Who cares about FRIENDSHIP? The answer is, we all should! And I, especially as an introvert, need to do some serious thinking about my relationships (or lack thereof). I’m excited about getting to write two books this year (probably) about friendships. The first, tentatively entitled With Friends Like These . . . Biblical Friendships from Job to Jesus will examine the Word of God on the importance of friendships — with both believers and unbelievers! Let’s review a bit:
We noticed in the Pentateuch that Adam needed human companionship, that God actually had the Levites kill their friends for idolatry, and that two men specifically (Abraham and Moses) were called “the friend of God.”
In the History Books we mentioned the beautiful friendship between Jonathan and David and how it is perversely viewed as a homosexual relationship by some today, causing many men not to get close to other men out of fear!
In the Poetry Books of the Old Testament we see in the book of Job the importance of “helping” a friend in pain.If one’s view of God and reality is flawed, advice given can be adding to one’s pain. The Psalter has much to say about friendship, especially the pain of friends’ turning away when life becomes hard (see 31:11; 38:11; 41:9; 55:12-14; etc.). David declares he is “a friend to all who fear you, to all who follow your precepts” (Ps. 119:63). The book of Proverbs reminds us that the rich have many friends (19:6). The righteous choose their friends carefully (12:26) and we are warned that gossip separates close friends (17:9).
One of the most critical points about friendship made in the book of Proverbs is found in 27:6 where we read, ““Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.” None of us likes to be wounded, but there are useful wounds from those who love us which are far more valuable than empty expressions of affection. Similarly, Proverbs 27:9 says, “Perfume and incense bring joy to the heart, and the pleasantness of a friend springs from their heartfelt advice.” (27:9). Very practically we are told in 22:24 that we should “not make friends with a hot-tempered person, do not associate with one easily angered.”
Let’s (lastly) think about the section of Scripture called the Major and Minor Prophets. The prophets were often treated as outcasts, especially when they preached judgment on God’s covenant people! Messages of condemnation are not fertile soil for developing friendships! The distinction between the Major and the Minor Prophets is not a commentary on their messages. The Major Prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, and Daniel) are longer than the Minor Prophets (Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi).
In Isaiah 41:8 we have a wonderful reference to the patriarch Abraham as Israel is referred to as “you descendants of Abraham my friend.” Jeremiah rebukes God’s people for their ungodly divorces and their prostitution. And they are surprised that God is bringing judgment on them! Jeremiah quotes their perverse prayer in which they address the Lord: “Have you not just called to me: ‘My Father, my friend from my youth,5 will you always be angry? Will your wrath continue forever?’ This is how you talk, but you do all the evil you can.” (Jeremiah 3:4-5).
God’s impending judgment will ruin relationships among His covenant people, and through Jeremiah the Lord says, “Beware of your friends; do not trust anyone in your clan. For every one of them is a deceiver, and every friend a slanderer. Friend deceives friend, and no one speaks the truth. They have taught their tongues to lie; they weary themselves with sinning.” (Jeremiah 9:4-5).
Jeremiah specifically says that Judah would be turned over to the Babylonians and the Lord would make His people “a terror to yourself and to all your friends” (Jeremiah 20:4). The “trusted friends” who preached peace, Jeremiah says, will cause “your feet [to be] sunk in the mud; your friends have deserted you” (Jeremiah 38:22). Daniel and his friends were in danger of being executed, but the Lord rescued them (Daniel 2:13, 17-18). Obadiah predicts that “your friends will deceive and overpower you; those who eat your bread will set a trap for you, but you will not detect it.” (Obadiah 1:7). Micah says, “Do not trust a neighbor; put no confidence in a friend. Even with the woman who lies in your embrace guard the words of your lips.” (Micah 7:5)
In our last reference in the Prophets to friendship, we have the fascinating text in Zechariah 13:6 that reads, “If someone asks, ‘What are these wounds on your body?’ they will answer, ‘The wounds I was given at the house of my friends.’” Some see that text as Messianic, for even the Lord Jesus’ closest friends deserted Him.