Guarding Intimacy

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Earlier this year, we had opportunity to briefly consider truths from Psalm 11. We noted a distinction between divine transcendence and divine immanence. That psalm shows us that God is both transcendent (a strong and sovereign ruler over all) and immanent (an intimate comfort to his covenant people). Psalm 24 highlights a similar theme.

The psalm begins with a declaration of Yahweh’s ownership of the whole earth: “The earth is the LORD’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein, for he has founded it upon the seas and established it upon the rivers” (vv. 1–2). But this same God who is everywhere and rules everything is, incredibly, also a God who desires  intimate relationship with his people. This King of glory invites his people into relationship. He invites his people to “ascend the hill of the LORD” (vv. 3ff).

This is the astounding paradox of Christian theology: that the God who rules the universe desires intimate relationship with his people. And, in Christ, he provides a way for his people to enter into that intimacy. That is the message of Psalm 24.

The psalm pictures the worshipper “ascend[ing] the hill of the LORD” for worship (v. 3). Under the old covenant, the temple was located atop a “hill,” which worshippers needed to “ascend” to observe temple worship with its many rituals. The psalmist poetically highlights this reality: that the creator God invites his people to come worship him. The same is true under the new covenant.

Christian, God desires an intimate, vibrant relationship with you. Church, God wants an intimate, vibrant relationship with us. In Christ, he has made that possible. But relationship does not happen by accident. As is true of any relationship, it requires effort. In these days, it requires particular intentionality to maintain an intimate relationship with God. What kind of effort are you putting in?

Under the old covenant, Jewish males were required to travel to Jerusalem three times a year for annual feasts. But the Babylonian exile placed faithful Jews under a form of worship lockdown. During the exile, travel to Jerusalem for temple worship was impossible. Intimacy in those days required intentionality and—dare I say it?—creativity.

Faithful Jews did not allow the absence of temple worship to stifle intimacy with God. Synagogues began to be formed where weekly worship was observed. But even that was not the extent of intimacy: God’s faithful servants understood the need for daily communion with him. In exile, Daniel prayed to the Lord three times a day (Daniel 6:10). In the absence of formal, temple worship, God’s covenant people guarded intimacy in formal, corporate worship and in informal, private worship. How are you guarding your intimacy with God in these days?

As a rule, Christians gather weekly to worship together, thereby stirring one another to love and good works (Hebrews 10:24–25). It has been months since that has been possible. As the Jewish exiles found ways to guard their relationship with God via synagogue and private worship, we must be sure that we are being deliberate in guarding our intimacy with God. How are you doing? Are you being intentional in logging on every Sunday to join the church in the word? Are you spending personal time with God in Scripture meditation and prayer? Are you taking opportunity to connect with fellow church members? Are you reading and listening to material that fosters intimacy with God?

Relationship is not maintained by default. It takes effort. If we will maintain a vibrant and intimate relationship with the God who rules over all, let us do the hard and deliberate work of pursuing intimacy. Don’t let lockdown kill intimacy. Let it be said of us that we were “the generation of those who seek him, who seek the face of the God of Jacob” (v. 6).

Stuart