How important are relationships with God and with each other? – Part 6
We have reviewed so far relationships between the Father and Jesus Christ; man with fellow man; those within the family unit; and our own personal relationship with God.
In any great relationship, friendship is a fundamental and essential part along with other requirements such as honesty, trust, loyalty and a proper lifestyle.
Great Relationships in the Bible
In this Q&A, we are beginning to review examples of some of the great relationships in the pages of the Bible.
Abraham and Lot
When God told Abram (later Abraham) to “get out of your country, from your kindred and from your father’s house To a land that I will show you” (Genesis 12:1), Lot went with him (verse 4). In the following chapter, we read that “Lot also, who went with Abram, had flocks and herds and tents. Now the land was not able to support them, that they might dwell together, for their possessions were so great that they could not dwell together. And there was strife between the herdsmen of Abram’s livestock and the herdsmen of Lot’s livestock” (Genesis 13:5-7). The result was that Abraham gave Lot a choice of whether to go to the right or to the left (verse 9), even though it would have been Abraham’s prerogative to choose. As it turns out, Lot chose poorly, and it was even more troublesome that he moved into the wicked city of Sodom to dwell and live with the evil Sodomites.
In the next chapter, we read about Lot’s captivity and rescue. Starting in Genesis 14:12 we read that “They also took Lot, Abram’s brother’s son who dwelt in Sodom, and his goods, and departed.” But help was at hand. “Then one who had escaped came and told Abram the Hebrew, for he dwelt by the terebinth trees of Mamre the Amorite, brother of Eshcol and brother of Aner; and they were allies with Abram. Now when Abram heard that his brother was taken captive, he armed his three hundred and eighteen trained servants who were born in his own house, and went in pursuit as far as Dan. He divided his forces against them by night, and he and his servants attacked them and pursued them as far as Hobah, which is north of Damascus. So he brought back all the goods, and also brought back his brother’s son, Lot, and his goods, as well as the women and the people” (Genesis 14:13-16). Abraham put his life on the line for Lot to restore his nephew’s freedom. That is what can happen in good families and shows the deep respect and affection that Abraham had for Lot and for their relationship.
Later, God announced to Abraham that He was about to destroy Sodom, due to their wickedness. Abraham pleaded with God in what some have called one of the most moving passages in the Bible, asking time and again to spare Sodom if at least ten righteous people were to be found in the city. God agreed, but not even 10 righteous people could be found. However, God rescued righteous Lot, his wife and their two daughters, but Lot’s wife wanted to turn back and became a pillar of salt. Undoubtedly, when Abraham uttered his heartrending pleas, he had Lot in mind as well, not wanting that he was to perish (even though he must have realized Lot’s big mistake in settling down in that city). But true friendship is willing to overlook mistakes and act mercifully.
Moses and Aaron
Two brothers were parted when Moses, at the age of three months, was put into an ark of bulrushes which was placed into the river (Exodus 2:2-3), while Aaron, the firstborn, stayed with his parents. We know that Moses grew up in the Pharaoh’s household for 40 years (Acts 7:23) and then fled to Midian and was there another 40 years (Acts 7:30) but most of his last 40 years was spent with Aaron at his side through the encounters with Pharaoh and the ten plagues (Exodus chapters 4-12) and the subsequent desert wanderings. Moses died when he was 120 years old (Deuteronomy 34:7).
Moses, at the age of 80 had had the experience at the burning bush, and when he was told that he would have to return to Egypt and confront Pharaoh to let the Israelites go from their slavery, he pleaded with God saying that “I am not eloquent, neither before nor since You have spoken to Your servant; but I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.” Exodus 4:10). God replied: “Is not Aaron the Levite your brother? I know that he can speak well. And look, he is also coming out to meet you. When he sees you, he will be glad in his heart. Now you shall speak to him and put the words in his mouth. And I will be with your mouth and with his mouth, and I will teach you what you shall do. So he shall be your spokesman to the people. And he himself shall be as a mouth for you, and you shall be to him as God” (Exodus 4:14-16).
Subsequently, the record shows that Moses, not Aaron, mainly spoke to Pharaoh, being mighty in words and deeds (Acts 7:22). In due time, Aaron listened to the people in building a golden calf, kindling Moses’ wrath and holding Aaron responsible (Exodus 32:21), and because of envy, Aaron and Miriam would later speak against Moses, questioning his authority (Numbers 12:1).
Nevertheless, Moses undoubtedly forgave Aaron, and it was a great friendship and relationship that lasted for 40 years and, through the workings of God, they achieved the freedom of Israel from subjugation to the Egyptians. What a close relationship that was, and had to be.
David & Jonathan
We read in 1 Samuel 18:1-3 the close friendship that David and Jonathan had: “Now when he had finished speaking to Saul, the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul. Saul took him that day, and would not let him go home to his father’s house anymore. Then Jonathan and David made a covenant, because he loved him as his own soul.”
We read in 1 Samuel 19 that Saul persecuted David, and Saul’s son, Jonathan, showed his loyalty to his close friend.
On the website of beliefnet, we read: “This is the essence of friendship, to love another as you love yourself. Not only this, but Jonathan sacrificed for David, stripping himself of the items which represented his power and position, and giving them to him. Jonathan was also unwaveringly loyal to David, warning him of King Saul’s treachery and intent to kill him. The two friends shared a close emotional bond as well, and were unafraid of sharing their feelings, weeping when it became clear that David had to leave. These three elements—displayed love, loyalty, and emotional openness, are three essential traits that psychologists deem necessary for friendships to thrive.
“To clarify an area of contention regarding the relationship between David and Jonathan, the Hebrew word for love used in 1 Samuel, in the context of their friendship, has clear diplomatic and platonic friendship implications. David and Jonathan are a fantastic example of the male friendship that we often lack in our modern culture—men don’t often form such close bonds. God created both men and women to be able to establish these intimate, life-long friendships. To strive for less is to miss out on something wonderful.”
The friendship between David and Jonathan was very deep and lasted until Jonathan’s death. We can read about David’s deep sorrow for Jonathan when he learned about his tragic death in battle.
Elijah and Elisha
Elijah is first mentioned in 1 Kings 17 where he proclaimed a drought for 3½ years as punishment for worshipping Baal. Later, God answered Elijah’s prayers and the priests of Baal were slaughtered by the Israelites. He escaped from the wrathful Queen Jezebel. He then became somewhat depressed and God gave him tasks as we read in 1 Kings 19:15-18: “Then the Lord said to him: ‘Go, return on your way to the Wilderness of Damascus; and when you arrive, anoint Hazael as king over Syria. Also you shall anoint Jehu the son of Nimshi as king over Israel. And Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel Meholah you shall anoint as prophet in your place. It shall be that whoever escapes the sword of Hazael, Jehu will kill; and whoever escapes the sword of Jehu, Elisha will kill. Yet I have reserved seven thousand in Israel, all whose knees have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.’”
He saw that he was not the only one alive who believed in the true God and was shown that there were 7,000 of whom Elijah had had no knowledge. He was also commissioned to anoint Elisha to take his place and this is where this close relationship and friendship started. Elijah soon found Elisha and threw his mantle on him (1 Kings 19:19-21) and Elisha followed and served him.
Elisha left everything to follow Elijah, including his family, friends and his way of life. Today, followers of Jesus Christ leave behind their old way of life and follow the Saviour of mankind.
They both performed many miracles and worked together for several years before Elijah was taken up into heaven (the first heaven) by a whirlwind (2 Kings 2:11), to be transported to another place here on earth from where he continued to operate. His mantle fell on Elisha (verse 13) to continue the Work of God. During their time together, it is obvious that they had a very close relationship as they worked in unity as God decreed. In fact, from the three tasks which God had given to Elijah, he only performed the first one (anointing Elisha as a prophet.) The other two tasks were carried out by Elisha (anointing Hazael as king over Syria and Jehu as king over Israel), but there was no envy on Elijah’s part that his successor would continue the Work and perform even mightier miracles than Elijah had done.
Naomi and Ruth
This is a most unusual story in that Elimelech, Naomi and their two sons left Bethlehem, Judah, to go to Moab because of a famine in the land (Ruth 1:1-2). Elimelech died (verse 3) and the two sons married and dwelt there about 10 years (verse 4). However, both sons died (verse 5).
Naomi lost her husband and two sons in a foreign land and decided to return home. Both of her daughters-in-law started on the journey with her but she urged them both to turn back to their homeland (verses 8-13). One daughter-in-law, Orpah, kissed Naomi and returned home but Ruth clung to her (verse 14). We read an impassioned plea in verses 15-16: “But Ruth said: ‘Entreat me not to leave you, Or to turn back from following after you; For wherever you go, I will go; And wherever you lodge, I will lodge; Your people shall be my people, And your God, my God. Where you die, I will die, And there will I be buried. The Lord do so to me, and more also, If anything but death parts you and me.’”
That was quite a statement from someone who was initially not brought up in the fear of God and showed a real commitment by Ruth, and in faith. It is obvious that Ruth had learned about the true God, mainly through her mother-in-law, and that she had become a believer. She referred to God as “your God and my God.” (Please note that the phrase, “shall be” in verse 16 of Ruth 1 has been added and is not in the Hebrew. For instance, virtually all German Bibles, including the Luther Bible; the Elberfelder Bible, the Menge Bible and the Schlachter Bible, read: “Your people is my people, and your God is my God.”) The rest of the story in the 4 chapters of the book of Ruth shows a very close and personal relationship between the two women and an enduring friendship. Such a friendship revealed many qualities that a close relationship should have, that of loyalty and encouragement, help and sound advice, as well as self-sacrifice when someone was in great need of such devotion and support.
Ruth married Boaz and the baby that they had was Obed, who was the grandfather of King David. This is quite a story with Ruth’s relationships with Naomi and her husband, Boaz, all being part of God’s plan for Israel!
(To be continued)
Lead writers: Brian Gale (United Kingdom) and Norbert Link