5-1-3 Mutuality Between God and Man
There is a repeated Biblical theme that the believer's relationship with the Father too is essentially mutual. For example, we dwell in God (Ps. 90:1), and He dwells in us (1 Cor. 3:16). Thus " he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him " (1 Jn. 4:15,16). We work out our salvation, and God in response works in us both to will and to work (Phil. 2:12,13 RV). When Israel repent, He will repent of His judgment of them (Joel 2:13,14). He has blessed us with all things (Eph. 1:3), and we all bless Him with all that is in us (Ps. 103:1,22; Eph. 1:3). He commits the " all things" of the Gospel to us, and we commit our " all things" to Him (2 Tim. 1:12 cp. 14; 1 Tim. 6:20). God's love is perfected in us, and because of this experience our love is also perfected in Him (1 Jn. 4:12,17). The Lord partook in our nature, and we are made partakers in Him (Heb. 2:14 cp. 3:14; 12:10; 2 Cor. 1:7; 1 Pet. 4:13). There are several examples where there is an ambiguity in the Hebrew text which reflects the suggestion of mutuality. Take Gen. 18:22:”Abraham stood yet before the Lord”. And yet, as witnessed by several translations, this can just as well mean “The Lord stood yet before Abraham”.
Moses is an example of this mutuality between God and man. God said that because He knew Moses by name, He would show Moses His Name (Ex. 33:12,17,19). Daniel is another example. He heard the voice of God's words, and then the Angel comes and tells him that God has heard the voice of his (Daniel's) words (Dan. 10:9,12). And with us too; if we hear God's words, then God will hear our words of prayer (Jn. 15:7). Several chapters in Jeremiah shows how the prophet feels or says something, and Yahweh responds to it (e.g. Jer. 9:1,2 = Jeremiah; v.3 = God; v. 10 = Jeremiah; v. 11 = God's response). David lifts himself up to God (Ps. 25:1; 28:2; 86:4), and asks God to lift up Himself in response (Ps. 7:6; 10:12; 94:2). Yahweh was his shepherd (Ps. 23:1), and he was to shepherd Israel (2 Sam. 5:2 Heb.). Or take Samuel. ‘They didn’t reject you, they rejected me, but they rejected you, in that you are with Me’ (1 Sam. 8:7,8). In the Lord Himself we see the supreme example of a mutual experience with the Father. He sought God’s glory (Jn. 7:18), as the Father sought His (Jn. 8:50).
And we must make this our way of life too. We work God’s will, and He works in us (Heb. 13:21 Gk.). We are God's portion / inheritance (Dt. 4:20; 9:29; Eph. 1:18), and He is our inheritance (Ps. 16:5,6; 73:26; Lam. 3:22-24; Eph. 1:11 RV); we inherit each other. Our eye is upon Him (Ps. 25:5; 69:3; 123:2), as His eye is upon us (Ps. 32:8; 33:18). The Lord stresses, with apparently needless repetition, that to the man who responds to His word, " I will sup with him and he with me" (Rev. 3:20). There is something very touching in the picture of a man living alone (unusual in the first century), presumably due to old age or persecution, with no wife (either dead or left him); and the Lord of all knocks at his door. He lets him in (i.e. responds to the word of Christ), and " I...sup with him, and he with me" . Two men, eating a man's meal, earnestly bent together over the table. It's a fine picture of the mutuality between the Lord and the believer. Even in failure and weak moments, that mutuality is still there. At the very time Israel put God to the test at Marah (Dt. 6:16), God responded by testing them (Ex. 15:25). When Israel were weary of God, He wearied them (Is. 43:22,24). Because they turned their back on Him (Jer. 2:27), He turned His back on them (18:17); because they broke His eternal covenant with them, He eventually did likewise. On the other hand, God set the rainbow in the sky so that whenever He looks upon it, He will remember His covenant with man (Gen. 9:16). The pronouns seem wrong; we would expect to read that the rainbow is so that whenever we look upon it, we remember... but no. God condescends to man to such an extent that He invites us to understand that whenever we remember the covenant with Him, He does likewise.
This experience of an acceptive mutuality between God and man is surely at the very core of our spirituality; it should be part of an inner spiritual shell that nothing, nothing can shake: aggression from our brethren, disillusion with other Christians, persecution from the world, painful personal relationships... Israel were to give their hand to God, and His hand in turn would give them a heart to follow Him further (2 Chron. 30:8 cp. 12 A.V.mg.). " This is the witness of God...He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself...the (i.e. this) witness of God is greater" than that of men (1 Jn. 5:9,10). The ultimate proof that the Truth is the Truth is not in the witness of men- be they archaeologists, scientists, good friends or who. The real witness of God is deep in yourself. " Taste and see, that the Lord is good" (Ps. 34:8) is the most powerful appeal. John is using a legal word for " witness" . There is, of course, something intentionally contradictory here. For a witness must be independent of yourself. You can't really be a valid witness to yourself. But the Lord said that He was a witness of Himself, and this witness was valid (Jn. 8:14-18). We, too, John is saying, can be a valid witness to ourselves that our faith is genuine. Our personal experience of the Lord Jesus is valid. Paul proves the resurrection of Jesus by saying that " he has risen indeed" exactly because he (Paul) has seen the risen Lord (1 Cor. 15). This is the kind of 'evidence' we tend to fight shy of. But our personal experience of the Lord Jesus is a valid prop to our faith, according to the passages considered.
Solomon apprehended the reality of all this when he commented that all the wisdom and relationship with God that a man develops in his life cannot benefit anyone else; each soul must discover for himself (Ecc. 2:21). The emphasis which we have always given to personal Bible study and a lack of authoritarian spiritual leaders is surely correct. It was God's will that Israel should be without a human king. Their lack of such human leadership is described as them each doing what was right in their own eyes. Far from being the negative comment this is often taken to be, the idea is surely that while they were without a human King, as God intended, the people did what was right in their own judgment; they worked out their own relationship with God for themselves. It is significant that a quarter of the names listed in Heb. 11 were from the period of the Judges, when there was no human King.
The idea of a mutuality between God and man is quite a theme:
- The sacrifices, offered on the altar as the table of Yahweh, were the bread of God (Num. 28:2), offered at the same times [morning and evening] as God fed His people. He feeds us, and beyond our understanding our sacrifices can give something to God, we can touch His heart, and thereby ‘feed’ Him. This idea is brought out in Ez. 16:19: “My meat [food] also which I gave thee, fine flour, and oil, and honey, wherewith I fed thee…”. The flour, oil etc. were the things Israel were to offer in sacrifice to God- the food with which they were to feed Him. Yet, Ezekiel goes on, they had offered them in sacrifice [‘fed’ them] to idols. Yet those very things were fed to Israel by God.
- “Godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of” by God (2 Cor. 7:10). If we repent / change our minds, then God will not repent of His plan for saving us.
- The Lord ‘found’ Philip, and he responded by ‘finding’ Nathanael and saying that they had ‘found’ the Messiah. Philip found the Lord, and the Lord found him. And he responded by going forth and finding another man for the Lord (Jn. 1:43,45).
- There is a play on words with the Hebrew word bayith [‘house’]. It is used about David’s house / family (1 Chron. 17:10,16,17,23,24) and that of God (vv. 12,14). Our house is God’s house. He is, therefore, to be at the centre of family life.
- We are the apple of God’s eye (Ps. 17:8; Dt.32:10), and His word must be as the apple of our eye (Prov. 7:2). We dwell in God, and His word dwells in us (Jn. 15).
- David’s men ‘delivered’ God’s land, and He delivered them (1 Chron. 11:14).
- - In his famous final speech, Stephen evidently had humming in his mind the theme of the glory of God. He begins by saying that “The God of glory appeared…” (Acts 7:2). God heard that speech, and read his mind. And responded in an appropriate way- for to give Stephen final strength to face death, God made His glory appear to Stephen (Acts 7:55). And so it can be for us- although it all depends what we have humming in our hearts.
- The way ‘Abram’ was changed to ‘AbraHAm’ and ‘Sarah’ to ‘SarAH’ shows how God wishes to mix syllables of His Name with that of men. Jacob was changed to Isra-el, mixing God’s name with that of his father. This is indeed mutuality between God and man.
- The Lord now sits at the Father’s right hand. But Ps. 110 describes God as being at Christ’s right hand. The confusion of the idioms surely demonstrates the mutuality between them. And the relationship between Father and Son is openly offered to us in John 17.
- We are God’s inheritance, and He is ours (Eph. 1:11,18).
Footnote: The Mutual Relationship Between God And David
This mutuality between God and man is brought out by the structure of several of the Psalms, in which God and David are shown to be involved in a dynamic, two way relationship. Consider Bullinger's analysis of Ps. 132:
A (vv 1,2) David swears to God
B (3-5) What David sware
C (6,7) Search for a dwelling place
D (8) Prayer to enter into rest
E (9) Prayer for priests
F (9) Prayer for saints
G (10) Prayer for Messiah
This was responded to by God:
A1 (v 11) God swears to David
B1 (11,12) What God sware
C1 (13) Designation of the dwelling place
D1 (14,15) Answer to prayer in D
E1 (16) Answer to prayer in E
F1 (16) Answer to prayer in F
G1 (17, 18) Answer to prayer in G.