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Friday, September 4, 2009

Romantic language between us and God, revisited

Forgive me now, 'cause I have been unfaithful
Don’t ask me why 'cause I don’t know
So many times I’ve tried, but was unable,
But this heart belongs to you alone

Forgive me, I’m ashamed; I’ve loved another
I can’t explain cause I don’t know
No one can take your place, and there is no other
Forever yours and yours alone
          -Skillet, "Forgiven" from Awake
How the faithful city
     has become a whore,
     she who was full of justice!
Righteousness lodged in her,
     but now murderers.
          -Isaiah 1:21, ESV

Several days ago I linked to a video where Matt Redman had some interesting points to make about "blokes" (guys) not necessarily being comfortable using "romantic" language in worship to Jesus... kind of a vaguely homophobic squeamishness to saying that you "love" another man. I think Matt has a valid point in that we as songwriters need to be sensitive to the kinds of things that the casual worshipper may not be comfortable saying as part of worship, but God has no problem with talking about us as though we were His wife.

- Isaiah chapter 61 was quoted by Jesus in Luke 4:18-21; He clearly proclaimed that He was the fulfillment of that Scripture passage. If you look back at verses 3 and 10 of Isaiah 61, there is clear wedding imagery between Messiah and His people.

- Ezekiel 16 is a description of the relationship between God and Israel which is beautiful and erotic, heartbreaking and tragic, and finally quite brutal. Israel is portrayed as a woman who was rescued from death when she was born by God, grew up and became a beautiful woman, was married to God, became very loose and began sleeping around with anyone she could find, ultimately earning the accusations "adulterous wife" and "brazen prostitute" from God Himself.

- In Jeremiah 3:1-14 God again bluntly accuses his "wife" (Israel) of sleeping around like a whore. I am NOT making this up, and I am not exaggerating at all... take a look for yourself!

- Many Theologians see the Song of Solomon as not only a story of a love between a man and woman, but as an allegory of the love between God and His people.

- The book of the Revelation speaks of Israel as a woman (for example, Revelation 12:1-6) and the people of God, dwelling at that time in the New Jerusalem, as God's "bride" (Revelation 21:2).

- In Ephesians 5:25-27 it is made clear that the relationship between a man and wife is intended to be a picture of the love between Christ and the Church.

Men who are uncomfortable with the idea that they are loved by God in a way that closely resembles the way that a man loves his wife... well, they had better get used to it. I've read in C.S. Lewis that "What is above and beyond all things [God] is so masculine that we are all feminine in relation to it." Should we as songwriters shy away from saying "I love you" to God, or saying God is "beautiful?" I don't think so, although "beautiful" has been used in contemporary praise and worship music so much that probably different words would inspire a clearer picture at this point. I think that we should be sensitive to the congregations we are asking to sing our songs, but approaching God with a feminine frame of reference to me is like approaching a knife as if it is sharp, or approaching a campfire as though it is hot. God thinks of us as though we were his fiancé. We are loved, dreamed about, protected, and the inspiration of jealousy when we are "unfaithful" (isn't it funny that we use that word about our relationship with God all the time, but it never occurs to us how serious a charge of unfaithfulness in a marriage truly is?) We need to remember that when we betray Christ by willful sin, it is as though we have slept with another man on the eve of our wedding. That's how serious it is to God.

Praise God that He forgives us in our unfaithfulness, and dreams of the day when we will be finally and forever faithful to Him!
Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
          -Jeremiah 31:31-33, ESV, also quoted in Hebrews 8:8-12
Now I’m in our secret place
Alone in your embrace
Where all my wrongs have been erased
You have forgiven
All the promises and lies
All the times I compromise
All the times you were denied
You have forgiven
          -Skillet, "Forgiven" from Awake

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