By Ben Simpson
After this, the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision:
“Do not be afraid, Abram.
I am your shield,
your very great reward.”
Personal knowledge, self-disclosure, and shared history come to define friendships. Friendships have depth and a common story.
But is our relationship with God personal, like a human friendship? Can God be known? “Yes,” Karl Barth writes, “God can be known, since it is actually true and real that He is knowable through Himself.” Barth explains that we can know God through faith in Jesus Christ, who reveals to us truth and wisdom not in the abstract, but in and through his person and work. He is wisdom, light, and truth. He appeared, he died, and he was raised. Now, he reigns. We know God through Christ.
Before the time of Jesus, God’s relationship to humankind was also personal. Consider Abram. In Genesis 12:1-3, God calls Abram from the land of his forefathers and promises to lead him to a new land. God will go with Abram and offers his blessing, protection, and the assurance of descendants. With God’s help, Abram will have a child with his wife Sarai while in old age.
Abram trusts God. God had revealed himself to Abram and given Abram a standard by which to measure God’s character: a promise. But the promise is slow in being fulfilled. In Genesis 15, Abram is still without an heir. But God’s word comes to Abram in a vision, “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield and your very great reward.”
Notice the personal pronoun: “I.” This “I” is Abram’s shield and reward. But Abram has a problem. He lacks a biological heir. Abram tells this to God, not in anger, but in trust. God assures Abram of his promise. The promise will be sealed with a covenant. God will be faithful. Abram responds with faith.
Dallas Willard observes, “The biblical record always presents the relationship between God and the believer as more like a friendship or family tie than merely one person's arranging to take care of the needs of another. If we consider the startling array of biblical personalities from Adam to the apostles Paul and John, we behold the millennia-long saga of God’s invading human personality and history on a one-to-one basis.”
As with Abram, the biblical pattern of human relationship with God is personal. Jesus tells his disciples in John 15:15, “I no longer call you servants...I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.” Jesus is our King, Judge, Savior, and Redeemer. But he is also our Friend.
The salvation accomplished in Jesus Christ is not only cosmic but personal. When we pray, we pray to a personal God who has accomplished a personal salvation at great personal cost so that we might enter and enjoy a personal relationship with God in God’s eternal kingdom. How do we respond?
Make yourself personally available to the personal God through prayer. Walk with God, like Abram, in trust. Talk with God, as Jesus invites us, as a friend.
What makes a relationship personal? What makes your relationship with God personal and unique?
Almighty God, I praise you because you know me personally. You know my virtues, gifts given by you. You also know my faults. Yet your love for me is without condition, steadfast and everlasting. It does not increase when I do what is right, nor does it decrease when I turn from you. Your love beckons me and corrects me, draws me and reforms me. Grant me the gift of faith, that I might receive your love. You always seek my good, and therefore I find you lovely. Deepen my personal love for you, and teach me your ways that I may remain steadfast in your love. Amen.
Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version ® NIV ®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2014 by Biblica, Inc.®. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.