Draw Near to God

Do not come any closer.

These were the words of God to Moses at the burning bush. Throughout the Old Testament, God repeatedly warned his people not to come close. He commanded Moses to put a barrier around the mountain of the Lord lest the people climb it and be destroyed by their holy God. The children of Israel were commanded to keep their distance from the Ark of the Covenant, which was symbolic of the presence of the Lord. Even the priests were not to enter the Most Holy place because the presence of the Lord was there. This distance between God and His people is dealt with all throughout the Old Testament.

In the New Testament, however, we see a startling contrast. Hebrews 4:16 says, “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

In the Greek, the word “come” has the idea of drawing near. This passage invites us to draw near the throne of grace. Unlike in the Old Testament where God’s people were told to keep their distance, now we are invited into the very near presence of God. Why? What has changed?

Throughout the Old Testament, God commanded His people to keep their distance not because He did not love them but because He wanted to protect them. God is holy holy holy. We are unrighteous, completely defiled by sin. Unrighteousness cannot stand in the presence of the Holy God. He is a consuming fire. He commanded His people to keep their distance lest He consume them.

So what about now? Why can we draw near? Are we better than the people of the Old Testament? Has God changed?

We are as unrighteous as ever. God is unchanging. He is righteous and holy. In our unholy state, we have no access to God.

The invitation to come into the very near presence of God is not based upon our holiness. It is based upon the holiness of another. Because Jesus Christ lived a perfectly righteous life, died and rose again, we can stand before God.

We can draw near not on our own merits but rather on the merit of Christ. As believers, we are clothed in His righteousness. It is only through the holiness and perfection of Christ that we can draw near.

What an incredible reality! No longer do we have to keep our distance from God. No longer is there a chasm between our Lord and us. Christ has bridged that chasm for us and we can draw near to God.

Hebrews 10:19-22 says, “Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, and having a High Priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.”

Because of the work of Christ on our behalf, we can draw near with full assurance of faith. We do not have to fear being rejected by God. If we are in Christ, He invites us into His presence. He desires that we would draw near and discover the joy of intimacy and sweet fellowship with Him.

A Time to Fear

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Over and over in Sunday School and church growing up, I heard sermons and lessons teaching that we should not fear. As I have matured in my faith I have come to the conclusion that there is a time when we should fear, a time when it would be utterly foolish not to fear.

David wrote in Psalm 23:4 “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me;”

David describes a frightening situation and says that even then he will fear no evil.

Often we stop here. We reason that David said that he would fear no evil so we should not fear any evil either. But the next phrase is the key to the whole concept. David says I will fear no evil for You are with me.

If God is with us we do not need to fear anything. He is the Lord of Hosts, the creator of everything. If however, God is not with us we ought to fear.

Deuteronomy 32:30 says, “How could one chase a thousand, And two put ten thousand to flight, Unless their Rock had sold them, And the Lord had surrendered them?”

If God is not with us it does not matter how strong we think we are we ought to fear. Even if one man is coming against our army of ten thousand we ought to fear. If God is not with us we are helpless and destitute.

However, if God is with us it does not matter how weak we think we are we should not fear. Even if an army of ten thousand were to come against us we should not fear. God is our strength, our defense, and our victory.

Joshua 23:10 says, “One man of you shall chase a thousand, for the Lord your God is He who fights for you, as He promised you.”

Recorded in 2 Kings chapter 6, the story of Elisha is an incredible picture of this reality. It tells us that the king of Syria wanted to kill Elisha the prophet of Israel. He sent a great army to find and destroy Elisha.

2 Kings 6:15-17 says, “And when the servant of the man of God arose early and went out, there was an army, surrounding the city with horses and chariots. And his servant said to him, “Alas, my master! What shall we do?”  So he answered, “Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”  And Elisha prayed, and said, “Lord, I pray, open his eyes that he may see.” Then the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw. And behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.”

If the Lord is with us we do not need to fear.

All throughout Numbers and Deuteronomy God tells Israel not to fear those nations that are bigger and stronger than them because the Lord is with them but God also tells them that if they disobey they should fear because He will not be with them.

If God is with us it is foolish to fear. If God is not with us it is actually foolish not to fear.

Abraham Lincoln said, “My concern is not whether God is on my side; my greatest concern is to be on God’s side.” This should be our concern as well.

We are often told not to fear but there is a very real need for fear. Unless we are on God’s side we ought to fear.

Therefore examine yourself. Determine whose side you are on and then fear or do not fear accordingly!