Deuteronomy 4:1a, 6-7 - "And now, O Israel, listen to the statutes and the rules that I am teaching you, and do them, that you may live ... Keep them and do them, for that will be your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples, who, when they hear all these statutes, will say, 'Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.' 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?"
In the book of Deuteronomy is a long, long speech Moses is making to the people of Israel, not long before his death. You could say these are his last words; they are the things he desperately wants Israel to remember. And one of those things is summed up beautifully in verse 7: "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?"
Moses is describing something the Israelites had that nobody else had—a God who was near to them, who cared about them, who took an active and ongoing part in their daily lives. That wasn't the sort of thing Baal did, or Asherah, or any of the other so-called gods the Israelites had heard of! It isn't the sort of thing the Greek or Roman gods did either. Generally speaking, those gods were rather like over-powered super-toddlers who did whatever they wanted, and as a tiny, breakable human being, you had to hope their wishes didn't backfire on you. You could bribe them with sacrifices to try to get them to do something you wanted; but otherwise, it was best to stay far out of their way.
Against this, Moses reminds the Israelites of what the real God is like—someone who is holy, wise, just, and rational. Someone who actually cares for human beings, instead of seeing them as objects to be exploited and thrown away. Someone who doesn't have to be bribed to help, because He already loves us and wants the best for us. Someone who is always near to us, and who pays attention to our prayers and our lives—more attention than we want, sometimes!
The people of Israel knew this God, because He had already come near to them to save them. He rescued them from slavery in Egypt, and split the Red Sea so they could walk to safety. He gave them His commandments on Mt. Sinai, and gave them food and water all the years they wandered in the desert. This God was near to them, and they knew His character, His personality. They knew they could trust Him.
And what about us? If God was near to the believers of Moses' day, how much more can we say that now that God has come in the flesh, born as a human baby in Bethlehem? The great, holy, all-wise God came down from heaven to become a Man among us, one of the human family. As one of us, He lived and served and healed and taught; and when the time came, He suffered and was nailed to a cross, all to redeem us from slavery to evil and bring His lost people back to Himself. Jesus died and rose from the dead so that we could be near God, with God, forever. He is our Immanuel, "God with us."
THE PRAYER: Dear God, thank You for coming near to us and making us Your people. Amen.
This Daily Devotion was written by Dr. Kari Vo.
1. Why is it a good thing to have a God who is truly near to us, and not far off?
2. Is it always a comfortable thing to have God near? Why or why not?
3. When does God seem nearest to you, in your opinion? When does He seem far away?
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