Read: Psalm 119:145-152
Consider: Many people struggle with the concept of the closeness of God. For some God seems distant and they feel their prayers are meaningless. This can often happen during times of difficulty or ill health. However, it can also happen when life seems to be good and going along well, when for some unexplained reason God can feel far away.
It is interesting that both Jesus and John the Baptist used the same words when speaking to the crowds. Both said: Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near (see Matthew 4:17 and Matthew 3:2). This does not mean that God had been far away, unable to be found, but that the time had come for the message of repentance to be proclaimed.
In Psalm 139 the psalmist sets out the rationale for God being near to us. He does this by pointing out that no matter where we go in the world, we cannot escape God’s presence. This means that even in the midst of despair, or whatever circumstances we are facing, God is there with us. Read these words and take comfort from them: Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. If I say, ‘Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,’ even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you (Psalm 139:7-12).
Notice that the psalmist talks about trying to flee from God’s presence and God still being there. The psalmist realises that God’s closeness is not based on an act of will on his part, but is based on an essential characteristic of God himself. He is near to us, not because we are near to him, but because he is always near us. We can wander away from God, we can even turn our back on him, but he will still be near us, calling us back to himself. Examples in the Bible are the prophet Jonah who tried to run away from God (Jonah 1:3), and the prodigal son who left his father and home to ‘enjoy’ life (Luke 15:13). In these cases the message is that God does not give up on us, but wants us to return to him and to fulfil the purpose for which he has called us.
Pray: Father, may we not rely on our feelings as they can easily fool us, but rather rely upon the fact of your closeness to us in every circumstance of life. Amen