shekels. 87 The total number of animals for the burnt offering came to twelve young bulls, twelve rams and twelve male lambs a year old, together with their grain offering. Twelve male goats were used for the sin offering. 88 The total number of animals for the sacrifice of the fellowship offering came to twenty-four oxen, sixty rams, sixty male goats and sixty male lambs a year old. These were the offerings for the dedication of the altar after it was anointed.

89 When Moses entered the tent of meeting to speak with the Lord, he heard the voice speaking to him from between the two cherubim above the atonement cover on the ark of the covenant law. In this way the Lord spoke to him.

Setting Up the Lamps

8The Lord said to Moses, 2 “Speak to Aaron and say to him, ‘When you set up the lamps, see that all seven light up the area in front of the lampstand. ’”

3 Aaron did so; he set up the lamps so that they faced forward on the lampstand, just as the Lord commanded Moses. 4 This is how the lampstand was made: It was made of hammered gold —from its base to its blossoms. The lampstand was made exactly like the pattern the Lord had shown Moses.

The Setting Apart of the Levites

5 The Lord said to Moses: 6 “Take the Levites from among all the Israelites and make them ceremonially clean. 7 To purify them, do this: Sprinkle the water of cleansing on them; then have them shave their whole bodies and wash their clothes. And so they will purify themselves. 8 Have them take a young bull with its grain offering of the finest flour mixed with olive oil; then you are to take a second young bull for a sin offering. 9 Bring the Levites to the front of the tent of meeting and assemble the whole Israelite community. 10 You are to bring the Levites before the Lord, and the Israelites are to lay their hands on them. 11 Aaron is to present the Levites before the Lord as a wave offering from the Israelites, so that they may be ready to do the work of the Lord.

12 “Then the Levites are to lay their hands on the heads of the bulls, using one for a sin offering to the Lord and the other for a burnt offering, to make atonement for the Levites. 13 Have the Levites stand in front of Aaron and his sons and then present them as a wave offering to the Lord. 14 In this way you are to set the Levites apart from the other Israelites, and the Levites will be mine.

15 “After you have purified the Levites and presented them as a wave offering, they are to come to do their work at the tent of meeting. 16 They are the Israelites who are to be given wholly to me. I have taken them as my own in place of the firstborn, the first male offspring from every Israelite woman. 17 Every firstborn male in Israel, whether human or animal, is mine. When I struck down all the firstborn in Egypt, I set them apart for myself. 18 And I have taken the Levites in place of all the firstborn sons in Israel. 19 From among all the Israelites, I have given the Levites as gifts to Aaron and his sons to do the work at the tent of meeting on behalf of the Israelites and to make atonement for them so that no plague will strike the Israelites when they go near the sanctuary.”

20 Moses, Aaron and the whole Israelite community did with the Levites just as the Lord commanded Moses. 21 The Levites purified themselves and washed their clothes. Then Aaron presented them as a wave offering before the Lord and made atonement for them to purify them. 22 After that, the Levites came to do their work at the tent of meeting under the supervision of Aaron and his sons. They did with the Levites just as the Lord commanded Moses.

23 The Lord said to Moses, 24 “This applies to the Levites: Men twenty-five years old or more shall come to take part in the work at the tent of meeting, 25 but at the age of fifty, they must retire from their regular service and work no longer. 26 They may assist their brothers in performing their duties at the tent of meeting, but they themselves must not do the work. This, then, is how you are to assign the responsibilities of the Levites.”

The Passover

9The Lord spoke to Moses in the Desert of Sinai in the first month of the second year after they came out of Egypt. He said, 2 “Have the Israelites celebrate the Passover at the appointed time. 3 Celebrate it at the appointed time, at twilight on the fourteenth day of this month, in accordance with all its rules and regulations. ”

4 So Moses told the Israelites to celebrate the Passover, 5 and they did so in the Desert of Sinai at twilight on the fourteenth day of the first month. The Israelites did everything just as the Lord commanded Moses.

6 But some of them could not celebrate the Passover on that day because they were ceremonially unclean on account of a dead body. So they came to Moses and Aaron that same day 7 and said to Moses, “We have become unclean because of a dead body, but why should we be kept from presenting the Lord’s offering with the other Israelites at the appointed time? ”

8 Moses answered them, “Wait until I find out what the Lord commands concerning you.”

9 Then the Lord said to Moses, 10 “Tell the Israelites: ‘When any of you or your descendants are unclean because of a dead body or are away on a journey, they are still to celebrate the Lord’s Passover, 11 but they are to do it on the fourteenth day of the second month at twilight. They are to eat the lamb, together with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. 12 They must not leave any of it till morning or break any of its bones. When they celebrate the Passover, they must follow all the regulations. 13 But if anyone who is ceremonially clean and not on a journey fails to celebrate the Passover, they must be cut off from their people for not presenting the Lord’s offering at the appointed time. They will bear the consequences of their sin.

14 “‘A foreigner residing among you is also to celebrate the Lord’s Passover in accordance with its rules and regulations. You must have the same regulations for both the foreigner and the native-born.’”

Commentary

Stand still and listen

You cannot develop an intimate relationship with God without setting aside time to communicate with him. ‘When Moses entered the Tent of Meeting to speak with the Lord, he heard the voice speaking to him… and he spoke with him. The Lord said to Moses…’ (7:89 – 8:1).

God spoke to Moses (8:1; 9:1). Moses spoke with God (7:89). It was a two-way conversation. God spoke to Moses face-to-face, as a person speaks with a friend (12:8) – talking and listening at the same time, watching for each other’s reaction.

In the age of the Holy Spirit you are in an even better position than Moses. You no longer have to go to a particular place, like Moses did, but can be with God wherever you are. By the Spirit of adoption you are brought into an intimate and eternal conversation with God the Father (Romans 8:15–17,26–27).

This was the pattern: ‘The Lord spoke to Moses… So Moses told the Israelites… The Israelites did everything just as the Lord commanded Moses’ (Numbers 9:1–5). The Israelites’ whole way of life was built upon obedience to what God had said to Moses in the place of intimacy. Your intimacy with God needs to overflow into the way in which you live your life. Put into practice the things that God shows you in the place of intimacy.

There are times when it is not always clear how God is guiding us. Again, Moses’ example is a good one. When the people asked Moses a difficult question to which he did not know the answer, he replied, ‘Wait until I find out what the Lord commands concerning you’ (v.8). If you don’t know the right answer it is wise to ask people to ‘wait’. This gives you time to pray and to find out from God the right way forward.

Eugene Peterson translates, ‘Give me some time; I’ll find out what God says in your circumstances’ (v.8, MSG). The Amplified Bible says, ‘Stand still and I will hear what the Lord will command concerning you.’ In the busyness of life stand still and listen to what God wants you to do.

Prayer

Lord, thank you that I can meet with you each day, speak with you and listen to you. Help me to hear what you are saying to me and to live today in this relationship of intimacy, simplicity and obedience.

Pippa adds

Luke 2:43

I have always wondered how Mary and Joseph managed to travel for a whole day before they noticed their son wasn’t with them. Although I do have to confess that once we went out to supper with friends only to arrive at our destination to discover that we didn’t have one of our children. I felt rather embarrassed explaining this to our hosts and also a little anxious as to whether our child was safe and not too traumatised. I wonder if Mary and Joseph had the same discussion on the way back as we did as to whose fault it was. In both cases, thankfully, the children were safe. Jesus was in the temple talking with the religious leaders and our child was watching the TV!

Verse of the Day

Psalm 35:17–18

‘O Lord… I will give you thanks…’
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References

John Wimber, Healing Clinic Notes, (Pasadena CA. Fuller Seminary. 1988), 9.05.

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 quotations marked (AMP) taken from the Amplified® Bible, Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. (www.Lockman.org)

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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