Sunday, February 14, 2016

The Self-Harmony of the Bible - 5 (Part Three)

Is God Always Near?
Psalm 145:18 (ASV) states: “Jehovah is nigh unto all them that call upon him.” Upon this verse, the skeptic hangs his first statement: God is always near. He also cites James 4:8 (NWT), which states: “Draw close to God, and he will draw close to you.” In contrast to these he cites Psalm 10:1 (NWT), which says: “Why, O Jehovah, do you stand at a distance? Why do you hide yourself in times of distress?” Also, Lamentations 3:44 (NWT), which says: “You have blocked approach to yourself with a cloud, so that our prayer may not pass through.” From these, he hangs the statement: God is not always near.
            It is easy enough, however, to see that Psalm 145:18 (ASV) ends with the word: “To all that call upon him in truth.” Similarly, James 4:8 is addressed to “sinners” and “indecisive ones.” Therefore, the need to call to God in truth and out of a clean heart with pure motives is apparent. In this regard, then, Acts 17:27 (NWT) is helpful; it says: “if [men] might grope for him and really find him, although, in fact, he is not far off from each one of us.” Therefore, God is close to us.
            Yet, Jehovah’s being close does not mean that he will be readily found by us when it merely suits our whims, he is not a help readily found by those who repeatedly rejected him.[1] Jeremiah laments the destruction of Judah and how Jehovah had abandoned them to Babylon for seventy years. Those whom Jehovah did not hear were the ones who first abandoned him and paid no heed to his words of warning; of them, God commanded Jeremiah: “[D]o not pray in behalf of this people. Do not cry out or offer a prayer or plead with me in their behalf, for I will not listen to you.” (Jeremiah 7:16) So, we do recognize that there are things that can separate us from God and cause our prayers to be hindered. (1 Peter 3:7) It is our sins that separate us from God, to keep in them will prolong the separation, but a contrite heart and honest repentance can readily restore us to him. (Isaiah 59:1,2) Did not Jeremiah know this? Jehovah was near to him, and he knew how Judah could regain God’s favor, namely: “Let us examine and scrutinize our ways, and let us return to Jehovah. Let us lift up our hearts along with our hands to God in the heavens.” Yes, even when God is “far away,” he is near.
            What of Psalm 10? Did he think that God was far away? Consider that the psalmist says in verse 14 (NWT): “But you do see trouble and distress. You look on and take matters in hand,” and in verse 17 (NWT): “You will hear the request of the meek, O Jehovah,” from which we can conclude that the psalmist, when saying that God ‘stands far away,’ was describing how he felt, how it seemed to be. Outwardly it may seem that God is far away – though this is not the same “distance” as is described by Paul, James or Isaiah – yet the psalm itself concludes with an affirmation of faith that Jehovah sees and will “pay close attention to [the meek].” (Psalm 10:17 NWT) So, the skeptic’s claim that Psalm 10:1 contradicts other scriptures as wrong as his general assumption.

[1] See The Self-Harmony of the Bible, p. 4

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