Near And Far

September 29, 2006
by John Stuart

Jeremiah 23:23 – "Am I only a God nearby," declares the Lord, "and not a God far away? (NIV)

Sometimes we can get too pally with God and treat Him with unintended disrespect. I can remember hearing a pastor at a summer camp starting his prayer with the words, "Hey God," as if he were addressing a mule or a lapdog. I guess he thought that he was being hip and cool with the young people at camp, but what he was really doing was diminishing the sovereignty of God and casting aside His majesty.

Now don't get me wrong, I'm not for keeping God so distant that we cannot reach Him. I love the incarnational event which brought Christ down among us, but that was God's choice, not ours. What I hate is seeing God being yanked on a spiritual chain, as if He needs to be paying attention to us and listening to what we have to say, instead of the other way around. If that's the way things were meant to be, we could carry God around in a bottle, which we could uncork whenever we needed His help.

In Jeremiah's time, the people were guilty of keeping God in a box and trying to localize, personalize, and minimize Him. They wanted God to be bound by their words, rituals, and incantations. They wanted Him to be territorialized, just like the pagan deities around them. If God could be controlled, then the people could do what they liked. If God could be diminished, they could do their own thing.

But God wouldn't be boxed in or bought out. God wouldn't be contained or controlled. As Jeremiah prophesied, He was the God of the local community, the entire world, and the complete universe. No one had control over Him. No one could thwart His will or change His ways.

We are all guilty of being over-familiar with God, sometimes to such an extent that we misinterpret familiarity for intimacy. God isn't here to fulfill our purposes, plans, and personal desires. We are here to please and worship Him. Perhaps instead of saying, "Hey God," in our prayers, we really need to be saying "Hail, God!" in our hearts.

Prayer: Almighty God, You want us to get closer to You, so that our lives can be strongly influenced by Your sacred power and greatly enhanced by Your divine love. Keep us from treating You disrespectfully, and help us to understand that You are our Creator and we are simply creatures, whose purpose is to worship and glorify You forever. In Jesus' name, we pray. Amen.

About the author:

John Stuart <traqair@aol.com>
Knoxville, Tennessee, USA

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