Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men: (Isaiah 29:13 KJV)
Isaiah prophesied about the religious leaders in Jesus’ day and said they drew near to God with their lips, but their hearts were far from Him. This prophecy was fulfilled in Matthew 15:7-8, when Jesus quoted Isaiah as He reprimanded the Pharisees for their hypocrisy. We will briefly examine the meaning of drawing near to God.
Isaiah spoke about two types of drawing near to God. The first type was drawing near to God with the mouth—outward, physical; the second was drawing near to God with the heart. As I taught in a prior devotional, God communes with us Spirit to spirit, and the sphere of this communion is the heart. Furthermore, the heart has two tablets: the inner spirit and the outer soul. After the new birth, the spirit is in permanent spiritual communion with God, always “near” to God or, more correctly one with Him perfectly. But the outer tablet of the heart, the soul, which is the realm of our earthly experience, and the seat of our feelings, thoughts, and will, can either come close or go far away from God. It can practically be near or far away from God, even though our spirits are always in spiritual oneness with God.
Two virtues of the sphere of the heart determine our spiritual distance from God—sincerity (truth) and faith. The degree of sincerity and faith in our thoughts, emotions, desires, motivations, etc., determine how close we are to God.
Many of us have probably experienced the importance of faith in our practical closeness with God. Since our soul and its faculties (such as emotions) are broken, they do not always feel God even when everything is perfectly fine. There will be moments when you will feel as though God is in the North Pole and you are in the South Pole, whereas He is closer to you than your skin. In these moments, just as in all cases, we must believe (accept) the truth of the Word that He is with us. So, faith draws us near to God even when we do not “feel a thing”.
Besides faith, truth or sincerity is crucial in drawing us near to Him. We draw near to God when we genuinely love Him, desire Him, set our minds on Him, surrender to His control, sincerely want to follow Him, and direct our affections towards Him. God is not moved when we say things to Him that we do not mean in our hearts. Lavishing words of adoration on Him from a deceitful heart while simply going through the motion for whatever reason is setting our lives far from God.
Though the adverbs near and far conjure thoughts of physical distance in our minds, they are, however, used figuratively in this verse. The distance measures how in touch our hearts are in practical fellowship with God; it is the measure of spiritual space between God and our hearts in faith and truth. While heart vices such as unconfessed sin will practically drive us far from God, though we are still His children, others like prayer and meditation pull us closer to Him
So, we draw near to God with our hearts, not with our bodies, words, or actions. But when we are closer, our behavior aligns perfectly. A good tree (good heart) cannot bear evil fruit, and an evil tree cannot produce good fruit. The evidence of a heart that is near to God will be visible. As we yield to God, seek Him daily and be filled with His Spirit, keep our minds on Him, set our affections on Him, and be sincere and truthful in our motivations, we draw near to Him in this natural realm where God wants to dwell.
How can we draw near to God when we are already Christians and saved?
Apply the Word
If you are far from God, come back now. For those of you who have lost that beautiful first love or intimacy you had with God, it is time to come back. Maybe someone is reading this devotional, and you have gone far away from God because of that man or woman; the Father says it is time to come back. He wants your heart back. Draw near to Him.
Ask the Father to help us draw near and stay in intimate, practical fellowship with Him at all times.