“We need never shout across the spaces to an absent God. He is nearer than our own soul, closer than our most secret thoughts” ― A.W. Tozer.
There have been – and still are – people who believe that God is like an absentee landlord – far away from us and that He does not intervene in the workings of this world. These believe the only knowledge we may have of Him is through nature, consequently they do not believe in a special divine revelation – the Bible. Their concept has been described as a “clockwork universe” which God wound up at the beginning and stepped aside to let it run on its own. This belief is called “deism.”
This concept of God is far removed from that of the apostle Paul. He spoke to an assembly of philosophers and thinkers on the temple mount in the pagan city of Athens about the living and true God. He affirmed to them in no uncertain terms that God is both the creator of all things and that He is “not far from each one of us.” His evidence – the fact that we are alive and that our life depends for its continuation on His care as one of their poets had said.
“And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for “‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are indeed his offspring.’” (Acts 17:26-28).
God’s people have always realized importance of being near to God. Moses, in pleading with God to go with Israel as they went up to possess the land of Canaan, recognized that it was the presence of God that made them distinct from all the nations around them. The presence of God is what made them a unique people.
“And he said to him, “If your presence will not go with me, do not bring us up from here. For how shall it be known that I have found favor in your sight, I and your people? Is it not in your going with us, so that we are distinct, I and your people, from every other people on the face of the earth?” (Exodus 33:15-16).
“For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as the Lord our God is to us, whenever we call upon him?” (Deuteronomy 4:7).
The people of the nations that worshiped idols could call on their gods from morning until night and would not be answered. In the spectacular contest between Elijah and the 450 prophets of Baal, Elijah challenged them to call on their god and he would call on the Lord and they would see who would answer. The pagan prophets beat and cut themselves, danced about and “called upon the name of Baal from morning until noon, saying, “O Baal, answer us!” But there was no voice, and no one answered.” Elijah had only to offer a simple prayer to God and fire came from heaven, burned up the sacrifice he had laid on an altar of stones, burned the wood, the stones, the dust and licked up the water that had run off the sacrifice after Elijah had poured it over the altar and the sacrifice. (1 Kings 18).
But not only is God one who is near – He is near because He came near to us. He desires to be near us – indeed to be with us. In the person of Jesus He came near the human race. He came as Emmanuel – “God with us.” He came near us to show us what God is like. He came near us to show us God’s love and forgiveness so we might be near Him.
Not only are we encouraged to draw near to God, but to do so with “boldness.”
“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:15-16).
But how can we do this? How can I, a mere human being come near to God with anything like boldness? Here is how the same writer expresses it…
“…let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. (Hebrews 10:22).
Whatever approach we make to God must be with a true heart and in full assurance of faith. When we go to him in prayer, offering thanks or asking forgiveness, we must do so with a complete confidence that He is there and that He hears us. And we must do so with a clean life – a life forgiven of sin. If we do not have a confidence that God is there, hearing and answering our prayers, it may be that we are responsible for there being a distance between ourselves and Him.
“Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save,
or his ear dull, that it cannot hear;
but your iniquities have made a separation
between you and your God,
and your sins have hidden his face from you
so that he does not hear.” (Isaiah 59:1-2).
If this is what has happened, what are we to do? James gives the answer…
“Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” (James 4:8).
As long as we are faithful to Him we have a wonderful promise from the Lord Himself.
“Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” So we can confidently say,
“The Lord is my helper;
I will not fear;
what can man do to me?” (Hebrews 13:5-6).
With a God who is ever near us, promising to never leave us nor forsake us, we can put our trust completely in Him for every need. Paul said that the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. If that be true, then love for the God who is always near us is the root of all kinds of good.