How important are relationships with God and with each other? – Part 7
In the previous Q&A in this series, we began to look at some great relationships in the pages of the Bible.
Relationships – Great Relationships in the Bible (continued).
In this final instalment, we will continue to review some more interesting relationships.
Job and His Friends
Job is described in Job 1:1-3 as the greatest of all the people in the East, and he had seven sons, three daughters and many possessions. However, Satan was allowed to tempt him, but not to take his life (Job 2:6). In his hour of need, he was visited by his three friends:
“Now when Job’s three friends heard of all this adversity that had come upon him, each one came from his own place—Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite. For they had made an appointment together to come and mourn with him, and to comfort him. And when they raised their eyes from afar, and did not recognize him, they lifted their voices and wept; and each one tore his robe and sprinkled dust on his head toward heaven. So they sat down with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his grief was very great” (Job 2:11-13).
At the beginning, their concern, compassion and attitude were sincere and commendable. But as the story unfolds, his friends became condemnatory and accused Job incorrectly of all kinds of sins, because they did not understand—and neither did Job—why Job was suffering, concluding that Job must have greatly sinned to deserve such punishment. God wanted to show Job that he had to overcome his self-righteousness, but the three friends could not see that, while condemning Job of sins he was not guilty of (Job 32:3). God became angry with Job’s three friends and was willing to punish them severely, because they “have not spoken of Me what is right, as My servant Job has” (Job 42:7). While Job had repented “in dust and ashes” for the wrong things he had said against God, his three friends did not show the same kind of remorse. So, God asked Job to pray for them so that He would not deal with them “according to [their] folly” (verse 8). The remarkable conclusion is that Job WAS willing to pray for his three friends, even though they had shown themselves as accusers without mercy and compassion.
In the end, it all worked out. The former relationship when his friends made the time out of genuine concern to be with Job when he was in great distress, was restored.
Paul and Timothy
Timothy was a relatively young Evangelist, but Paul had full confidence in him. In 2 Timothy 1:1-2, we read: “Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, according to the promise of life which is in Christ Jesus, To Timothy, a beloved son: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.”
McLaren’s Expositions observes: “PAUL’S heart had been drawn to Timothy long before this letter was written, as far back as the beginning of his second missionary journey, and Timothy had cherished the enthusiastic devotion of a young man for his great leader. He seems to have been the best beloved of the circle which the magnetism of Paul’s character bound to him.”
There is no doubt that the two had a close relationship and friendship, and in verses 3-7, Paul writes about Timothy’s faith and heritage. Paul had laid hands on Timothy and reminded him to stir up the gift of God which he had received.
We read in Acts 19:22 that Timothy and Erastus had ministered to Paul, and Timothy was with Paul, as we read in Philemon 1. Paul refers to him as “our brother and minister of God, and our fellow labourer in the gospel of Christ,” and he was confident that Timothy would be able to “establish” and “encourage” the brethren concerning [their] faith” (1 Thessalonians 3:2). Paul also referred affectionately to Timothy as “my true son in the faith” (1Timothy 1:2).
Abraham and God
“My friend”—that is how God referred to the patriarch Abraham (Isaiah 41:8: James 2:23; compare also 2 Chronicles 20:7 where Abraham is referred to as God’s friend “forever”). What a remarkable relationship where a limited, physical, mortal human being is thought of by the all-powerful, immortal, all-knowing, supreme God as His dearly loved friend. This friendship developed, and when God tested him by commanding him to slay his son Isaac as a sacrifice, Abraham was willing to obey. God wanted to see whether Abraham loved Him more than anything or anyone else, and Abraham trusted God so much that he understood that God would never ask something of him which would betray their friendship. Abraham could have thought of many reasons why he should not kill Isaac, but he proceeded as God had commanded him. He proved his faith by his works. And we know how well that situation worked out! God had not really intended for Abraham to kill his son, but Abraham did not know this. But he knew that God had promised him that he would become a father of many nations, through Isaac, and that God cannot lie.
And so, we read about Abraham’s motives and thoughts in Hebrews 11:17-19:
“By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, of whom it was said, ‘In Isaac your seed shall be called,’ concluding that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead, from which he also received him in a figurative sense.”
David and God
David’s relationship with God was personal from the time that he was a very young man until the day he spoke his last words when he was dying. In Acts 13:22 we read: “And when He had removed [Saul], He raised up for them David as king, to whom also He gave testimony and said, ‘I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after My own heart, who will do all My will.’” This was because of his attitude toward God. In Psalm 63:1-2 we read: “O God, You are my God; Early will I seek You; My soul thirsts for You; My flesh longs for You In a dry and thirsty land Where there is no water. So I have looked for You in the sanctuary, To see Your power and Your glory.”
In 1 Kings 2:1-3, we read: “Now the days of David drew near that he should die, and he charged Solomon his son, saying: ‘I go the way of all the earth; be strong, therefore, and prove yourself a man. And keep the charge of the Lord your God: to walk in His ways, to keep His statutes, His commandments, His judgments, and His testimonies, as it is written in the Law of Moses, that you may prosper in all that you do and wherever you turn…’”
David had many faults and committed many sins, but once he recognized his mistakes and sins, he repented deeply. God, knowing his heart, appreciated this character trait tremendously. David loved God and His law (Psalm 119:10, 16, 35, 47, 97). His focus was on God and that is why he had such a strong and personal relationship with God.
John and Jesus
John 13:23 gives us an indication of the close relationship John had with Jesus: “Now there was leaning on Jesus’ bosom one of His disciples, whom Jesus loved.” The Benson Commentary observes: “This was John, the memory of whose sweet disposition, and other amiable qualities, is perpetuated in the peculiar love which Jesus bare to him. He always avoids with great care the expressly naming himself.”
Even Peter requested of John to ask Jesus who would betray Him, rather than asking Him personally (John 13:24).
We note Jesus’ words on the cross in John 19:26-27: “When Jesus therefore saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing by, He said to His mother, ‘Woman, behold your son!’ Then He said to the disciple, ‘Behold your mother!’ And from that hour that disciple took her to his own home.” He was the disciple who is noted as being at the crucifixion, and he was told by Jesus to look after His mother. That certainly indicates a very close personal relationship, and the trust and confidence which Jesus had in John that he would fulfil that responsibility. It is remarkable that Jesus did not ask any of His other disciples, nor any of His half-brothers, to care for Mary. John had without any doubt a very special relationship with Christ. Even after His resurrection, Peter recognized this relationship. Christ had told Him three times that he was to feed and tend His sheep. He also told him that he would glorify God through his death as a martyr. It was at that moment that we read in John 21:20-23:
“Then Peter, turning around, saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following, who also had leaned on His breast at the supper, and said, ‘Lord, who is the one who betrays You?’ Peter, seeing him, said to Jesus, ‘But Lord, what about this man?’ Jesus said to him, ‘If I will that he remain till I come, what is that to you? You follow Me.’ Then this saying went out among the brethren that this disciple would not die. Yet Jesus did not say to him that he would not die, but, ‘If I will that he remain till I come, what is that to you?’”
Apparently at that moment of jealousy, Peter, very well aware of the special relationship between Christ and John, wanted to know about John’s fate. But Christ told him bluntly: That is none of your business. You do what I told you to do. John lived on, writing the gospel according to John, three letters, and the book of Revelation. Then he died, to be resurrected within the next second of his consciousness to be with his beloved Friend, being like Him, seeing Him as He is (1 John 3:2).
Jesus and Mankind
Real friends are loyal to each other when the going is easy and also when it is tough. They support and sacrifice for each other and their relationship is usually very strong and close. The ultimate degree of friendship was described by Jesus when He stated: “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends” (John 15:13). Jesus gave His life for us and if we want to be His friend, we must be willing to go all the way in proving our loyalty to Him: “You are My friends if you do whatever I command you” (John 15:14).
What is unrealised by the world at large is that “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:44; compare John 6:65). Those called now can have, and must have, that close personal relationship with God the Father and Jesus Christ, and those not called at this time will have their opportunity at a later time.
Christ calls us His friends and encourages us not to be afraid of men, but to have reverence and respect for God (Luke 12:4-5), assuring us of His great love and concern for us (verses 6 and 7). He told us—His friends–everything we need to know in order to inherit salvation (John 15:15). He called Lazarus His friend, whom He loved and resurrected (John 11:5, 11).
Jesus said to His disciples in John 15:16: “You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you.” The same is true today. God the Father wants those whom He chooses at this time, to have a close personal relationship with Him and His Son. But this relationship can only be obtained and maintained if we refuse to be friends of the world and its evil way of life (James 4:4).
The Bible is replete with information about relationships, as we have seen in this series. Even the genealogies that we read about in the pages of God’s Word are all indicative of inevitable relationships.
The most important relationship of all is the one that we have with God, as this will determine our future as well as being the right and godly way to live in this present evil world.
Lead Writers: Brian Gale (United Kingdom) and Norbert Link