Do you ever hear a chance phrase that sums up a long-forgotten song in your mind? That happened to me today…suddenly, the entire refrain of Bette Midler’s “From a Distance” began playing in my head. This was a pretty popular song back in the early nineties and although I haven’t heard it in years, the lyrics were all in that musical storage box we all seem to have in our brains.
The words filtered through…’God is watching us, God is watching us, God is watching us…from a distance.’
With those last three words, I stopped and thought about this song a little more. Although the writer seems to want this song to be a hopeful one, I shudder at the implication that God is idly looking down from somewhere far removed…our hope is in the knowledge that He loves us so much that He was never content with a distant relationship.
As I look through Scripture, tracing the pattern through the ages of time, it is clear that God’s desire is to be with His people. In Genesis, He descends into the Garden of Eden to walk with Adam…Adam and Eve turn from Him and still He pursues their hearts. “Then as the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?” (Genesis 3:8-9)
It is not from a distance that the Lord speaks to the men of old. He is present in their lives. We read about how He shows Abraham the stars, wrestles with Jacob, burns a new chapter into Israel’s history with a bush unconsumed and a man named Moses. By His own power, He rescues the Israelites from Egypt’s hold and instructs them to build a place for Him among them. “Then I will dwell among the Israelites and be their God. They will know that I am the Lord their God, who brought them out of Egypt so that I might dwell among them. I am the Lord their God.” ~Exodus 29:45-46
Did you notice that sentence above? He brought them out of Egypt so that He might dwell among them.
How absolutely mysterious and marvelous that the Lord of all creation longs to be among us, unworthy and small as we are! But this is the way of His love for us, deeper and wider than we can ever understand…knowing us and, even so, desiring that we hide in the shelter of His heart. What would our lives be like if He asked us to make our own way to Him? What an impossible feat! How could we ever dare to approach a Holy God in our own strength and merit? Nothing we could ever accomplish on our own would make us worthy enough for access to His throne room…and I say with John: Oh, how great is the love that the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! (John 3:1)
Even with His dwelling among Israel, the people got caught up in their own self-interests and turned from Him. But He never gave up on that covenant relationship He’d wanted from the start. Through the prophets, He continued to speak of His love and longing to be among a people who would offer their hearts to Him…He blessed and He gave, only for Israel to turn to idols and earthly kings.
And then the unthinkable — so that we could boldly approach the throne room of grace, He came to us again–and not only did He come to be among us, He came as one of us. He clothed himself with mortality. “The Word became flesh, and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” ~John 1: 14
Our story is one of a King humbling Himself to take on His people’s suffering and shame…our story is one where a King comes in disguise to rescue the beloved from a certain death…
…and so His mission was fulfilled on a cross, in a tomb left empty, and hearts left full–because the Father sent the Son to walk among us and His Holy Spirit to not only dwell with us but to dwell in us. “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever–the Spirit of Truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you will be in you.” (John 14:16-17)
I don’t know about y’all, but so far not one bit of this history suggests that God is far from our circumstances or our hearts! No, He is not watching us from a distance. I can think of another old song that speaks of reality — “He’s as close as the mention of His name…” For He is close to the broken-hearted, drawing all men to Him, standing at the doors of our hearts and knocking, promising to never leave us or forsake us…for the God who created us did so out of love. And just as we long to be with those we love, how much more does our God in His perfect love seek to write His name on our lives!
And so when you hear His voice calling you…I pray that you’ll answer. Open the door when He knocks and seek Him with all of your heart, soul, mind, and strength…for He wants all of us to come to Him before the day when we’ll all stand before Him. Please don’t let the opportunity to know Him pass you by. Because one day, we will be held accountable for our response to His love-story. And may we all hear Him say, “Well done, good and faithful one!” Every day, I pray that we’ll love others because He first loved us and love Him with everything with us…pursuing Him in the kind of passion with which He pursues us.
The best news of all is that this restoration-reunion-plan of His is not over yet…even while we live with His presence on this earth, there is a future being prepared for us. “I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.” (Revelations 21:1-3)
What a beautiful beginning that day will be…and although I don’t know what lies on the other side of it, the Author who has written His love through all of the ages will write His love on every moment of our future. And He will be there with us through it all.
Behold I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind. But be glad and rejoice forever in what I will create, for I will create Jerusalem to be a delight and its people a joy. I will rejoice over Jerusalem and take delight in my people! (Isaiah 65:17-19)