Don’t you love a great love story? There’s always a hero, a heroine, and a villain. The questions keep us hooked: Who will get the girl? Will she recognize her hero? Will she know how much he loves her? Or will she give her heart to the deceptive but often charming villain? The hero must often wage war against “the world, the flesh, and the devil” in order to prove his love to his beloved and rescue her from certain death or some even worse fate.
A good love story hooks you because you were created for intimacy. No wonder your heart craves connection. It’s why sex and marriage can be so wonderful when experienced God’s way. And it’s why intimacy gone wrong is the source of the greatest heartache and pain humans can experience.
And that’s the story of the Bible, from beginning to end. Passionate covenant love “till death do us part.” Spurned love, adultery, treachery, wounded hearts and souls. And then the Hero regains the heart of his beloved all over again.
Have you seen yourself in the greatest love story of all time? It’s the original epic.
God’s Original Design, Hijacked
In the opening scenes of the greatest love story Genesis pictures God accomplishing most of creation with His voice. But when it comes to humankind it’s different. The God of the universe kneels in the mud and with His own hands forms the first man. Bending over in an intimate kiss He breathes “into his nostrils the breath of life” (Genesis 2:7).
The first woman is made just as intimately. God performs surgery on Adam. This was no remote robotic procedure; God own hands remove Adam’s rib and from it make Eve (Genesis 2:21-22). Intimacy was the air Adam and Eve breathed. Intimacy with God “walking in the cool of the day” (Genesis 3:8). And intimacy with each other. “The man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed” (Genesis 2:25).
No barriers between. No physical barriers, emotional barriers, or spiritual barriers. Truly being seen and known.
Enter the serpent, and the very first thing the humans do after sin enters is hide (Genesis 3:8). Their bodies are now covered with leaves and then animal skins. Excluded from the Garden. Conflict between man and woman. Separated from God. Intimacy gone.
Could there be a more tragic picture of intimacy gone wrong? Trying to grasp the enormity of the devastation and heartbreak is almost more than the human soul can bear.
But the craving for intimacy has never left the human heart. You were made for love.
Old Testament: God as a Spurned Lover
Have you ever felt spurned or rejected in love? Then you have a small sense of how God has felt. The Old Testament pictures God as a suitor going all-out to win the heart of His beloved.
The Ten Commandments picture God as jealous (Exodus 20:5). That’s love language. God describes choosing His people in words reminiscent of a young man choosing a bride. “For you are a people holy to the Lord your God, and the Lord has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth” (Deuteronomy 14:2).
God pictures Himself in the most intimate of relationships with His people. “For your Maker is your husband, the Lord of hosts is his name; and the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer, the God of the whole earth he is called” (Isaiah 54:5).
But too often God’s people become unfaithful. Repeatedly they turn to lesser lovers. “Surely, as a treacherous wife leaves her husband, so have you been treacherous to me, O house of Israel, declares the Lord” (Jeremiah 3:20).
And for what? God’s people turned away from Him to give themselves to those who only used and abused them. “Yet you were not like a prostitute, because you scorned payment. Adulterous wife, who receives strangers instead of her husband! Men give gifts to all prostitutes, but you gave your gifts to all your lovers, bribing them to come to you from every side with your whorings” (Ezekiel 16:31b-33).
God cries out as one who has been spurned in love. “How can I give you up, O Ephraim? How can I hand you over, O Israel? How can I make you like Admah? How can I treat you like Zeboiim? My heart recoils within me; my compassion grows warm and tender” (Hosea 11:8).
But the promise of the future is the promise of intimacy restored. “And I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. I will betroth you to me in faithfulness. And you shall know the Lord” (Hosea 2:19-20)
Countless other Old Testament passages paint the same picture. But more is yet to come in this greatest love story ever.
New Testament: “God With Us”
God’s people were ghosting Him, not responding to His love letters, phone calls, text messages, or presents. So He traveled from heaven to earth Himself in an all-out attempt to prove His love and win our hearts. (Yes, we’re anthropomorphizing God a little, but this is the kind of language God uses of Himself.)
No more trying for a long-distance relationship. He came in the person of Jesus to be “God with us” (Matthew 1:23). The God we could see, hear, and touch (1 John 1:1). Who looks like us. Who bleeds like us. And our hearts “burn within us” (Luke 24:32) with all the intensity of newly awakened love.
Paul pictures our restoration, our transformation process, as a wedding preparation. “For I feel a divine jealousy for you, since I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:2). The mystery of how our human experience of marriage and love demonstrates that between Christ and the church is “profound” (Ephesians 5:32).
Jesus describes the kingdom of God as a wedding feast (Matthew 22:1-14). Once again, will He get the “girl”? Will she recognize His love for her? Or will she give her heart to His enemy? For those who turn away, sadness and eternal devastation. For those who respond to His wooing with “I do,” an eternal glory beyond our ability to imagine (Revelation 19:9, 21:2).
And as with our earthly experience, preparation for the wedding is intense, but it’s the marriage that truly counts. “He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God” (Revelation 21:3b).
You may respond to this love story in several ways.
You might feel disturbed, even emotionally invaded, by the idea that God desires that level of intimacy with you, closer and deeper than the one-flesh relationship between husband and wife. You’ve been too hurt in intimacy, and the thought is almost disgusting.
You might sense a distant longing, feeling almost hopeless that your heart could ever be filled or warmed in that way. If only it were true for you.
Or you might feel the flame of desire in your heart growing brighter. He’s coming for me!
God is patient and He understands your struggle. But He won’t stop wooing you. This is not a sappy emotionalism or an intellectual religiosity. It’s your fierce and loyal covenant-making and covenant-keeping King inviting you to a greater destiny than you’ve dared to believe.
Have you said Yes yet?
More on the theme of intimacy in the weeks to come.
Your Turn: How have you understood the story of the Bible? Does seeing it as the greatest love story ever change anything for you? Leave a comment below.
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