This article on Deuteronomy 4:7 is about the nearness of God and the greatness of God.

Source: Clarion, 1988. 2 pages.

Deuteronomy 4:7 – He is Near!

For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as the LORD our God is to us, whenever we call upon Him?

Deuteronomy 4:7

In the introductory words to the reading of the law, Moses highlights the fact that God was near as the basic feature of the LORD's way of working which marks Him off from the gods of the other nations. And the ensuing words indicate what the actual content of this nearness was: the LORD was a God who answered whenever His people called upon Him. Particularly in the hour of distress God proved Himself to be mightier than all the gods of the nations, and showed that He was more powerful than every enemy.

Yet there is more in this little word than meets the eye. Indeed, the context indicates that Moses has more in mind in stating that God is near. God was near in giving His salvation; He was also near in judgment. Moses recalls how the people saw the judgment of their fellow Israelites who were disobedient at Baal-peor. God was near in His mighty acts: but above all, He was near in His words, and in His solemn address. Israel was born out of an act of His nearness. Yet He delivered them in order to give to them His law, and so teach them to live festively before Him. Exodus 5:1. After the act of His nearness, the LORD comes closer with the word of His nearness.

So the term “near” refers more than spatial proximity, although that is included. The term points especially to the intimacy of the covenant relationship which the LORD had established with us. He is distinguished from the gods of the nations by His speaking, His living voice. The gods of the surrounding nations were also considered to have a close relationship to man. The astral and heavenly deities were directly involved in the cycle of the seasons, and in the patterns of the weather. But there was no verbal and living communication in the way the LORD had instituted it with His people.

And with the living Voice of God comes a new meaning to divine nearness. God is present as the Holy One before whom nothing is hidden. He is present as the God who governs everything, and yet is in everything in such a way that nothing is hidden from His view. So this word is also used for the act of worship and prayer. Who is the one who may draw near to God, and to whom does the LORD draw near? 

The LORD is near to the broken hearted and saves the crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18

He is near to the one who honours His law, as David says,

But Thou art near, O LORD, and all Thy commandments are true. Psalm 119:151

And he says:

The LORD is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth. Psalm 145:18

So the term also includes the hour of the great consummation, when we will know God in truth, and when He will dwell among us. The time of His coming is near!

This is the way the Lord Jesus spoke of God's nearness! The Father is near to the one who upholds His law as a rule of life, and who earnestly strives for perfection, Matthew 5:44. The Father is near to the one who gives his alms in secret. Matthew 6:6, and shuts his door and prays in secret, Matthew 6:9. God is near to the righteous and poor in spirit, who seek their help outside of themselves in the saving deeds of the only true God. And in the coming of the Messiah, God has come near to His own. “I am the way,” John 14:6. In Christ the hour of nearness has come!

So our Lord Jesus lived in the nearness of His Father, and sought that nearness even when God turned His face from Him. He held to the memory and expectation of God's nearness even in the hour that God was far away and did not answer, Psalm 22:2. He did not give up in His trust of God's nearness, for He knew that He could not hide from God's presence, Psalm 139:7ff. He had to face the one with whom He had to do! And He was forsaken and punished in His human nature because of our transgressions. He faced God's wrath so that we could be set free!

This means that for us God is near in Christ. In Christ God has come down to us, and has delivered us from all afflictions. Our very existence is a result of His nearness. We would not be a people for Him without His mighty saving deeds behind us. But in Christ the way of communication has also been restored. The verbal lines of communication are so renewed that in word and voice we have a God who is near to us! We may know His will! And whenever one calls upon Him in true faith, without seeking any help in himself, the LORD proves Himself to be near. Indeed, in Christ a new way of direct access has been opened! We have been brought near, and may therefore have the confidence to draw near!

But who may come before God? The one who loves and upholds His law, and seeks Him with a pure heart. Here James applies the same meaning of the word “near” as recorded in the Old Testament:

Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts you men of double mind! James 4:8

Christ came with one message: “The Kingdom is near!” And He confirmed it by His death and resurrection. For those who reject Him, God remains far off. For we can only come to Father through Him. Yet everyone who turns to Him knows this truth: He is Immanuel. God with us! He is the Helper of those who are helpless in themselves, a place of shelter for those who are abandoned, and entangled in the cords of destruction. Blessed are those who take refuge in Him!

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