James 4:8 contains an earnest plea to the believer to "draw nigh to God" with the promise that He will draw nigh to us. The phrase "draw nigh" simply means to "come near to." We shall begin a series of Sunday School lessons aimed at complying with this plea to know God, to come close to Him and know Him better. It will be a study of the nature and essence of God (knowledge about God) as well as the application and practice of this knowledge in order to draw nigh to God!
In this first lesson we will consider the reason that a believer ought to draw nigh to God and try to outline an overall plan for our study. One of the best sources for our lesson is found in Exodus 33:7-23 where Moses talks with God face to face. This passage takes place shortly after Moses had come down from Mount Sinai when the children of Israel had bowed to the golden calf.
I. The Potential of Drawing Nigh
Why should the believer draw nigh to God? Consider the potential for being close to God. Think of the awesome miracles that Moses had recently seen. After the parting of the Red Sea, Moses said of God "Who is like unto thee?" In Exodus 33:11, God spoke to Moses through the cloud face to face. Yet after all of these experiences, Moses was not satisfied. Instead, he tells God in verse 13, "shew me now thy way, that I may know thee " and then in verse 18 he asks God "shew me thy glory ". No doubt that to Moses God was the greatest person one could ever know. The study of God is the deepest subject that any intellectual could ever fathom, the most fascinating that any scientist could ever analyze, and more wonderful than any artist could ever imagine. One might ask, is knowing God really that wonderful? Consider the testimony of those that have had a close walk with God.
David, a man after God's own heart, said in Psalm 63:3 that "thy lovingkindness is better than life". According to David, his relationship with God was better to him than life itself.
B. Compared to Lucre
Psalm 119 is full of statements like this "I have rejoiced in the way of thy testimonies, as much as in all riches" (vs. 14). The Psalmist clearly put the worth of his knowledge of God above the riches of the world.
C. Compared to Luxury
God provided man with a wide variety of fruit, vegetables, meat, and other kinds of food for our enjoyment. But, the psalmist said in Psalm 19:10 that the judgements of the Lord were "sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb."
II. The Privilege of Drawing Nigh
Why should the believer draw nigh to God? Consider the great privilege we have. How many people do you know by name? How many close friends do you have? In our text, God assured Moses that He knew him by name. Perhaps you have learned that God is omniscient or all-knowing. This is not referring to that fact. God is telling Moses that He knows him on a first-name basis. He spoke to Moses "as a man speaketh unto his friend". Unlike man, God is not limited to a certain number of friends - we can all be His best friend. What a privilege!
A. Drawing Nigh is Possible
Some might wonder whether it is really possible to have a close relationship to God. Notice first of all that Moses was able to come close to God- to know God as a friend. This kind of relationship is not limited to Moses though. Abraham was called the friend of God. Peter, John, and James had a close relationship with Jesus. John further testifies in 1 John 1:1-3 that every believer can have this kind of fellowship with God. Also, it must be possible to draw nigh to Him, or James would never have made the plea for us to do so.
B. Drawing Nigh is Preferred
Not only is it possible to draw nigh to God, it is what God wants. In other words, this friendship is not one-sided. The God of heaven longs for us to draw nigh to Him. Why has God revealed Himself to man? Is it not so that man could know Him? In Genesis 2:18, God saw the only thing that was not good about His creation – that man was alone. He therefore created a companion for man. Doesn't Ephesians (5:31-32) teach us that marriage as instituted by God in Genesis 2:24 is a picture of Christ and the Church? Can we not say from this that God created man for His own companionship? If this is not proof enough, we have this fact expressed from the mouth of God in Jeremiah 9:23-24 – "for in these things I delight, saith the LORD."
III. The Price of Drawing Nigh
Why should the believer draw nigh to God? Consider the price that was paid in order for us to have this privilege. It cost man nothing, but think about what it cost God.
A. The Situation with Man
Notice what God told Moses in verse 20: "there shall no man see me, and live." Here we find the tragic evidence of something separating man from God – SIN. In fact Romans 5:10 goes beyond just separation to say that God and man were enemies.
B. The Solution from God
But whatever clouds of gloom may hang over man's situation, they are quickly driven away by the floods of light found at the end of God's revelation to man. In Revelation 21:3, we find God and man dwelling together and in the words of Revelation 22:4, "they shall see his face." Whence came this change in man's condition? Certainly not from man. As Romans 5:10 proclaims "we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son". The price God paid for us to draw nigh to Him was the death of His only Son.
IV. The Plan for Drawing Nigh
Having given sufficient reasons for coming close to God, we now turn to the issue of how this is to be done. After all, if there was not some responsibility on out part, James would never had pled for us to draw nigh. Again, let us consider our text, but first we must make sure we are all at the same place. Moses and the children of Israel had to leave Egypt and cross the Red Sea before coming to this place. Not a one of them would have been at that place had they not first put their faith in the blood of the Passover lamb. Likewise, we must put our faith in the blood of Jesus, our Passover lamb, for the payment of our sins. Compare John 3:15 with John 17:3.
A. We need to Move First
Notice the statement in Exodus 33:7, "every one which sought the LORD went out unto the tabernacle of the congregation." If we want to know God, we need to move first. God is waiting for us to come to Him. This is clear from the sequence of James 4:8: First we are to "Draw nigh to God", and then He "will draw nigh to you".
B. We need to Meet God
How is it that we know our loved ones and friends? Do we not first have to be introduced to them and afterwards acquire some knowledge about their nature and passions? Do we not sometimes know our best friends better than they know themselves? Moses asked God "shew me now thy way". We need to meet God and get to know about Him.
C. We need to Meditate about God
The only way that Moses could get to know God was for God to show Himself to Moses. It is not enough for us to obtain pure knowledge about God. We need that knowledge applied to our heart and life. This can only come from meditation on the truths that we learn about God. J.I. Packer writes:
Meditation is the activity of calling to mind, and thinking over, and dwelling on, and applying to oneself, the various things that one knows about the works and ways and purposes and promises of God. It is an activity of holy thought, consciously performed in the presence of God, under the eye of God, by the help of God, as a means of communion with God.
Only by meditating on the truths of God can God take those truths deep into our hearts. Psalm 119:99 says "I have more understanding than all my teachers: for thy testimonies are my meditation."
Moses wanted the presence of God to go with Him. Let that be your desire as well. Be faithful to class! Study God's Word and meditate on the things God shows you. Remember the promise, "Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you." Selah.