Bread – Near

July 26, 2017


Psalm 75

We give thanks to You, O God; we give thanks for Your name is near.”  Ps. 75:1

What does it mean to “near” someone?  It doesn’t mean “upon.”  When I say I am “near” to you, it does not mean that I am top of you.  And it doesn’t necessarily mean “close to” or “next to” in the sense that our personal space is somehow invaded.  All of us have been in crowded situations where the person standing next to us is “too near” to us, touching us, pushing us, invading our personal space.  We may put up with someone being “too near” to us because of the circumstances (like on a crowded bus), but we are not happy about it and we ready to push that person away and re-establish our “comfort zone” as soon as possible.

No, “near” does not mean “on top of” nor does it mean “next to.”  Instead, I think it means “close enough to be reached by me.”  If someone is near to me, then I can reach out and, by a slight movement in that person’s direction, touch them, talk to them, engage with them, and hear them.

Since the phrase “Your name” is synonymous with the person described, the direct modern translation might be “God is near (to me).”  Asaph says that he (and we) give thanks to God because He is close (but not too close) to us.  He does not smother us by being on top of us; He does not make us uncomfortable by invading our personal zone.  But He is near, able to be reached, able to be touched, able to be spoken to, and able to be heard from.  He is not only able, but willing.  We may be able but we are often not willing.  But that is on us, not on Him.

There is a flip side to His being near to us and that flip side is that we are near to Him.  We cannot shake it; we cannot slam the door in His face (we have no power to “dis-near” Him).  We are always near to Him, even in our deepest despair.  Even while we are steeped in sin, we are near to Him because He is near to us.  What is amazing to me is that this “nearness” is not established by anything which we did or because of who we are, but because of what He has done and who He is.

In order for us to benefit from this nearness, the Holy Spirit has to enable us to do two things.  The first is not obvious, but is absolutely necessary.  The second is obvious, but we tend to think it is not necessary even though it is.

To the person who is dead in their sins, the first thing the Holy Spirit does is make us aware that God is near.  If we do not recognize God is in the room and we therefore don’t recognize God is near, then we don’t even see Him at all.  He may be near to us but His presence is unknown to us.  The best example I can think of is I was shopping the other day with my wife and this woman who I knew was standing right next to me.  I was so focused on my shopping that it did not register with me that someone was standing next to me, much less someone I knew.  I about jumped out of my skin when she said “Hello, George,” and I immediately thought to myself “How did I not see her?”  I did not see her because I had not been awakened by her voice.  Just so, while we are dead in our sins, God is near but we don’t even see Him, feel Him, or hear Him, much less acknowledge that He is in the same room as we are.  The Holy Spirit by necessity has to wake us to the fact that He is who He is and that He is near.

We often think that, once the Holy Spirit has done His work in waking us up, that it up to us to say “Hello, Jesus, thank You for coming; please set up shop in my soul.”  (This is a sloppy rendition of the so-called “sinner’s prayer.”)    However, this is where the next step occurs, after recognizing that God is in the room, we much reach out to Him.  The reason I call this “obvious” but we think it unnecessary for the Holy Spirit to be involved is that many of us believe that this next step is ours to take, on our own in our own strength.  We believe that, if God is near and we have become aware of that fact, then it is up to us to engage Him.

However, how does one reach out to God, even if you know He exists, when one is dead in sin?  Because we are dead, it is God who must come near, it is God who must wake us up to recognize Him, and it is God who must bring us, while we are still dead, to Him.  The Holy Spirit enables us not only to see but to do.  We see God across the room but we are stuck at the buffet line of the world unless He takes us by the hand and brings us to Himself.

How near is God?  As near as you need Him to be.  Come Holy Spirit, open our eyes and move us into position to touch Him, talk to Him, and listen to Him, enabling us to give thanks because He is indeed near.

________

© 2017 GBF    All Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version (2001), unless otherwise indicated.

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