The Ultimate Friendship
I carried the label of “Christian” for seventeen years before I discovered what a personal relationship with God truly meant. Prior to this, I certainly knew Yahweh as God, and I definitely knew Him as my Savior. I did not, however, truly know Him as my Father, and walking with Him as a friend wasn’t even considered. Satan and his team, with lots of help from religion, have painted God as a very distant, non-relational being. If thought of at all, our Creator is primarily considered the Judge or, in times of crisis, a possible but unlikely means of help. Our adversary is nothing if not a very skilled deceiver.
The Lord gave Abraham his dream of producing a nation and generating great wealth in Genesis 12. By the time we get to the thirteenth chapter of Genesis, he and God had walked together for quite some time. Though Isaac had not yet been born, the Lord was upholding His end of the deal and prospering Abraham greatly; he was now rich in cattle, silver, and gold (see Genesis 13:2). Due to his nomadic lifestyle, he had roamed to several different locations, then decided to make a return visit to Bethel. While there, he and the Lord reminisced concerning their beginning (see Genesis 13:4), and Abraham listened as God encouraged him to keep the dream alive:
The Lord said to Abram, after Lot had separated from him, “Now lift up your eyes and look from the place where you are, northward and southward and eastward and westward; for all the land which you see, I will give it to you and to your descendants forever. I will make your descendants as the dust of the earth so that if anyone can number the dust of the earth, then your descendants can also be numbered. Arise, walk about the land through its length and breadth; for I will give it to you.” (Genesis 13:14-17)
At this time, Abraham decided to move again and relocate to Hebron. “Then Abram moved his tent and came and dwelt by the oaks of Mamre, which are in Hebron, and there he built an altar to the Lord” (Genesis 13:18). The meaning of this city’s name, Hebron, holds the concept of a close, relational connection such as a league, federation, association, or friendship.
This small town high upon a hill took Abraham’s walk with God to an entirely new level. We’re not told the reasoning behind Abraham’s choosing the time and place for this move. Was it his choice? Was it God’s? Knowing the Lord as I do, and observing the way he so carefully directed Abraham on his journey, I believe He led Abraham to Hebron. The progression is too obvious. (In my book Dream, I discuss in detail God’s porposes in the plans He led Abraham.) At Shechem, Abraham had chosen the Lord as his God. At Bethel, he had chosen Him as Father, and they journeyed together as family. But what God had in mind all along was to mature the relationship into a friendship. God wants to dream with friends. This can be seen through Hebron.
A few years ago, I was elk hunting in the mountains of Colorado when I saw a monument to friendship. High on a mountain, near the edge where one of the most majestic views imaginable could be seen, was a plaque encased in a rock. Tears came to my eyes as I read the words carved into the memorial:
In memory of my friend and hunting partner, [name], with whom I roamed these mountains from 1963-2003. He loved these mountains, streams, snow-packed peaks, and beautiful valleys. I miss him.
[Deceased Man’s Name]
It may sound overly dramatic, but I removed my hat and stood in silence, saluting the friendship enjoyed by these men. I tried to imagine the joys and memories created, as well as the pain of the loss this man must have been feeling as he climbed this hill, memorial in hand, to honor the memory of a true friend. The mountain had become their Hebron.
Abraham didn’t begin his journey with God as His friend, nor do we. It is possible to be in God’s family and not be His friend, just as it is with our natural family. We can be a family member with someone and not be their friend. A friendship implies closeness and takes time to develop. It is comprised of trust, compatibility, affection, and, of course, a high level of interpersonal knowledge. Friendship defines the highest level of relationship.
Friendship with God is possible for every believer and is Yahweh’s desire for us. This is the concept pictured by Hebron. God eventually enjoyed this level of relationship with Abraham - three times in Scripture, he called him His friend - and it's what He desires with each one of us. This is not only a part of our destiny, it’s part of God’s dream.
We’re much like Abraham at the beginning of his journey with the Lord. Most of us begin our walk with God to experience the benefits He offers. We aren’t terribly interested in His dreams; we probably aren’t even consciously aware that He has any. But we are very aware that He can help us with our dreams, so we cut deals with Him, talk to Him primarily on the basis of our needs, and remind Him that He is our Father - our source.
God understands this, however, and in his love and humility, is willing to meet us there. “He loves us first,” the Scriptures tell us (1 John 4:19), not the other way around. His love embraces us and makes us His child. And just as a natural child doesn’t begin his or her relationship on a friendship level with mom and dad, our heavenly Father knows we won’t with Him, either.
Most of us, when younger and in our parents’ homes, trusted them to provide for us. Appropriately so. But hopefully, the day arrived when we wanted to be more than just a well-cared-for child. As I matured in life, I wanted to be my parents’ friend. At that point, I cared more about their happiness, well-being, and dreams than I did their money. I wanted to give them more than I wanted to take. We no longer talked only about my happiness, we discussed things that interested them, as well. Over the years, their faith had been transferred to me, and we dreamed together about making a difference for God. Our relationship had matured into a friendship.
The same was true of Abraham. He started his journey with God looking for lands, blessings, and greatness. He embraced the promise of a biological son through whom he would produce a great nation. But thankfully, the relationship grew. In the end, Abraham proved his trust in God had grown to a level few people ever attain. He was even willing to sacrifice Isaac, his long-awaited son, believing if he did so, God would raise Isaac from the dead. What trust!
The Lord so cherished His friendship with Abraham that, when he died, He saw to it Abraham was buried at Hebron - not Bethel, Shechem, Moriah, or any of the other places on their journey. I can’t help but believe that, like the hunting friend’s mountaintop plaque, this was God’s tribute to their friendship. Upon Abraham’s arrival in heaven, I like to think perhaps Jehovah stood, got everyone’s attention, and honored the old patriarch, “This is Abraham, my friend. We have dreamed together.”
When God is looking for someone He can be vulnerable with, a friend with whom He can share His hopes, dreams, and yes, even His disappointments, I hope He feels He can look to me. And when my life is over, and my body laid to rest, if it can be said that He and I were friends, I will have been a success.
Pray with me:
Father, You took Abraham to Bethel, which means “the house of God.” You were revealing to him that You wanted family, that You would have Your family back. But Your ultimate goal was that he be more than that; You wanted him to be Your friend. So You led him to Hebron.
That You want to be our Friend seems foreign to most of Your kids. Break off of us this result from the Fall, which robbed us of this understanding. Restore to us the audacious revelation that You are looking for friends. May we, like Abraham, become Your friend. May we, like Enoch, walk with You.
As we do, please share with us Your desires and dreams. Reveal Your heart, Your ways, Your plans. We want to know You as never before. We ask You for this in the name of Jesus. Amen.
We decree that a generation is arising in the earth which will settle for nothing less than true intimacy with their heavenly Father.
Today’s post was taken from my book Dream.
Click on the link below to watch the full video.
[Dutch Sheets Dream, Discovering God’s Purpose for Your Life (Grand Rapids: Baker Publishing Group, 2012), pp 101-107.]