To a God nearby.
Remember, O Lord, your great mercy and love, for they are from of old. The concept of a Living God who shakes the earth and yet stirs the soul is difficult to believe. On this bright afternoon, with the rush of cars like the waves of the sea, I feel like God is distant, bound up in the neat lines of my Bible or tucked away in the fuzzy corners of my mind. That He is not, somehow, despite this tale of His omnipresence, nearby.
The Lord confides in those who fear him; he makes his covenant known to them. Fear. I lack fear. It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the Living God. But how does fear make me feel His presence? Mysteriously, this fear is what God will use to confide in me, to reveal Himself to me. Reverence is the hardest thing to conjure up. I don't think it can be faked. Something John Piper said yesterday in a sermon has haunted me: "Yesterday's record of life is enough to send you to hell. If you don't believe that, you don't know how holy God is." He's right; I don't.
But I can't stop there. It's tempting to throw up my hands and say, "It's too distant, too difficult, this knowing God business. Really, it's just impractical. God is infinitely beyond Reason. What can I know?" Not much. I know there are too many mysteries for me to comprehend. And yet, through it all, I am confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. The Living God comes to a living people. I am also confident of this: that I won't get to know how holy God is by resignation. I have to be so saturated with His word and so devoted to prayer that I can't help but have my mind captured by His character.
On God's character: I was blown away by what I read in 1 Timothy 6 this morning. Paul is closing up his letter to Timothy and writing a powerful summary of all that he has commanded Timothy to do. Verses 11 through 14 cover the exhortation, outlining what Timothy needs to DO: pursue righteousness, godliness, fight the good fight, hold on to the eternal life to which you were called, &c.
But then 15-16 changes the tone of the passage. Paul begins to list the attributes of God: He is the blessed and only ruler, the King of kings, the Lord of lords, the only immortal, the One who "lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen and no one can see." He ends the exhortation with this: "To Him be honor and might forever. Amen." At first, it would seem like Paul got sidetracked; as if he forgot he was supposed to be giving Timothy his last and most important words of advice. But I felt, suddenly and strongly, that Paul knew exactly what he was doing. With these descriptions of the sovereignty of God, he was providing the reason, the ultimate justification WHY Timothy has to do all of these things. I felt like Paul was saying, "Timothy, follow these things in this letter not because I told you to. Not because it will make you a more effective leader. Not because people will praise you for your virtues. Not because it will make the church at Ephesus run more smoothly. Instead, do all of these things because God is God. Because He is who He says He is. That is why I wrote you this letter."
That is why I'm not entirely dejected by the feeling that God is far away. Sometimes He is. But His character is beautiful and strong and true and it is revealed to us in His word. That's amazing to me today.