A GOD OF INTIMATE LOVE
I grew up with a father who was busy and preoccupied, working his regular job, maintaining a busy side-profession as a musician, pursuing a graduate degree, and playing tennis avidly. He was a good person and competent in many skills, but had little time to play with me or listen to me. I grew up with the idea that fathers were good and competent but preoccupied with more important things than children. (It was a neighbor rather than my father who took the time to hit fly balls to us in the street.)
I carried that same perspective about God as my Father when I became a Christian. I believed my heavenly Father was good and competent, but I also believed God had more important things to care about than me. Without realizing what I was doing, I formulated in my mind and heart an image of God as distant and preoccupied. In fact, I looked around my office one day and noticed that the pictures I had of Jesus all reinforced the same perspective. I had a picture of Jesus looking down on us from heaven with a rather disinterested look on His face. I had a picture of Jesus hanging on the cross doing a wonderful thing in giving His life for us, but in the picture He was removed and distant from me. I had pictures in my office of my family and me together, but I had no picture of Jesus in any kind of close connection with others.
There was something in my vision of God that was warped! That ‘warp’ originated in the way I was raised; it did not originate in Scripture. Scripture, indeed, is very deliberate in presenting a view of God in intimate relationship with us.
One such view of God’s intimate relationship with us is presented in Revelation 7:15, where we are told, “He who sits on the throne will spread His tent over them.”
We appreciate the concept here that God will provide shelter to us, that God will protect us from the elements as a good “tent” will do.
Those who know the Old Testament well appreciate the connection to how the glory of God hovering above the Israelites was like a tent over them while they wandered through the desert for 40 years.
Those who know Jewish culture find even greater significance to the promise that God will spread His tent over us.
When a Jewish boy is circumcised on the eighth day of his life, all who have gathered for his circumcision celebration speak a blessing over him that asks for three things in his life: “Just as he has entered into the Covenant, so may he enter into Torah, into the chuppah, and into good deeds.”
The “chuppah” is a wedding canopy, or a “tent.” When a baby boy is welcomed into the Jewish covenant, all who celebrate his birth pray that he will embrace God’s Law, and do good deeds, and enter into the joy of marrying a woman he loves and who loves him. Revelation 7:15 offers this picture when speaking of our relationship with God! Revelation 7:15 describes God spreading His “chuppah” over us, and bringing us into a love that is even deeper and more joyous and lasting longer than the greatest marriage earth has ever known.
The God portrayed to us in Revelation 7:15 is not a distant or preoccupied God but a God of intimate love for us! No wonder Revelation 7:17 can go on to promise that the kind of relationship with God in which He spreads His tent over us “will lead them to springs of living water” where “God will wipe away every tear from their eyes”!