Russell and Duenes

The Nearness of God

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One of my former students was  traveling in Greece recently, and she had occasion to go to the Areopagus, where Paul made his famous speech on Mars Hill. As she stood in the place where Paul was, she recalled his words and was deeply moved by the connection of those words to that place. Thus, I found myself recalling those same words of Paul as I was walking around my law school campus the other day, and my mind lighted on one particular phrase: “. . . though He is not far from each one of us.” And I thought this was a wondrous truth, deep and unfathomable. The eternal, high God of heaven is near to each and every person, and like the ring in The Lord of the Rings, wants to be found.

Paul said that God created all of us, and that God determines our days on this earth and He moves us all around so that “we might seek Him and perhaps reach out for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us.” The atheist, Bertrand Russell, was once asked what he might say to God if there turned out to be a God and Russell had to account to Him. Russell’s response would be: “Sir, why did you take such pains to hide yourself?”

But if Paul is right, God is near and willing to be found. He is not some far off, pie-in-the-sky God who wound up the universe and absconded back to His heavenly abode. No, He is a God who is “is not far from each one of us,” and He is at pains to demonstrate this to us. For “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in times of trouble. (Ps. 46:10). God is “near” and all His commands are true. (Ps. 119:150-151). God says that “blessed are those you choose and bring near to live in your courts!” (Ps. 65:4). Indeed, “the LORD is near to all who call on Him, to all who call on Him in truth.” (Ps. 145:18). God is near to the brokenhearted and the downtrodden, to the depressed and sullen in spirit. (Ps. 34:18). If we will draw near to God, He will draw near to us. (James 4:8). And the psalmist praises God because his Name is near, (Ps. 75:1) and “the nearness of God is my good.” (Ps. 73:28). Jesus is called “Immanuel,” which means, “God is with us.” (Matt. 1:23).

Does God hide himself from those who set themselves to dwell in his word, reading it, chewing on it, pondering and puzzling over it, and seeking its treasures? Let the one who thinks God distant and hidden at least do this. Is God far from the person who takes quiet walks, soaking in the creation and genuinely opening her eyes to see whether the hand of God is found within it? Does God stand aloof from a person who calls out to God in desperation, and not just when life is heading down the tubes? Men seek pleasure and fame and respectability and fortune with reckless abandon. Do we imagine the nearness of God will be felt by those who do not seek Him out? We must ask ourselves whether we want him to be near. The presence and grace of God is everywhere present all the time. We live in a God-suffused world. He stands near to us, rearranging the pieces of our lives so that we might perhaps seek him and reach out for him and find him. He is not far from each one of us. As the old adage has it: Wise men still seek him.

-D

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Written by Michael Duenes

November 2, 2013 at 7:54 am

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