Oh, To Be Greatly Beloved

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“At the beginning of your supplications a word went forth, and I am come to declare it; for you are greatly beloved; therefore look into the word, and understand the vision.” (Daniel 9:23)

 
Can you imagine God sending Gabriel, an angel who stands before Him waiting for His command, coming to you and telling you that God has heard your prayers and made a declaration according to them and, to top it all off, that you are greatly beloved? Now I’m going to leave arguments over the prophesy to others today. But I want to examine Daniel’s heart. I want to see what it is that causes God to delight in someone like that.

 

Why? Because I want to be that kind of a person. I want God to experience shear delight in me. Isn’t that what we were created for? Isn’t that part and parcel with glorifying God?
The Westminster Shorter Catechism starts off by asking this question, “What is the chief end of man?” And then it answers, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever.” Where did they get this from? Well, you can read Psalm 86, Isaiah 60:21, Romans 11:36, and 1 Corinthians 6:20 and 10:31 to see. But don’t forget to look at the clincher in Revelation 4:11, “You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power: for You have created all things, and for your pleasure they are and were created.” Am I bringing God pleasure with my life? Am I fulfilling my God-given purpose on this earth? Or have I given myself some other foreign purpose? And if I have adopted some foreign purpose for my life, is that really even living at all?

 
I can’t help but think how fully alive Daniel was. He’s lived through at least two kingdoms being overthrown, probably the death of his parents or at least total separation from them and another nation trying to wipe away his identity. But how does he respond? He holds on to his identity, but not with bitterness, and clings to You God and Your ways in a nation where it was anything but easy. But it’s as though he were living for You and living to please You in all he was. He wouldn’t eat what would be unpleasing to You. He wasn’t rude to those around him or why would they find favor in him? Was that a typical Jewish response to Gentiles and overthrowers? That was a God response in a young man or boy who cherished You.

 
He didn’t stop there. As a man, he not only wanted to save his life and that of his Jewish brothers, but cared for the lives of the other “wise” men and trusted You for the interpretation of the king’s dream. But he was not self-confident. He asked his brothers to pray and fast and did likewise because His confidence was in You, the One he delighted in. Even fear of the king’s anger at the outcome of a dream did not hold him back from sharing Your truth.

 
How boldly he stood before Belshazzar when summoned, probably in his 70’s and yet he had not forgotten all that You had done before. He held Belshazzar accountable before You and the people for not remembering and being moved to action by what he knew about You. He was so delighted in You that he cared nothing for the rewards offered by the king.

 
On the other hand, You were so delighted in Daniel that when the kingdom was overthrown, You gave those rewards and more to Daniel anyway. Because of You and his love and honor of You in everything, Daniel’s character stood out in every reign and he was continually chosen as a leader and advisor even to the kings. Which brings me back to this saying, “It is the glory of God to conceal a thing: but the honor of kings is to search out a matter.” (Proverbs 25:2)

 
I can’t help bringing up this verse again and again. What does it mean, especially in context today? I mean, God, You are continually concealing things and giving us, like Daniel and the kings, things we need to search out but that You know the answer to. And maybe that’s the point. It is the glory of God to conceal a thing. You carry the weight of knowing everything and when is the right time to reveal it and who are the right people to reveal it to lest it be like pearls trampled by the swine. But is it really only for kings to search it out? Or do we receive the honor of a king, are we acting like a king ought to act, when we, whoever we are, like Daniel search out every matter according to You and in You? Daniel was not a king and yet he received the glory of a king by kings and from You. Why?

 
Could it be because Daniel delighted in the King of kings? It’s so hard for us to grasp this since we live in a democracy because Your kingdom God is not a democracy. You are King. If Your thumb is up we live, if down, we die. What You say goes, despite what we say. Skip Moen shares, “It is the King’s right and prerogative to involve himself in any aspect of any life under His authority. Furthermore, since God is the King of all the earth, everything belongs to Him. He doesn’t have to prove ownership in a court of law. He cannot be stripped of His property. What He decides to do with His possessions (including you and me) is entirely up to Him. And He holds everyone under His domain accountable for their treatment and stewardship of His resources. There are consequences for refusing to live according to the will of the King. In the days when we are awash in political rhetoric and the promises of leadership, it is well to remember who the King really is. No matter who we choose to lead us, they must answer to Him. So must we for our choosing. If we choose leadership that does not honor Him, we will pay the price. There is only one King, and He is not on the ballot.” And Daniel shows us how to live according to the True King who is not on the world’s ballot.

 
Kings would be wise to search out matters God’s way who conceals and reveals. But it’s not just for kings. We can reap the honor of kings, and especially our King, to live as the kings aren’t living, to love the One the kings aren’t loving, to honor the One the kings ought to honor. Earthly kings and kingdoms are temporary. Come on, look at history. But the True King and His Kingdom are forever. Like Daniel, I better learn how to live under and for Him now. Like Daniel, I want to love and enjoy service under my King all the days of my life.

 
Daniel’s heart was so sensitive to You Lord. He not only thought of himself but of those around him. He lifted up the whole nation and advocated for them, identifying in their sin against You. He set his face unto You. You alone were His source of help and sustenance and answer to the things he didn’t understand. He was serious about hearing from You, so serious he fasted and prayed. He knew You and knew Your word. He sought You out everywhere, looking for Your evidences all around him. There was confusion and shame where You were not, but righteousness with You, and that, or rather You were what he sought. From You and in You were the mercy and forgiveness he sought. He understood that they belonged to You and weren’t just things You gave out. To find them, one must be in relationship with the One who emits mercy and forgiveness because they are part of His essence.

 

Daniel had been doing the job the kings should have done, seeking answers from God. But they weren’t. But since he was, God delighted in his delighting and gave him the answer of kings from Himself, the King of all.  And You send Gabriel to bring the answer to this man who has been spending his life delighting in You, to this man who You hold as beloved. You send this angel named Gabriel from Your presence into his, to share a prophecy. Now, whether that was concerning “Messiah the Prince,” search it out like a true king, I won’t tell you. But the next two times that Gabriel shows up, he’s telling Zacharias that his son will be a forerunner before the Lord, and he tells Mary that her son will be called “the Son of the Most High.”

 
There are a lot of things in our lives that aren’t clear to us, a lot that is concealed before us. If I want to know the truth about it, I need to seek it out from one Source, God alone. I need to stop living like the world and start living like You and loving like You and delighting in You above everything else around me. I need to be willing to sacrifice my comfort in this world, to be comforted by and in You. If You aren’t my most beloved then how can I expect to be Your beloved? We reap what we sow, right? How much of myself am I truly sowing in You? When I think of all that You have sown into people who continually fail You and disregard You, I am amazed and shocked. Because I have been one of those. And yet You love me, and gave Your Christ to return me into Your glory that I might love and serve You again and be loved by You. I guess we’ve always been loved. But it’s maybe greater to be beloved because it’s a reciprocal relationship experienced and treasured by both parties. That’s the kind of relationship Daniel had. And that’s the kind of relationship I want, no matter the cost.

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Loving the Gomer

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“It will come about in that day,” declares the Lord, “That you will call Me Ishi and will no longer call Me Baali.” Hosea 2:16

 
I so wish that I had a strong knowledge of Hebrew and Greek. Why? Because there is so much I don’t want to be taking for granted and just passing over in Your word, Lord. I mean, if I read Hosea’s words and just read them as words and names and go on, I’ll miss so much. But if I take the time to search out what the words and names really mean and the magnitude of what You are saying through them, then these words impact my life so greatly. It’s not just a story. It’s not just Hosea and Gomer’s story. It’s not just Israel and Judah’s story. This is a living and continuing story. This is my story. And what I get from it can effect the outcome of my story and the next person’s story. And it’s not just any kind of story either. It’s a living love story.  And ultimately it’s God’s story, Your story.

 
You start out with two of Hosea’s children, the ones named Loammi and Loruhamah, the one who was not your people and the one who would have no more mercy. You took these pictures of what was going on with Your people who should have been living like Your people and enjoying the blessings of that relationship and instead were receiving the consequences of their choice to abandon You and You showed what it looked like. I mean, here is Gomer, having relations with other men who don’t care as much as Hosea does about her. And these two children may even be by these other relationships. Yet Hosea remains faithful. Why? Because it’s a picture of You and how You God, remain ever faithful to Your bride.

 
But therefore, that also means that this Gomer is a picture of the bride. And who is the bride? The people of God. And who are the people of God, only Israel and Judah? No. The people of God are all those believers who not only believe with their heads but believe with their lives. They are the ones who once acted on their own, like they were not Your people, but now they are fully Yours.

 
And how do You treat them? I mean, after the way they treated You? After all that unfaithfulness? You call them Ammi and Ruhamah, Yours and Beloved! And that’s how we are to look at each other also. But the intensity of the love doesn’t stop there. Look at how God treats Gomer. Look at what the problem was in Gomer’s heart.

 
Hosea says, “Plead with your mother, plead: for she is not my wife, neither am I her husband…” Really? Gomer wasn’t Hosea’s wife? Yes, she was. But she was not living as though she was. She was not thinking as though she was. Instead of running to the arms that provided for her, she ran to other arms. And as she ran to the other arms, she saw them as caring for her. She thought they were better than Hosea. She chose not to be Hosea’s girl. She chose to not receive Hosea’s goodness. She was that deceived.

 
Here’s the thing. Gomer is like us when we think things are better outside of God’s care. We attest all our blessings to some other cause when God is really the cause. And then it takes losing it all before we ever get our focus right and see that it was You all along. It takes losing everything before we see how faithful You have been when we were not, how righteous, and loving, and merciful You have been through it all and despite it all. And after all that shameful behavior, You would still redeem us back to Yourself and make us Your own glorious people, Your beautiful bride, and then we will not only be Yours but we will understand what it is for You to be our God.

 
And that brings us to verse 16. “And it shall be at that day, says the Lord, that you shall call me Ishi; and shall call me no more Baali.” Now, because I’m not a Hebrew scholar, I’m just wondering if this form of Ish is a really personal form, like when I change Dad to Daddy. I ask, because it just tells something deeper about the relationship. That maybe, at one point, that false god Baal was looked at as “daddy.” That Baal was the one who ruled her world. And it seems that Baal rules the world by force so we might as well get what we can how we can because who knows if we’ll get what we want. And that’s the thing. Like Gomer, we can treat You God, like Baal. We can treat You as though You rule the world by force. Then that influences every part of our thinking and our acting.

 
How does it influence my thinking and acting if I believe that God rules the world by force? I follow suit and rule my world by force. Husbands rule wives by force. Parents rule children by force. Nations rule people by force. Religion rules by force. Power determines relationship. But that’s not God’s picture. That’s not the picture You painted through Hosea and Gomer. The picture You paint is that love rules relationships. Mutual loyalty rules relationships.

 
That ish thing is so important because it takes us back to the first man and woman and Your original intent. Adam rejoiced in Eve because she was part of him, not because she was less then him. It wasn’t good for man to be alone, to be cut off from the tree. Eve is part of Adam. Together they were mankind. Adam without Eve was incomplete. Mankind would not continue. They were created for mutual love, mutual loyalty, mutual care, mutual respect, and mutual reflection of Your attitude, God.

 
Force did not come until after the fall and it was a byproduct of the fall, a result of sin. Our purpose is still to reflect God’s glory and we can only reflect God’s glory by relating in love. God is not just some ultimate power. He is “the ultimate person, the Other in whom I find myself.” (Jonathan Sacks) In other words, You are not a moral policeman. That’s a pagan idea. I mean, if I look at the evidence and I see how Jesus, Your Messiah “deliberately changes the perceived hierarchy of master-slave to teacher-friend (John 15:15)” (Skip Moen) that throws that idea out the door. I can see how Jesus treated women and Samaritans and Romans and see that power play go out the door. The more I read, the more I listen, the more I see, it’s about joy in the presence of another.

 
God’s relationship with us is based on this joy just as much as our marriage should be based on this kind of mutual joy. I find my joy in the other person because I find God’s joy in them and in me. See, I am who I am because of who she or he is, just as I am who I am because of who You are God. My marriage relationship reflects my relationship with You.
It wasn’t like You forced Adam to name Eve. Adam was so overjoyed, so excited, so exuberant that he took his name, Ish, and voluntarily changed it to give it to Eve as Ishshah. Paul got it. That’s why he reminded husbands and wives, “Submit yourselves one to another in the fear of God.” (Ephesians 5:21) Mutual submission and loyalty and love and enjoyment isn’t a bad thing. It’s rejoicing in each other and rejoicing in what You, God, have done together.

 
The truth is that God wanted to rejoice in Gomer and Jezreel and Loammi and Loruhamah. But sometimes He has to take us to a place where we can learn the reality of His feelings for us so that we can return them in the same joy that He gives them. I mean, what if You had just cut them off? But You didn’t. You were long-suffering. You kept calling and waiting and loving and placing situations in their lives.

 
I think of a friend of mine who is missing. I think of how he has lost sight of how much the people around him love him. I think he lost sight of the fact that You were still acting for his benefit even in the tough, the really tough and heart wrenching things going on in his life. And I think how I want to put letters and notes all over the world for him just to let him know how much he is loved so he will come back. But I don’t even know where to look. But You, on the other hand, know just where to place Your love notes. And You go to the uttermost extreme. As though it wasn’t enough when Christ paid the price on the cross for each and every one of us, You put situations in our lives and people in our lives to help our blinded eyes see. You are always loving us more than ever we could deserve.

 
If I weep over my friend being lost and somewhere where I can’t demonstrate my joy in him, then think of how much more our Heavenly Father must feel for us when we wander or when we don’t even get it. Lord, I was Gomer and You were ever faithful. I don’t want to be a Gomer again. But what I do want, is for You to give me a heart for all the Gomers out there. And I pray that You would help me to help the Gomers and the Loammis and the Loruhamas know the joy You really feel for them. And I pray that Your joy over us would so infect our lives and attitudes that we would be filled with that same joy for You and Your ways. Thank You for Hosea and Gomer and all their kids. Thank You for Israel and Judah. Thank You for being a God who reigns by love relationship and by the joy of Your being and presence. Thank You for inviting us into You and into Your joy.

Faithful Over a Little

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“…and behold, a voice from heaven said, ‘This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.'”  Matthew 3:17

Isn’t that wonderful how God announced Jesus and how much He loved Him and how pleased He was with Him?  Did you ever wish people felt about you that same way?  Did you ever wish that more than people feeling that way, God felt that way about you?  Well, the truth is that God is just waiting to say that about you and me.

So here was Jesus, Son of God; pure, holy, righteous One; submitting Himself under the baptism of repentance before all to see.  And why did He do it?  Because it was right in God’s eyes.  Now listen.  Jesus knows what pleases God. He knows, not just because He is God but because He loves the Word of God, the Torah that He has been learning from.  How do I know that?  Because when He was 12 years old and stayed back at the temple, the religious teachers were astounded by His understanding of the Scriptures.  Here’s a 12 year old boy that says, “I must be about my Father’s business.”  ” I must be involved actively in what my Father is involved in.”  This is a man actively and desirously and whole-heartedly involved in the will, the desires, of God.

Therefore, because the will of God is foremost on His heart, He submits to that will no matter what others think.  He obeys.  He delights in obeying.  And what is the result.  He gets wet?  People are impressed? “The heavens are opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on Him.”  Could it be that this type of behavior and heart attitude in my life would bring the same results from a God who is just waiting for me to respond to Him this way?  Could it be that when I come to God in repentance through Jesus, and turn from my life and ways to His, that I would begin to see the heavens opened up to me and that the Spirit of the living God would come to rest in me?

But it doesn’t stop there.  Then there was this voice from heaven and do you know what it said?  “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”  So what if I responded like that with a repentant life committed wholly to Your will, Lord?  After You give me eyes to see “heaven” and the Spirit to encourage, strengthen, and teach me, at that moment in time of turning to You, would I become beloved and would that be well pleasing to You?

That question and this whole thought transports me to Matthew 25:21,23 and Luke 19:17.  That’s the parable that You, Jesus, told about the three servants that were entrusted with “coins” by their master.  And two of the three servants had taken those “coins” and excitedly received them and applied them in life.  But the third servant had buried his and treated his as though he was afraid to touch it and had nothing to do with it.  And I want to focus on Your response to those two servants who grasped those “coins” as a treasure and a delight and invested them into their lives.  What was Your response?

“Well done, good and faithful servant.  You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much.  Enter into the joy of your master.”  And what was the response to the second servant?  “Well done, good and faithful servant.  You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much.  Enter into the joy of your master.”  Hmm.  They both got the same response.  Did they both have the same amount of “resources”?  No.  One had applied his 5 “coins” and the other his 2 “coins.”  And the master was just as pleased with both?

That’s the whole point.  It’s not a comparison to anyone else.  You, Lord, give us each this beautiful resource for life before any other resource.  That resource is Your beloved Son Jesus.  First and foremost what I do with Him will determine Your pleasure in me.  The moment that I am submitted in faith to the One who gave His life for me and rose to give me life, is the moment that I begin to see heaven and that Your Spirit comes to dwell in me.  Without Jesus in my life, without my commitment to Him, I’m the most unpleasing enemy You ever had.  But in Him my life is turned around.  In that moment that You see Jesus in my life, in me, I become Your beloved just like Him, and You become well pleased in me!

See, it doesn’t matter if I’m a Paul, or a Matthew, or a Mark, or a Zachius, or a Mary, or me.  All our “coins” are little compared to Jesus.  But will we surrender all that You’ve given to us, our every resource, every part of our life and being, to You?  Will I apply everything and every breath You give me to delighting in investing You in every area of my life and those around me?  It’s not the magnitude of what I do that pleases You.  The greatest of anything I could ever do is small stuff compared to You.  I know that all my good works are as filthy rags comparitively.  But a heart and life surrendered and delighting in pursuing Your will, that’s what living is all about.

I don’t really know how well I expressed these thoughts here.  I’m not sure if I’ve done You justice here, Lord.  But You know what I’m trying to say, because You’re the One giving me the eyes to see heaven more clearly, and it looks like beautiful You.  Yes,  just as You sent Jesus, so Jesus is sending me.  What did You give Him?  How much did He apply for You?  Did He delight in applying every part of Himself for You and in You?  What about me?  What You’ve given me, what You’ve made me, every circumstance, every possession, every part of my mind and my body and spirit, am I investing it forward?  Because it doesn’t matter that I’m not much or that I haven’t got much.  What matters is that You desire to do much with me for Your righteousness and for Your glory.  Is that what I live for?  Am I fully submitted to Your will?  Because living there in You is where I’m beloved and where You are well pleased in me.

The Beloved’s Desire

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Photo credit to Patricia Knight.  (www.faithlovejoyhope.wordpress.com/2013/04/18/)

“My beloved is mine, and I am his; he grazes among the lilies.”  Song of Solomon 2:16

Now, Lord, I don’t even know where I’m going but after listening to a discussion from Your Word about the bride of Christ,  I think I want to listen to You about that so I can have a deeper understanding.  So this morning that took me to the Song of Solomon, or Song of Songs.  Why?  Because the word “beloved” stood out on my mind this morning.  And I suppose I want to think about what it means for You to hold someone as Your beloved and what it means for someone to hold You as their beloved.  Why?  Because maybe understanding that more than intellectually, maybe understanding that in actually getting it and knowing it, will make every difference in my walk as a believer.

Well, I don’t want to make the Song of Solomon less than what it is.  It’s a beautiful picture of Your intent for beautiful sexual intimacy between a husband and a wife.  But, if Scripture is there to draw me closer to You, it must also draw a picture of You.  This is a song about a husband and wife but it is also a song about the Husband and His wife.  There is a mutual intimacy here also.  I can’t stop getting excited when I think that I can call my Jesus my beloved and call Him mine!  And just like in a loving husband/wife relationship, isn’t it glorious to know that Your partner so adores You that they claim you as their very own and that they adore to hear and know that You love belonging to them?  “My beloved is mine and I am his.”  I could just as easily say, “My Beloved is mine and I am His.”

But I do find the next phrase interesting.  “…He grazes among the lilies.”  What?  Why would a man graze among the lilies.  Now, this is a stab in the dark, but maybe my earthly husband who loves me just enjoys the pleasures of the field of me and it’s beautiful to him.  I’m no Biblical scholar, so that’s just food for thought.  But what is the implication about You, Jesus, here?  “He grazes.”  What creature actually grazes?  Well, lots of creatures graze but there is One who grazes that also calls His bride beloved.  It’s You, Lord, the Lamb of God.  Revelation 19:7-8 says, “Let us rejoice and exult and give Him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure”–for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.”  So here You are, the Lamb of God, rejoicing in Your Bride and her beauty.

What is the desire of the Bride?  What is the desire of the  Groom, in this case, the Lamb?  “Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth, for your love is better than wine.” ( Song of Songs 1:2)  Isn’t the desire intimacy?  It’s not ownership although intimacy begets a deeper ownership.   It’s not control although intimacy hands over control, both ways.  Isn’t their a mutually fulfilled desire?  And what is that desire for?   Each other.  Listen to the import of this verse.  “Your love is better than wine.”  And lest I think that the bride is the only one saying this, listen to the voice of the groom, “How beautiful is your love, my sister, my bride!  How much better is your love than wine, and the fragrance of your oils than any spice.”  So, what if Your love for each of us, and us as a whole is as deep as this love, Lord?  What if Your desires for me go this deep?  And what if that is how deep my desires for You are to be?  What if this isn’t just about thinking about loving You and You thinking about loving me.  If the word “dodeka” in Hebrew actually signifies the act of love-making and not just the idea of love, then what do my actions signify toward You?  And have I really stopped to examine the extent and action of Your love for me?

You, Lord, use this picture of sexual intimacy repeatedly to show the depth of Your love.  In Ezekiel You showered this love on Jerusalem who You cared for and raised and brought to “the age for love”.  In verse 16:8 You say, “I spread the corner of my garment over you and covered your nakedness; I made my vow with you…and you became mine.”  So You take this nothing, this nothing from birth, clean her up, build her up, and take her for Your very own beautiful bride, to continue to clothe and wash, and anoint, and cherish, and love, and bestow all of You upon.

So, who saw beauty in me in the first place?  That’s an interesting thought.  Because I’ve never really thought of myself as being beautiful.  But I know this.  My husband thinks I”m beautiful.  He tells me so.  I don’t know what he sees but thank You, Lord, he does.  And that’s the special thing about You.  If I go back to the story about Jerusalem in Ezekiel I see that when Jerusalem was born, no one wanted to take care of her, no one saw her beauty.  They would have left her to die.  But You, Lord, saw her beauty.  You went to her, the one no one else valued, and cared for her and cleaned her up.  You were the one who gave her life.  You spoke life over her.  You made her flourish.  Because of Your love over her, she grew and became tall and beautifully adorned.  She matured into a beautiful woman because of You.  But still, she was not clothed until You covered her.  But when You covered her with Your righteousness, with Your garment, You also entered a vow of marriage with her and You consumated that covenant and You took her as Your bride.  And then You took her through the process of being bathed in You.  You put new clothes on her, embroidered, fine leather, and fine linen, and covered her with silk.  You adorned her with jewelry and a crown upon her head.  She ate from the King’s table and grew in beauty and royalty.  Your glory shown from her.  You saw her beauty before she knew her own and You bestowed beauty on her.  Why is this so important?

What if I don’t have a husband who sees my value?  What if I live in a culture where because of who I am, I am not valued?  What if I don’t even feel like I have value?.  Well, the truth of the matter is not in how anyone values me but One.  Who do I run to when I start feeling “not loved” and “not valued”?  I need to take my eyes off of my spouse, off of the world, off of me.  There is One who is always faithful.  I must turn my thoughts to Him, to my Beloved, to the One who ALWAYS sees me as His beloved.   I must look to His everlasting promises and His everlasting character.  I must look to the truth of Your belovedness, Lord, and my belovedness in You.

In Deuteronomy 33:12 you spoke of Benjamin, “The beloved of the Lord dwells in safety.  The High God surrounds him all day long, and he dwells between His shoulders.”   And just to see that this idea about You, Lord, carrying Your beloved isn’t a single incidence we read earlier in Deuteronomy 1:31, “the Lord your God carried you, as a man carries his son.”  This is how our Heavenly Father feels for us, despite the way the world feels.  He is the perfect Father.  He carries His beloved.  He doesn’t carry everyone.  But if I have entered into that special relation with my Heavenly Father, through placing myself in Jesus Christ, then I am a recipient of His total affections!  But to be carried, I must be willing to be placed upon Your shoulders.  I must be willing to leave off walking myself.  I must trust Your hands to lift me when You will and place me where You will.  And there is no more sure foundation to be placed upon other than on You.

This is echoed in Jesus’ own words “If a man love Me, he will keep My Words, and My Father will love him, and We will come unto him, and make Our abode with him.”   In You, Jesus, I become a son/daughter of God and I have this sure, this assured, this always present, always valued dwelling place.  I am in You perpetually.  I am perpetually beloved.  Nothing can change Your desire for me.  Look at Your faithfulness to Israel despite her unfaithfulness to You.   Your desire toward her has never changed.  You continue to be jealous over her today.  Because Your heart for us always remains the same.

This is deeper than companionship also.  The beloved doesn’t just walk beside You, Lord, nor only hold Your hand.  The beloved is lifted up and placed “between” Your shoulders.  Your beloved is built on You.  I am built upon Your strength and the power of Your shoulders and everything that lies under them.  Do I really understand what lies beneath me in You?  Do I really understand the safety and security of my life in You?

Now, I repeatedly heard about You covering Your beloved, Lord.  You shelter those who become Yours, those who enter into Your covenant.  And You don’t just cover us once.  You are perpetually covering me.  You must perpetually shelter me because every moment the world and others are trying to pull me back into their way of thinking, into their way of thinking about me, and my value, about You, and Your value, about others, and their value.  You, Lord, are like the mother hen who gathers her young under her wings.  Remember the story of the hen in the burning field that did that?  Someone came to the charred body but underneath found the chicks safe from the fire,alive and well.  This is what You do for us.  Isaiah 25:4 tells me You “have been a refuge for the poor, a refuge for the needy in distress, shelter from the storm, shade from the heat…”  Yes, Lord, You have truthfully been this shelter in my life.

This is the foundation of who I am, here it is wrapped up in one sentence:  “I am my Beloved’s, and His desire is toward me.”  (Song of Solomon 7:10)  Now, I’m so glad You took me here, Lord. Because there is this truth about Your desire and that it is toward me.  And I want to know what that means.  Because it’s not just toward me, but it’s toward all of Your beloved, Your whole beloved body.  It’s the Hebrew word “teshuqa” and it’s only used three times in Scripture.  It’s used of Cain, of Eve, and of You in this verse.  And maybe I need to understand each one, to get the whole picture for me here.

The first instance is in Genesis with Cain.  Skip Moen shares, “Sin desires Cain.  It desires to control and rule over him, to bend his will to its purposes and to remove the proper authority of a relationship with God.”  Unfortunately, Cain lets it.  His desires are twisted and warped and he lets go of Your control and let’s sin win control.

But let’s hop before this to Genesis 3:16.  “In the judgment of Eve, God says that she will desire her husband but he will rule over her.  We often consider this to be a curse related to physical desire.  Cain corrects us.  Eve will desire to rule over her husband but now, in a fallen world, he will hold the upper hand.  The pact of mutual responsibility and harmony is broken.  Now there is a battle for control.  In spite of her longing to take charge, she will be under his command.  Her life will be frustrated in fulfillment of both purposes for which she was created:  to bring new life into this world and to act as the protector and provider for her mate.”  So, although I want to care for and protect my husband, my husband will not understand my full value before God, unless something is restored to us.  Something has been broken in every original relationship.  Our mutual surrender and mutual care has been broken because of sin.  How is it to be restored?

“I am my beloved’s, and his desire is toward me.”  It is You, Lord, going back to Your original intent.  This is Your restoration.  All the way through it jumps out and sings if we only listen and look and receive.  There is still “a longing for authority and control.  But the roles are reversed and the context dramatically altered.  The man’s desire is for the woman.  Does this mean that the woman in the Song wrests control from the hand of the dominant male through sexual power.  Not at all.  The verse says quite clearly, ‘I am my beloved’s, and his desire is toward me.’ The Song redeems what has been lost – voluntary submission under the banner of intimacy, resulting in the reversal of the curse.  The woman in the Song once again recaptures the role God intended – protector, provider, initiator, symbolic representation of God’s relationship to each of us.  How she does this is discovered in the contextual shift.  She wins back her lost purpose through complete submission.  She establishes ownership by giving up her natural agenda.  The dark side of teshuqa is overcome, not through a display of power – even of sexual power – but through a celebration of self-sacrificial love.  She is God in a dress.”

So, what if we, whoever we are, man or woman, boy or girl, learned to completely submit to You and one another in the process?  What would our marriages look like?  What would our friendships look like?  What would our ministries look like?  What would our lives look like?  What if my desire for You was truly to fully sacrifice my way so that I could meet every one of Your needs, so that I was doing what was best for You, because it would be ultimately best for me too.  I mean, if the marriage covenant makes us one, then what hurts one, hurts the other; what benefits one, benefits the other.  So, what if my husband loved me so much that his every desire was to surrender his life in such a way that You, Lord, were most glorified in my life?  What if his desire was to care for me, to cover me, and to shelter me?  And what if that was my desire toward him?  What if my desire toward him were to love him so much that I would surrender my life in such a way that You were most glorified in his life?  What if my desire was to care for him, to cover him, and to shelter him.  What if Your desire toward me became my desire toward others?  What if I so deeply understood what it was to be Your beloved, that I could draw others into that full understanding in You?  What if?