Marriage metaphors are frequent in Biblical descriptions of God’s relationship with His people. He was Israel’s husband. When they worshipped idol gods, the prophets called their sin, adultery. The Church is called the “bride of Christ.” I read those words with both a sense of belonging and a wry smile. Bev and I will be married 41 years in a month and the strength of our relationship has been tested again and again in those years. There have been seasons of intense romance and times of alienation. We delight and frustrate each other in equal measure. And, with each year, we realize that in spite of all the time we have spent together, there are still things we discover. Even yesterday, in the haze of her confusion when it appears her life here on earth is coming to an end, she asked me what I was thinking, wanting to know me!
God can be a frustrating husband! Some days He delights, throwing up a sunset that shouts His glory or drawing me near during a time of worship that is more intimate than words can describe. He provides me great joy and then there are days when I cannot find Him, when my prayers seem to go unanswered, when my tears find no solace. I would think my relationship with Him flawed were it not for the Psalms where I find complaints similar to mine. Psalm 74 opens with this cry – “O God, why have you rejected us so long? Why is your anger so intense against the sheep of your own pasture? … Why do you hold back your strong right hand? ” (Psalm 74:1,11, NLT) What are You doing, Husband?
Genesis tells us about Jacob, the lying, cheating man who fled from his brother after defrauding him of his birthright. Years later, as a man with a changed heart, he wanted to go home. On the way, with his family and wealth, he had an experience that I can identify with, can you? He went off from the camp alone and in the middle of night a man showed up that challenged him. “So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.” But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” The man asked him, “What is your name?” “Jacob,” he answered. Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with men and have overcome.” (Genesis 32:24-28, NIV) Apparently this ‘man’ was a messenger of God, some say even a theophany, a pre-incarnate appearance of the second Person of the Trinity. Jacob knew he was struggling with someone greater than a mere man and asked for a blessing. That blessing was a new name. Jacob become Israel, the word meaning – God wins! But the line that captures my attention is this – “you have struggled with God and with men and have overcome.”
To know Him in the deepest way, to discover the greatest intimacy with our Husband, we will have to press in, go through conflict; yes, wrestle with God! So many married couples never really become ‘one’ other than sexually because they will not risk conflict, will not make their expectations known, will not press to know the inner-most thoughts of their spouse. Some choose to live only as friends, politely tiptoeing around the issues have the potential to pull them apart. Those couples try to continue to live in the artificial environment of dating. Real marriage has to progress past the dinners for two. It becomes two lives blending to one, sharing children, dealing with all of life’s challenges – together!
Christians, too, sometimes choose to live with a superficial spirituality. They want to know the Lord only in the romance, the candlelit dinners of worship, dating Him. He wants to know us, to reveal ourselves to us and Himself to us, in every part of life. This means we will, like Jacob, find ourselves wrestling with God from time to time! Oh that we would not give up, that He would say of us – that we have overcome.
Are you struggling with God today?
Are His ways beyond your understanding, His love apparently withheld?
Press in. Hold on. Wrestle!
This is the word from the Word that declares His faithful Husband love, selfless and sacrificial, to us. “So just as the church submits to Christ as he exercises such leadership, wives should likewise submit to their husbands. Husbands, go all out in your love for your wives, exactly as Christ did for the church—a love marked by giving, not getting. Christ’s love makes the church whole. His words evoke her beauty. Everything he does and says is designed to bring the best out of her, dressing her in dazzling white silk, radiant with holiness…. No one abuses his own body, does he? No, he feeds and pampers it. That’s how Christ treats us, the church, since we are part of his body. And this is why a man leaves father and mother and cherishes his wife. No longer two, they become “one flesh.” This is a huge mystery, and I don’t pretend to understand it all. What is clearest to me is the way Christ treats the church.” (Ephesians 5:24-27,29-32, The Message)
How He Loves
He is jealous for me, loves like a hurricane,
I am a tree, bending beneath
The weight of His wind and mercy.
When all of a sudden, I am unaware of
These afflictions eclipsed by glory;
I realize just how beautiful You are
And how great Your affections are for me.
Oh, how He loves us so,
Oh how He loves us,
How He loves us so.
We are His portion and He is our prize,
Drawn to redemption by the grace in His eyes.
If grace is an ocean we’re all sinking.
So Heaven meets earth
Like an unforeseen kiss
And my heart turns violently inside of my chest.
I don’t have time to maintain these regrets,
When I think about the way that-
He loves us,
Oh, how He loves us.
John Mark McMillan
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