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Monday, January 18, 2010

Draw Near to God and He Will Draw Near to You

Draw Near to God and He will Draw Near to You

James 4:8 reads, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” Nothing complicated about that. God draws closer to those who try to be closer to Him. And aren’t we the same way in our relationships? Scripture tells us that God not only wants a close relationship with us but He wants us to put Him first. Exodus 20:3, the first of the Ten Commandments says, “Thou shall have no other gods before Me.” Let’s look at several people in the Bible who seemed to fight for God and His rule to be in their lives and let’s see how their desires for God changed things for them.

Genesis 32:22-32 tells a story of Jacob wrestling with God, or with an angel of God. This is one of the Bible’s mysterious narratives. The importance of the narrative is that of Jacob’s willingness to contend with God. He knows that God has willed to bless him and he will settle for nothing less than his full inheritance.

Scripture tells us that God’s “Man” touched Jacob’s hip and hurt the hip socket so that it was out of joint. After wrestling all night, this mysterious “Man” said to Jacob,” Let me go, for the day breaks.” And Jacob replied, “I will not let You go unless You bless me.” “What is your name?” the Man asks . And Jacob replied, “Jacob”. Then the Man said,” Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel; for you have struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed.” Then God blessed Jacob. The name “Jacob” means “Surplanter” but the new name “Israel” means “Prince with God”.

Jacob wanted God and His will in his life. He even fought for more of God’s blessing. . And for the rest of his life he limped because his hip was out of joint from this wrestling. Perhaps this symbolizes that there is a cost incurred when we leave everything behind to follow God. There is a price to pay when we want more of God in our lives. There are things we have to give up when we want all that God has for us.

Ruth is another person we read about in the Bible who seemed to make a special effort to want to worship the God of the Jews. Ruth was a Moabite, a foreigner. No descendent of a Moabite were ever allowed to enter the assembly of Israel. (Deuteronomy 23:3.) When Ruth’s mother-in-law, Naomi was leaving Moab to return to Israel, Ruth and her sister-in-law Orpah followed after her. Naomi turned to her daughter-in-laws and insisted that they go back to their homes and their families. Naomi made the point that these young women wouldn’t have any future in Israel and that they would probably not find husbands there.

Orpah agreed with Naomi’s reasoning, kissed her and turned back to her home in Moab. But Ruth insisted that she wanted to be there for Naomi and help her, and she insisted that she wanted to leave her home and her country and follow the God of Israel. In part of her answer to Naomi she said: “Entreat me not to leave you, or to turn back from following after you. For where you go, I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people will be my people, and your God, my God.-----(Ruth 1:16).

Both Jacob and Ruth seemed willing to forget their own personal comforts and concerns in their personal quest to follow after God and His will. And God met them and blessed them both with more than either of them could have ever imagined. Even though the Law and Scripture stated that a Moabite could never enter the assembly of Israel, God seemed to change His law when it came to Ruth. Could it be that God honored her because she wanted the God of Israel to be her God? Ruth became the Gentile participant in Israel’s kingly line. She became the great-grandmother of David and she is one of the ancestors of Jesus Christ.

And it seems that God may have changed some things around for Jacob too. Jacob wasn’t in line to become the direct ancestor of Jesus Christ or to pass on God’s blessings to Israel. His twin brother, Esau, was the heir of this special spiritual blessing and was in line to become the ancestor of Jesus Christ. Scripture tells us that Esau didn’t value God’s blessing but Jacob did. God was displeased with Esau because he didn’t care about the things of God. But God was pleased with Jacob because he followed after God and God allowed him to take Esau’s place in passing on His blessing.

God wants us to follow after Him and not count the cost. He has many blessings waiting for us too, but we need to have the faith for them. We need to love God with all our hearts. And keep that love in our hearts aflame as He isn’t pleased with a lukewarm love. We should be willing to leave our comfort zones and follow Him into unfamiliar places or wrestle in prayer all night for answers. We need to draw near to God and He will draw near to us.

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