Sunday, January 18, 2009

Sunday Devotions: Spiritual Intimacy

Lectionary verse: Psalm 139:5 You hem me in--behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me.

Psalm 139 is one of my favorite psalms. It describes the intimate closeness of God and how faithful people can never escape God’s presence. The whole attitude of the writer is that God is spiritually embracing the believer – and there’s no wriggle room when God holds us.

It’s a psalm that brings a lot of comfort to lonely people, or to those who are grieving a departed one. It’s a love poem about God’s unmistakable presence and complete concern for every child of His Kingdom.

I love the fifth verse of this wonderful psalm. “You hem me in, behind and before; You have laid Your hand upon me.”

The Hebrew word for “hem” means to beset, besiege, surround, and confine. It’s almost as if God is making a strategic military assault on the person’s soul. But that would sound too violent for such intimacy, and so I think it means something completely different.

I think that the imagery here is of a mother and an expectant child. The mother’s body completely surrounds the unborn child – protecting it, encasing it, and confining it. Because I am a mere man, I can never know what that beautiful, miraculous, and sacred experience is like, but I truly think that this is the same experience that the NIV translates as hemming me in.

These days, it’s very difficult for us to truly experience such divine intimacy. We are constantly being distracted by the world and we don’t live in the less complicated times of the psalmist. In his day, moments of reflection, silence, and meditation were quite common place, which is why most of the world’s religious scriptures are thousands of years old. We don’t take or make the time to honestly feel the true intimacy of God, which is why most of us are going through life spiritually empty.

Perhaps now is the time to not just long for the humble beginnings of our faith, but to intentionally experience them for ourselves. Perhaps this is the moment in our lives, when we allow God once more to enwomb us with love and be divinely cradled. Initially, it might feel religiously claustrophobic to our unconfined souls and free spirits, but I believe that we will get over our discomfort and rediscover that intrusive, invasive, and intimate presence of God that so inspired the psalmist to write such a beautiful poem of divine love.

Prayer: Lord God, as a mother intimately feels the presence of her unborn child, surrounding the baby with her body, life, and love, so would we each seek to be that child of Your care, concern, and compassion. Confine our spirits and surround our lives. Be claustrophobically close to our souls and truly intimate with our being. In Christ’s Name, we pray. Amen.

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