“We have not to do with a God who is off there above the sky, who can deal with us only through the violations of physical law. We have instead a God in whom we live and move and are, whose being opens into ours and ours into his, who is the very life of our lives, the matrix of our personality; and there is no separation between us unless we make it ourselves.” –Rufus Matthew Jones
Of all the people we read about in the Bible, certainly David is one who realized clearly the need and the value of God’s nearness. David praised and thanked God because He was with him. In that most familiar of all the Psalms he said …
“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.” (Psalm 23:4).
And in another …
“Deep calls to deep
at the roar of your waterfalls;
all your breakers and your waves
have gone over me.
By day the Lord commands his steadfast love,
and at night his song is with me,
a prayer to the God of my life.” (Psalm 42:7-8).
And again …
“But for me it is good to be near God;
I have made the Lord God my refuge,
that I may tell of all your works.” (Psalm 73:28).
To David, God was as near as his life – because he was his life. If we are apart from God we have no life. We are dead. Separated from God. Separated from our life.
Because of his nearness and his faithfulness we can depend on him. We can trust him. Moses, before he died and as he was handing the reins of leadership over to Joshua, exhorted him to …
“Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the LORD your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6
Some people depend upon other people to be with them and forget to depend upon God. If the nearness of God is my good, then why do I put other people in his place – family, friends, sports and entertainment heroes, etc? There certainly is a place for family, but even they must take second place to him.
“Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” Matthew 10:37
Sometimes people who are with us can cause discouragement and make our hearts faint in the work we have to do. Caleb, one of the ten sent to spy out the land of Canaan in conversation with Joshua, another of those ten, says …
“But my brothers [the 8 unfaithful spies] who went up with me made the heart of the people melt; yet I wholly followed the Lord my God.” Josh 14:8.
Caleb was confident that if the Lord would be with him he would prevail against his enemies.
“So now give me this hill country of which the Lord spoke on that day, for you heard on that day how the Anakim were there, with great fortified cities. It may be that the Lord will be with me, and I shall drive them out just as the Lord said.” (Josh 14:12).
When we stand for the Lord and his ways, we often must stand alone. Paul as a prisoner making his defense before the Roman authorities found himself alone.
“At my first defense no one came to stand by me, but all deserted me. May it not be charged against them!” (2 Tim. 4:16).
But that did not mean that he was without help. He had far greater help than any man could give.
“But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. So I was rescued from the lion’s mouth.” (2 Tim. 4:16)
How do we know that the Lord is with us? I know he has promised to be with us, but can we be assured of an even “closer walk” with him? Can we have an intimate relationship with him as friend with friend?
“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).
“… 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).
As in any intimate relationship, closeness depends not on physical presence, but upon communication. It is so with our relationship with God as well. There has to be an expression of one’s own thoughts, and dreams, the sharing of ideas, the laying bare of our soul. We must also listen carefully when we are spoken to.
How do we accomplish this with God? We communicate with him by prayer. We must look into our soul and see what is there and tell him about it – our deepest longings, our deepest woes – even our darkest secrets and tell him everything. It won’t come as a surprise to him, it won’t shock him. but it will draw us closer to him by realizing and expressing our needs. By no means the least part of our communication with him should be in thanksgiving, remembering all his goodness toward us even though we are not worthy of it. This helps us to see his great love for us.
He communicates with us through his word. He tells us what he is like – his great power and righteousness. He tells us of his great works that show us that he is God. He tells of his love for us and for all his creation. He tells and shows us how he wants us to live. He tells us how to be saved and of his wonderful plan for us in eternity.
And we draw near to him through a life of faithful service. Indeed, the nearness of God drives us to serve him. It drives us to want to please him as faithful, loving husbands and wives want to please each other.
“Nearer, my God, to Thee, nearer to Thee!
E’en though it be a cross that raiseth me;
Still all my song shall be nearer, my God, to Thee,
Nearer, my God, to Thee, nearer to Thee!”