But you, Israel, My servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, descendant of Abraham My friend, you whom I have taken from the ends of the earth, and called from its remotest parts and said to you, ‘You are My servant, I have chosen you and not rejected you.’ (Isaiah 41:8-9)
God has friends. What a staggering thought! The Creator of the heavens and the earth has companions. How are we to conceive of this? When affirming truths about God, we must always keep before our eyes that He is inherently relational. He is not merely a concept constructed through multi-faceted doctrines concerning His identity and character. Those doctrines should be cherished and defended, but God is personal. The cry of this song is to be close to God. Of course, we understand that no matter where we are, God sees us and knows all of our coming and going, our lying down and rising up (Psalm 139:1-12). Paul says He is not far from any of one of us (Acts 17:27). The desire, therefore, is for relational nearness.
There is a closeness to God that we possess in Christ that far surpasses Paul’s statement pertaining to unbelievers and even what David affirmed in the words referenced above. We actually have union with Jesus – He is in us, and we are in Him through the miracle of the indwelling Holy Spirit (John 14:20). This union is constant and living, like a vine and a branch, and not merely a static, abstract declaration (John 15:1-7). This a glorious truth. As precious as this is, we must not confuse our position in Christ with our relational proximity to Him. The former provides the unfailing access we have to Him that allows us to cultivate the latter. This interplay can be seen in one of Paul’s most well-known prayers.
“…that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:16-19)
The apostle is penning the words of this prayer to believers in Ephesus and acknowledging the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. And yet he goes on in the same sentence to use this as the basis for them to be strengthened so that Christ would dwell in their hearts. Paul obviously realizes that Jesus is already “in” them or else they wouldn’t be saved (2 Corinthians 13:5). So, what is he asking for? He is praying that the saints in Ephesus would have real, interior communion with their Lord. The analogy is limited but consider the difference between living in the same house with your family all the time, and actually spending quality time with one another. Salvation is what establishes our union and gets us into the household of God. Yet at that point there is the conditional and experiential spectrum of how close we will be to Him, largely determined by choices we make.
Perhaps, like this song, we find ourselves painfully aware that there are ways we have drifted from the Lord and we don’t have the nearness that our hearts desire. What are we to do? What are these choices? What is the way that leads back to Him? Assumed, of course, is the pursuit of a life of obedience to whole the counsel of God (Matthew 7:24, Acts 20:27). There is no spiritual silver bullet that circumvents repentance. With that said, it is praying and singing the scriptures in a devotional posture that is the catalyst for drawing our hearts close to Him. The Bible calls this meditation, and it is the primary spiritual discipline that softens and enlarges our hearts to actually experience the truth with living understanding (Psalm 1:1-3, 119:14-16). Loyalty, trust, fondness, and sacrifice are all qualities that we may use to characterize friendship and may rightly apply to what it means to be a friend of God. Yet all of these begin with and flow out of a vibrant interior communion with Him fostered through the simplicity of meditation. Draw us close, O Lord. We want to be your friends.