I believe the idea of having a friendship with God is real and true. It is not an ethereal ideal or a fantasy proposed by pious minded people. There is a substance and reality to a “friendship with God.”
The events of 2020 nudged me to see that there is so much more I need to learn about a friendship with God. So in 2021, I am setting myself on a journey of exploring more about a friendship with God.
Two Things I Know
There are two things I do know: one is that a friendship with God explodes way beyond the boundaries of “religious” practice; and two, having a friendship with God involves a giving of my heart and my will. If I am always thinking of myself, how I feel, what I think, what I need and what I want, there will not be friendship, maybe acquaintanceship maybe – but not a friendship. Self focus and self-will are a brick wall to friendship with God.
What does it mean?
Abraham was called the “friend of God” three times in the scriptures, in 2 Chronicles 20:7; Isaiah 41:8 and James 2:23.
- “Our God, did you not drive out the inhabitants of this land before your people Israel and give it forever to the descendants of Abraham your friend?” 2 Chronicles 20:7
- “But you, Israel, my servant, Jacob, whom I have chosen, you descendants of Abraham my friend… ” Isaiah 41:8
- And the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called a friend of God. James 2:23
So what does this term “friend of God” mean? In these Old Testament passages the word translated “friend” is ‘ohabi/ ’ahab, and it is defined as “beloved, dearly loved, friend.”
’Ahab is derived from a primitive root meaning: “to desire, to breathe after, to long for.” This word carries within it a sense of intimacy, of personal depth that goes beyond the idea of a companion.
Wow! Imagine that! God longed for a friendship with Abraham. Abraham was dearly loved by God. God desired to be in a relationship with Abraham that involved vulnerability and a oneness.
“Longing” a Relational Word!
The truth and process of God “longing for a relationship” with people is described in Jeremiah 31:3.
“The LORD appeared to us in the past, saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have drawn you with loving devotion.”
- “Everlasting love” and “drawn you with loving devotion” expresses longing, and an action taken on God’s part to initiate the relationship.
God longs to be close to you and me! As we read through God’s Word, we see God’s plan to provide a way for us to be with him. That plan involves the sacrifice of his Beloved Son, Jesus. This truth of the sacrifice of the Son of God is proof of God’s longing, his loving devotion and of his drawing us to him.
This “longing for” in friendship goes both ways. We, who seek this friendship, “long for” God.
This idea of “longing for God” is found in the Psalms. King David uses the expression “long for” to express his spirit’s need for God and his heart’s devotion to God.
- I spread out my hands to You; My soul longs for You, like a weary land…” Ps. 143:6
A Little More Understanding
Looking at a specific word such as “’ahab” in other scriptures helps to add shades of meaning to the definition of the word and gives us a more complete understanding.
A form of ’ahab is used to describe Abraham’s love for Isaac in Genesis 22:2.
- Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love (whom you ’ahab; whom you long for)–Isaac–and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.”
This use of ’ahab helps us get a sense of the type of “friend” that is meant. It is a love of a father for his beloved child. There is a personal valuing of the beloved. There is so much value felt that it is near impossible to give up the beloved friend. This is one facet of being God’s friend. You are valued by God.
We find this word “ ’ahab” again in Genesis 29:18 where it is used to describe the relationship of Jacob to Rachel.
- “Jacob loved (’ahab) Rachel. And he said, ‘I will serve you seven years for your younger daughter Rachel’.”
Jacob’s love shows a longing to be in a personal relationship with Rachel. His love included sacrificing himself to work 7 years to have that close, personal relationship. So, to be in an “’ahab” relationship with someone is to be willing to sacrifice for them. God sacrificed His Son for you and me.
Friend in the New Testament
James refers to Abraham being a friend of God. The word for friend used here is “philos*” it refers to someone who is valued, dearly loved in a personal way; a respected, trusted confidant. * https://biblehub.com/greek/5384.htm
In John 15:5 Jesus says that he views the disciples as friends – “philos,” not servants or workers.
- “No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.”
A friend of God is a trusted confidant. Jesus shared with the disciples what the Father had said to him. Jesus shared trusted truths and mysteries of God with them. He revealed the heart of God to them. (See John 17:8,17,26)
For me to share deep heart feelings and thoughts, even personal insights in the word of God, with someone I have to have a solid trust in them. I trust their love for me, their heart to protect me; and that they will respect and value what I share. Jesus is this friend to me (us), he trusts me (us) with His knowledge, secret truths and mysteries.
A Friend But Not a Friend!
In Matthew 20, Jesus tells the parable of the kingdom of heaven being like the owner of a vineyard who hired workers for his vineyard. All the workers received the same wage, no matter what time of day they worked.
At the end of the day the first hour workers were paid the same as the eleventh-hour workers. Upon seeing this, some of those who worked all day grumbled about everyone receiving the same wage. The owner of the vineyard (God) answered them saying, “Look friend, I am not being unfair to you. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius?”
Jesus used a specific word here for “friend,” and it is not “philos.” Philos implies a mutual friendship in which each friend holds the other as beloved and valued; both will give and share for the good and the joy of the other.
In Matt. 20:13 the word is “hetairos” which is translated as friend or comrade; however, it has the idea of “imposter” associated or attached to it. That is, one who poses as a friend and calls himself a friend but who has an agenda of self-interest and self-gain.
Jesus exposed the nature of their friendship, their association to him. This causes me to think more deeply about my friendship with God. What kind of friend am I to him?
Jesus uses “hetairos” when he addresses Judas in the garden of Gethsemane when the soldiers came to arrest Jesus: “Friend,” Jesus replied, “do what you came for.” Then the men stepped forward, seized Jesus, and arrested Him. Matthew 26:50
I think the definitions of the term “friend of God” that are relayed in scripture defines a concept that is layered with implications for my relationship with God.
I see that a friend of God is loved, beloved, has God’s devotion and heart, even more amazing is that God longs for me and longs to have a close personal relationship with me.
God’s friendship is characterized by a valuing and sacrificing. He values the friend, the beloved (us). He values us and so, he sacrifices what he must to make a way for the friendship to be reality.
God is humble and vulnerable in this friendship. He is willing to confide deep truths about himself and his will to me. God deems me (us) trustworthy.
As I explore what true friendship with God means, and as I see the characteristics of God in this friendship, I am led to ask several questions about my part in this “friendship.”
- Does my interaction with God indicate that I love to be with him, that I long for Him?
- Do I value the deep truths about God, his kingdom that he shares with me?
- Do I seek his interests and his will?
- Am I vulnerable in my relationship with God in that I will share with him my darkest parts, and am I willing to let go of those things in order to love him?
- Am I humble with God? Do I ask him how I can be a better friend to him?
- Do I know what God likes, what pleases him in relationship with me?
- Am I a friend of God or an imposter?
I invite you on a journey to explore your relationship with God.