Am I a God at hand, declares the Lord, and not a God far away?
It’s always a matter of dispute about whether long-distance relationships work. Regardless of whether they’re of a romantic nature or not, we struggle to maintain a close relationship with someone we can’t be with in the flesh. Of course, technology has helped with that, as Zoom, Skype, and FaceTime have made long-distance connections much more personal and face to face. But as much as we’re thankful to have that ability to see people as we’re talking to them, it still pales in comparison to being in the same room as them.
All through Scripture, God is assuring His people that He is not a God who is far away. Even though He is not with us currently in the flesh, He wants us to know that the presence He provides for us through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit is even closer than if He were here in the flesh. God is not a God far away. He is not like the ancient Greek gods who dwelled high in the clouds or in the lofty mountains and remained distant, aloof, and angry from the people who called upon them.
In a sense, God wants us to embrace the absurdity that He is a God that keeps a cool distance or locks Himself away in some unreachable abode in the cosmos. God is at hand. He is a prayer away. His Spirit indwells every corner and square inch of your heart and soul.
Sometimes our sin or our circumstances can make us feel like God is being distant from us. Like He turns the ringer off on His cell phone, sets up an out-of-office reply on His email, or travels to a remote corner of the universe for an extended vacation. But God is always at hand. Always at the ready. A God who stays awake while we’re sleeping. Who is upholding us when our knees buckle under us. A God who can’t be far away because the closeness He has with His creatures is part of His unfailing attributes. This is no long-distance relationship. In fact, it’s closer than the closest relationship you have on this earth.
What’s interesting about this passage in Jeremiah is that it’s spoken to prophets who were speaking lies. God declared that he was against these men. And that’s great hope for us living in times where sometimes it appears that God is distant from those who use the name of God to spread lies and untruths. In reality, God sees. He is as close in judgment to those who are unjustly representing Him as He is to close in friendship toward those who are faithful to Him.
This reminds us that unlike the Greek gods of old, who came from the vain imaginations of men, the true and living God is not an oblivious Deity. He will repay evil, He will enact justice. He will bless the righteous. He will uphold the weak and weary who have trusted in His name.
As we find ourselves on the launching pad to a new year, how might this truth be a comfort and help to you? How might it be an encouragement to someone close to you who is struggling with thinking that God has abandoned either them or the world?