03 November 2010

Wednesday Evening Prayer: God's Beloved, "Pride and Joy"

Hebrew script for Song of Solomon 6.3:   "My Beloved is mine, and I am his."

I’ve complained long and loud about the lousy sort of praise music that we call “Jesus is my Boyfriend” music.  In fact, my colleague Nadia Bolz-Weber tweeted the lyrics to one of those songs the other day:  “"I'm Special", "I'm special because God has loved me, for He gave the best thing that He had to save me: His own Son Jesus , crucified to take the blame, for all the bad things I have done. Thank you Jesus, thank you Lord for loving me so much; I know I don't deserve anything, help me feel Your love right now, to know deep in my heart that I'm your special friend" #barf

At the same time, I’ve been intrigued by the fact that we cheat God’s passion when we throw the baby out with the bathwater here.  I do think God can’t stand those sappy love songs – but I also think God is a passionate, jealous lover who hates it when people mistreat God’s beloved.  Unfortunately, we tend to lump all that love over onto Jesus most of the time, which isn’t fair, and frankly isn’t even right, because if the Old Testament is any indication, God the Creator loves every bit as passionately as Jesus.  Listen to this, for instance:

For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent,
   and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest,
until her vindication shines out like the dawn,
   and her salvation like a burning torch. 
2 The nations shall see your vindication,
   and all the kings your glory;
and you shall be called by a new name
   that the mouth of the Lord will give. 
3 You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord,
   and a royal diadem in the hand of your God. 
4 You shall no more be termed Forsaken,*
   and your land shall no more be termed Desolate;*
but you shall be called My Delight Is in Her,*
   and your land Married;*
for the Lord delights in you,
   and your land shall be married. 
5 For as a young man marries a young woman,
   so shall your builder* marry you,
and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride,
   so shall your God rejoice over you. 
            Isaiah 62.1-5

God is obviously worked up about God’s beloved people – and we often miss it entirely.  My Old Testament professor Terry Fretheim wrote,
“Attributes such as love, compassion and mercy, accompanied by acts of healing, forgiving, and redeeming, tend to become narrowly associated with Jesus, while the less palatable attributes and actions of holiness, wrath, power and justice are ascribed only to God.  What tends to fill the mind is God as Giver of the Law and Judge of all the earth.  If God is not the cause of all the ills in the world, God is still seen as the one who is to blame for not really doing anything about them.  It is the goodness of God that is ignored, not the goodness of Jesus.  One can almost hear someone say: ‘If only Jesus were here, he would do something about all our troubles!’  People often seem to have a view which suggests that Jesus is friend and God is enemy.  An understanding of the atonement gets twisted so that Jesus is seen as the one who came to save us from God." The Suffering of God (c) 1984, Fortress Press.  p. 2
Leaving the sappy music aside, God the Creator loves you.  God the Father gets worked up when you get mistreated.  God the Giver of all good things is deeply concerned for your welfare.  God the Maker has knit you together fearfully and wonderfully.  Dare I say it, you are God’s pride and joy.


Sure, this song is about a woman on the surface.  But is there really so much difference between “You mess with her, you’ll see a man get mean” and “I will not rest until her vindication shines out like the dawn?”

There is ample evidence within Holy Scripture that God loves you.  God passionately, recklessly, agonizingly loves you.  Forget the cheesy Jesus music that makes it sound like you have to be on Team Jesus instead of Team Edward or Team Jacob.  Forget it, not just because it’s awful music, but because it cheats God’s love for you – you’re more than a romantic interest as far as God is concerned.  You are God’s delight, God’s pride and joy, and no one can take it away from you.  Amen.

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