Valentine’s Day, in our consumer-driven society, has become a day set aside where the male of the human species is made to feel guilty if they don’t buy flowers and chocolate and take their significant other out on a nice date in an attempt to express our love toward them.
My feeble attempt at this tradition was the classic dinner-and-a-movie approach. I thought that the movie Fireproof would be quite fitting for such an occasion (and Family Christian Bookstore had it on sale for $5!). If you have never seen it, I would recommend it. We laughed, we cried, we ate microwave popcorn.
Prior to the movie portion of our date night, we ate at one of central Iowa’s premiere seafood and sushi establishments. As we waited for our table, being the people-watcher that I am, I was observing all of the “love birds” in their natural habitat. This combination of birds and fish brought to mind the story of the bird and the fish that fell in love, but had no way to express themselves. In other words, “A bird and a fish can fall in love, but where would they live?”
The question then becomes, how can two entities from two vastly differing perspectives love one another? The question for the bird and the fish becomes, “How do the two of us live together?” The fish lives in a reality in which the bird would drown, and the bird breathes something that would choke the fish.
This is the exact predicament that led Jesus Christ to the Cross of Calvary. In Ephesians 3, Paul attempts to help us understand God’s expression of love toward us:
For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named,that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saintswhat is the width and length and depth and height—to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen (Eph 3:14-21).
The first three chapters of Genesis shows this love crisis between God and mankind. This picture cannot be understood if your vision of God is as someone seated in Heaven looking down and seeing the Fall of mankind but not caring about it. It is impossible to understand the love story of the Bible until you recognize that our God is a passionate God and that is passion is direct toward you! He is not just a sovereign, majestic being who sits on a throne and executes judgments without feeling or compassion. If we did not have a God who is passionately interested in us, none of us would be here right now.
We will never truly appreciate the dynamics of who God is and what He has done in our lives, until we do recognize that the Cross and all God did that preceded it are one big, amazing, unbelievable love story. It is all about a God who fell in love with man, about Holiness falling in love with humanity, about the Celestial touching the terrestrial, and about the Majestic touching the mediocre.
Paul was so passionate about people coming to an understanding of the Love of God that he prayed that the Ephesians would “be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God” (Eph 3:18-19). Paul was essentially saying, “I want you to know something that you cannot even know, because your finite little mind will never be able to grasp the height, the depth, the breadth, the length — you will never find a measurement by which to measure how much God loves you!”
I have asked the questions many times: “How can God possibly love a person like me? Knowing all the bad stuff about me, knowing my failures, my secrets, my sins. Whatever could possess Him to even think about me? How can He even stand me?!” David felt the same way. He wrote in Psalm 8:3-5:
When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers,
The moon and the stars, which You have ordained,
What is man that You are mindful of him,
And the son of man that You visit him?
For You have made him a little lower than the angels,
And You have crowned him with glory and honor
And this is the situation that is found in Genesis chapter 3. God had built this love cottage called Earth and a honeymoon suite called the Garden of Eden, then set a man and a woman in a controlled environment where He would express His love. And it is from this lofty height of Heavenly love that man fell into this pit of sin and despair which takes that real, genuine, authentic love and replaces it with lust. Man gave up the opportunity to have eternal bliss in a perfect relationship with God for a few moments in rebellion with something in the flesh.
And the Lord God said, ‘Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever:’ Therefore the Lord God sent him forth from the Garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken. So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the Garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life (Gen 3:22-24).
Have you ever had a good relationship go bad? Have you ever invested passion and love and intensity and enthusiasm into someone from whom it was not reciprocated? Have you ever loved someone with all of your heart and soul who turned you away for another lover? The mourning produced by this experience is often greater than that of the experience of the death of a loved one. The death of a romantic heart is so painful, bleeding, glaring, and degrading that it often requires therapy to overcome the sense of rejection.
I think that might have been how God felt in Genesis 3. God annuls the relationship He had with humanity, His very own Creation, and a divorce of sorts had been finalized. The rejected God looked at the fallen man and woman, and in the wrath that is only known by a rejected lover, He said, “Get out!” Out of the depths of pain that Adam’s rejection had produced in the heart of God, He commanded that Adam leave the Garden. “Take Eve, take your stuff, and get out!”
Adam and Eve, ashamed to look back, walked away from eternal life to eternal loss, trying to fill the void that love left with things that do not satisfy and it is that same void that every human being is trying to fill today. Many times to our own destruction.
In His omniscience, there are very few things that God does not know. He knows the end from the beginning, and He knew us before He formed us in our mothers’ bellies. But the Bible does state that there is one thing God did not know — He knows no sin. So Adam fell into something for which God had no point of reference. “Adam, where art thou? You just did something that I have never experienced, you have gone where I have never been. I love you, and I want to be reunited.”
The man had fallen into a sinful place where God could not live. God lives in a holy place where man cannot come. The bird and the fish fell in love, but where will they live?
This is our story. Adam got us into this situation, and God wants to get us out! And when we could not get to God, God came to us!
The Bible is one big love story. God’s courtship with man began with Abraham and continued through the nation of Israel. From the land of Egypt and the captivity of Pharaoh, God took Israel into the wilderness so He could “date” them. All the wilderness experience was about God dating Israel. At the beginning of the date, He showed them how strong He was. When Israel was hungry, God became bread of heaven; when Israel asked for meat, He called for the quail to literally fly into their camp; when Israel became thirsty, He became water out of a rock. When we are on a “date” with God, sometimes He does stuff for us to show how cool He is, and how we don’t need any other lover to provide for us. That is exactly what He did with Israel.
In the middle of the wilderness is where God dated Israel. He instructed Moses to build a tent in the middle of the desert, because I am going to date Israel in the wilderness. God gave Moses an exact plan for the building of the tabernacle as well as the furniture inside the tabernacle, and He promised that the tabernacle would be “where I will meet you, to speak there unto thee” (Exodus 29:42). All of the tribes of Israel set up their tents around the tabernacle, and right in the middle of there desert God decided to throw a party, a place of redemption, as a picture of what Jesus Christ would accomplish one day.
Right there in the tabernacle, in the middle of the desert, God planned a special date with Israel. The glory of God fell on the Holy of Holies and all the tribes of Israel were around it. Exodus 40:34-35 says that “a cloud covered the tent of the congregation, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. And Moses was not able to enter into the tent of the congregation, because the cloud abode thereon, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle.” They could not get close to God because there was still a huge divide between them.
Like a bird and a fish, God and the Israelites could not connect. God said, “I will get as close to you as the blood of a goat will allow, so you can see My glory from a distance.” So the Israelites sat in the doorway of their tents and looked at a God they could not touch. Intimacy was not an option. Sin had created a problem. In the metaphor of the bird and the fish, a bird looked down and saw a fish, but the bird could not swim. The fish looked up and saw a bird, but the fish could not fly. So they tried to be happy just being “close”. God was finding a way to get close to man, because man could not find a way to get close to God.
What the tabernacle was in the Old Testament abstraction, Jesus is in New Testament reality. Instead of a tent made out of goat-skins, Jesus Christ’s body was the tent made out of human flesh, and glory of God dwelt in his body rather than sitting out on the rooftop. John makes it very clear for us in the opening chapter of his Gospel: “The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).
When Jesus came they did not know what to call Him.
For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6).
But for the purpose of God restoring us to Himself, there is a name that sticks out. Matthew 1:23 says, “And they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.” “Emmanu-” means “with us.” “El” refers to God. Emmanu-el is “God tabernacled WITH us” — not above us or somewhere close.
You need to be in a relationship WITH God!
It has been said, “What Adam got us into, only Jesus can get us out of!” But it could also be said, “What Adam got us out of, only Jesus can get us into!”
By the way…all of US are included in the “us”. God desires to meet us in a specific place. Emmanuel is God’s reconnection with humanity. Jesus is the place where we meet God. Emmanuel literally means “the tent of meeting” and it refers to the Old Testament tabernacle in the wilderness which was a shadow or symbol of which Jesus Christ is the realization. “God tabernacled with us,” our Emmanuel.
Jesus came, and He died. And when Jesus “cried with a loud voice, and gave up the ghost,” the veil that hung between the Holy of Holies and the Most Holy Place in the temple “was rent in twain from the top to the bottom” (Matthew 27:51). Like the tabernacle, the temple was also a shadow or symbol of which Christ was the reality. When Jesus took His last breath the veil was ripped where no human hand could reach, because what the veil was in the shadow, Jesus was in reality.
The veil in the temple was ripped, not so God could get out but so that we could get in! The door was opened! What Adam had gotten us out of (the presence of God), Jesus has gotten us back into!
God tore the veil so we could have intimacy with Him! The door is wide open! We need to “come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb 4:16).
This is what the Gospel is all about, being reconnected with the God who made us for His glory.
If you feel like something is missing in your life — maybe like you have a void like the one we talked about earlier — and nothing you have tried has been able to fill that emptiness inside your life. You’ve tried this and that and the other, and it has not worked. Maybe you have even tried church, but there is a difference between trying a church and trying Jesus. It’s not about the church. It’s not about the preacher. It’s not about the music. It’s not about religion. It’s about a relationship with Jesus Christ! It’s about the fusing of your spirit with the Spirit of Almighty God. It is about Jesus dwelling IN you and you in Him. He’s waiting for you.
It doesn’t matter what you’ve done or how bad you feel, Jesus has torn the veil and the door of access is open to God All that the first Adam had given away Jesus Christ, the 2nd Adam, has restored.