Friday, October 12, 2012

Call Me Ishi

When I read the Bible, I like to treat it like a bit of a treasure hunt. I know that there is something in the pages that I read that will speak to me about who God is, how much He loves and what He really wants, among other things. I ask Him to show me what He wants me to see. 

Today I prayed, sat and waited for direction on where to go. "Hosea," came the answer. 

So I went to Hosea. One of my favorite passages is Hosea 2:19, 20 - and I was looking forward to reading it. But first, I read chapter one, where God tells the prophet to go and marry a prostitute and have children with her. He says some stuff about how His people say that they're His and then go chasing after other things without even giving Him a thought. There are some pretty strong words in there. "Name your first child 'No-Compassion,' for I will not have compassion on My people. Name your second, 'Not-My-People' for I will disown them." Whew! But in chapter two, He reveals His desire to have compassion on His people, and to bring them back to Him and bless them. 

And He gives them a promise - one that is (to Him) the ultimate in what He wants deep in His heart for [each of] His people: "You will call Me Ishi, and you will no longer call me Baali." (2:16)

'Baali' means 'my Master.' 

But 'Ishi' means 'my Husband.' 

It's a totally different relationship that God wants. He doesn't want a master-servant relationship where we do what He wants and we get paid (rewarded) for it. That is religion; He hates religion. Religion is doing stuff to make God notice you or - at the very least - keep Him from squashing you like a bug. 

Hosea puts his finger right on the crux of the matter. Religion is (in the symbolism of his book) spiritual prostitution: doing whatever the master - or in today's terminology, the john - wants ... so as to get rewarded. Rules are clear. A plus B equals C. It's contractual; you serve, you expect to be rewarded. 

In religion, you pray plus you do everything that is required (and in some cases that can be the rest of the alphabet!) in order to get the desired result: answer to that prayer. Do this and this and this and this, otherwise you won't be good enough for God to bless. Not getting what you want? Well then, you must not be believing hard enough. Or not doing enough good works. Or not sending enough money to Africa. 

Can you not see the fallacy here? Since when did anything in the Christian life depend on how good WE are?

Face-to-face, like husband
and wife... found this photo HERE
No, God desperately wants a husband-wife bond. In other words, tenderness, love, and loyalty as the foundation for an intimate, face-to-face relationship. Up close and as personal as it gets: that is what God longs to have with us. It's a marriage to Him - whether we think of it like that or not. That's the whole point of the book of Hosea. It was a physical representation of a spiritual truth. God reached down onto the street-corner and redeemed us from a life of slavery to what other people want ... and put a ring on our finger. He wants us to listen to His wooing and turn to Him because we want to, and for no other reason than loving Him in return. That's it. No contracts, no need to measure up. Just let Him love us.

But on many days and in many ways, the tendency many of us have is to settle for the business transaction rather than the extra time and vulnerability of pillow talk. To succumb to fear - the fear of losing the blessing - rather than take the extra time and effort to embrace our Husband ... out of gratitude for His loving care and a burning passion to please Him.

Those in full-time or even heavy part-time ministry are familiar with this penchant for slipping into the idea that they "work for Him" so the relationship becomes more like punching a time clock than wrapping their arms around their Beloved. (You want to read about God's desire for intimacy with us? try Song of Solomon!) 

I don't often recommend books or videos on my blog here - perhaps I should more often, I don't know - but I stumbled across a book a few months ago that captured my attention in this area. It's Francis Chan's book, called Crazy Love. I'm including a link to his book page that has summary videos of each chapter here. I find Chan's writing engaging: meaty, yet easy to follow. He writes like he speaks, and that's a big plus because he speaks on the things about which he is passionate - and he's supremely passionate about intimacy with Jesus. There are also links on that page to his other works - notably Forgotten God (about the Holy Spirit) and Erasing Hell - the title of which is totally self-explanatory. 

Crazy Love is all about going from Baali to Ishi.  It concentrates on developing that all-too-rare relationship with Jesus that is passionate and intimate; its goal is to promote being first and not primarily doing (which will take care of itself out of sheer overflow of being.) I highly recommend the book; if you can't afford it, at least watch the videos online. 

I can't guarantee that his message will change your life. But I can say that if you're tired of going through the motions, you need to consider clicking that link.

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