Can You Really “Draw Close to God”?
HOW would you feel if the Creator of heaven and earth said of you, “This is my friend”? To many, that might sound farfetched. After all, how could a mere human ever enter into a friendship with Jehovah God? Yet, the Bible assures us that we really can be close to God.
2 Abraham of old was one who enjoyed such closeness. Jehovah identified that patriarch as “my friend.” (Isaiah 41:8) Yes, Jehovah considered Abraham to be a personal friend. Abraham was granted that close relationship because he “put faith in Jehovah.” (James 2:23) Today, too, Jehovah looks for opportunities to “get attached” to those who serve him out of love. (Deuteronomy 10:15) His Word urges: “Draw close to God, and he will draw close to you.” (James 4:8) In these words we find both an invitation and a promise.
3 Jehovah invites us to draw near to him. He is ready and willing to receive us into his favor as friends. At the same time, he promises that if we take steps to draw close to him, he will take corresponding action. He will draw close to us. Thus we may enter into something truly precious—“intimacy with Jehovah.”* (Psalm 25:14) “Intimacy” conveys the idea of confidential talk with a special friend.
4 Do you have an intimate friend in whom you can confide? Such a friend is one who cares about you. You trust him, for he has proved to be loyal. Your joys are heightened when you share them with him. His sympathetic ear lightens the burden of your sorrows. Even when no one else seems to understand you, he does. Similarly, when you draw close to God, you come to have a special Friend who truly values you, deeply cares about you, and fully understands you. (Psalm 103:14; 1 Peter 5:7) You trust him with your inmost feelings, for you know that he is loyal to those who are loyal to him. (Psalm 18:25) However, this privileged intimacy with God is within our reach only because he has made it possible.
Jehovah Has Opened the Way
5 Left on our own, we as sinners could never be close to God. (Psalm 5:4) “But God recommends his own love to us in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us,” wrote the apostle Paul. (Romans 5:8) Yes, Jehovah arranged for Jesus “to give his soul a ransom in exchange for many.” (Matthew 20:28) Our faith in that ransom sacrifice makes it possible for us to be close to God. Since God “first loved us,” he laid the foundation for us to enter into friendship with him.—1 John 4:19.
6 Jehovah has taken another step: He has revealed himself to us. In any friendship, closeness is based on truly knowing a person, valuing his qualities and ways. So if Jehovah were a hidden, unknowable God, we could never be close to him. Yet, far from concealing himself, he wants us to know him. (Isaiah 45:19) Furthermore, what he reveals about himself is available to all, even to those of us who may be considered lowly by the world’s standards.—Matthew 11:25.
7 How has Jehovah revealed himself to us? His creative works make known certain aspects of his personality—the vastness of his power, the richness of his wisdom, the abundance of his love. (Romans 1:20) But Jehovah’s revelation of himself does not stop with the things he created. Ever the Great Communicator, he provided a written revelation of himself in his Word, the Bible.
Beholding “the Pleasantness of Jehovah”
8 The Bible itself is evidence of Jehovah’s love for us. In his Word, he reveals himself in terms we can comprehend—proof not only that he loves us but that he wants us to know and love him. What we read in this precious book enables us to behold “the pleasantness of Jehovah” and moves us to want to be close to him. (Psalm 90:17) Let us discuss some of the heartwarming ways in which Jehovah reveals himself in his Word.
9 The Scriptures contain many direct statements identifying God’s qualities. Note some examples. “Jehovah is a lover of justice.” (Psalm 37:28) God is “exalted in power.” (Job 37:23) “‘I am loyal,’ is the utterance of Jehovah.” (Jeremiah 3:12) “He is wise in heart.” (Job 9:4) He is “a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abundant in loving-kindness and truth.” (Exodus 34:6) “You, O Jehovah, are good and ready to forgive.” (Psalm 86:5) And, as mentioned in the preceding chapter, one quality is predominant: “God is love.” (1 John 4:8) As you reflect on these pleasing attributes, are you not drawn to this incomparable God?
10 In addition to telling us what his qualities are, Jehovah has lovingly included in his Word concrete examples of these qualities in action. Such accounts paint vivid mental pictures that help us see the various facets of his personality more clearly. That, in turn, helps us draw close to him. Consider an example.
11 It is one thing to read that God is “vigorous in power.” (Isaiah 40:26) It is quite another to read about how he delivered Israel through the Red Sea and then sustained the nation in the wilderness for 40 years. You can visualize the surging waters splitting apart. You can picture the nation—perhaps 3,000,000 in all—walking over the dry seabed, the congealed waters standing like massive walls on either side. (Exodus 14:21; 15:8) You can see the evidence of God’s protective care in the wilderness. Water flowed out of rock. Food, resembling white seeds, appeared on the ground. (Exodus 16:31; Numbers 20:11) Jehovah here reveals not only that he has power but that he uses it in behalf of his people. Is it not reassuring to know that our prayers go up to a powerful God who “is for us a refuge and strength, a help that is readily to be found during distresses”?—Psalm 46:1.
12 Jehovah, who is a spirit, has done even more to help us know him. As humans we are bound by visible realities and therefore cannot see into the spirit realm. For God to describe himself to us in spirit terms would be like trying to explain details of your appearance, such as your eye color or freckles, to someone born blind. Rather, Jehovah kindly helps us to “see” him in terms we can understand. At times, he employs metaphors and similes, likening himself to things that are known to us. He even describes himself as having certain human features.*
13 Notice the description of Jehovah found at Isaiah 40:11: “Like a shepherd he will shepherd his own drove. With his arm he will collect together the lambs; and in his bosom he will carry them.” Jehovah is here compared to a shepherd who picks up lambs with “his arm.” This denotes God’s ability to protect and support his people, even the more vulnerable ones. We can feel safe in his strong arms, for if we are loyal to him, he will never forsake us. (Romans 8:38, 39) The Great Shepherd carries the lambs “in his bosom”—an expression referring to the loose folds of the upper garment, in which a shepherd would at times carry a newborn lamb. We are thus assured that Jehovah cherishes and tenderly cares for us. It is only natural to want to be close to him.
“The Son Is Willing to Reveal Him”
14 In his Word, Jehovah provides the most intimate revelation of himself through his beloved Son, Jesus. No one could reflect God’s thinking and feelings more closely or explain Him more vividly than Jesus did. After all, that firstborn Son existed alongside his Father before other spirit creatures and the physical universe were created. (Colossians 1:15) Jesus was intimately acquainted with Jehovah. That is why he could say: “Who the Son is no one knows but the Father; and who the Father is, no one knows but the Son, and he to whom the Son is willing to reveal him.” (Luke 10:22) When on earth as a man, Jesus revealed his Father in two important ways.
15 First, Jesus’ teachings help us to know his Father. Jesus described Jehovah in terms that touch our heart. For example, to explain the merciful God who welcomes back repentant sinners, Jesus likened Jehovah to a forgiving father who is so deeply moved at the sight of his returning prodigal son that he runs and falls upon his son’s neck and tenderly kisses him. (Luke 15:11-24) Jesus also portrayed Jehovah as a God who “draws” righthearted people because he loves them as individuals. (John 6:44) He even knows when a tiny sparrow falls to the earth. “Have no fear,” Jesus explained, “you are worth more than many sparrows.” (Matthew 10:29, 31) We cannot help but feel drawn to such a caring God.
16 Second, Jesus’ example shows us what Jehovah is like. Jesus so perfectly reflected his Father that he could say: “He that has seen me has seen the Father also.” (John 14:9) Thus, when we read in the Gospels about Jesus—the feelings he displayed and the way he dealt with others—we are in a sense seeing a living portrait of his Father. Jehovah could hardly have given us a clearer revelation of his qualities than that. Why?
17 To illustrate: Imagine trying to explain what kindness is. You might define it with words. But if you can point to someone actually performing a kind deed and say, “That is an example of kindness,” the word “kindness” takes on added meaning and becomes easier to understand. Jehovah has done something similar to help us grasp what he is like. As well as describing himself in words, he has provided us with the living example of his Son. In Jesus, the qualities of God are seen in action. Through the Gospel accounts describing Jesus, Jehovah is, in effect, saying: “That is what I am like.” How does the inspired record describe Jesus when on earth?
18 The four main attributes of God found beautiful expression in Jesus. He had power over disease, hunger, even death. Yet, unlike selfish men who abuse their power, he never used miraculous power in his own behalf or to hurt others. (Matthew 4:2-4) He loved justice. His heart was filled with righteous indignation at seeing unfair merchants exploiting the people. (Matthew 21:12, 13) He treated the poor and downtrodden with impartiality, helping such ones to “find refreshment” for their souls. (Matthew 11:4, 5, 28-30) There was matchless wisdom in the teachings of Jesus, who was “more than Solomon.” (Matthew 12:42) But Jesus never made a showy display of his wisdom. His words reached the hearts of common people, for his teachings were clear, simple, and practical.
19 Jesus was an outstanding example of love. Throughout his ministry, he displayed love in its many facets, including empathy and compassion. He could not see the suffering of others without feeling pity. Over and over again, that sympathetic regard moved him to action. (Matthew 14:14) Although he healed the sick and fed the hungry, Jesus expressed compassion in a far more vital way. He helped others to know, accept, and love the truth about God’s Kingdom, which will bring permanent blessings to mankind. (Mark 6:34; Luke 4:43) Above all, Jesus showed self-sacrificing love by willingly surrendering his soul in behalf of others.—John 15:13.
20 Is it any wonder that people of all ages and backgrounds felt drawn to this man of tender warmth and deep feelings? (Mark 10:13-16) However, as we read about and reflect on the living example of Jesus, let us keep ever in mind that in this Son we are seeing a clear reflection of his Father.—Hebrews 1:3.
A Study Aid to Help Us
21 By revealing himself so clearly in his Word, Jehovah leaves no doubt that he wants us to be close to him. At the same time, he does not force us to seek an approved relationship with him. It is up to us to search for Jehovah “while he may be found.” (Isaiah 55:6) Searching for Jehovah involves coming to know his qualities and ways as revealed in the Bible. The study aid that you are now reading is designed to help you in this endeavor.
22 You will notice that this book is divided into sections corresponding to Jehovah’s four cardinal attributes: power, justice, wisdom, and love. Each section opens with an overview of the quality. The next few chapters discuss how Jehovah manifests that quality in its various aspects. Each section also contains a chapter showing how Jesus exemplified the quality, as well as a chapter examining how we can reflect it in our lives.
23 Starting with this chapter, there is a special feature entitled “Questions for Meditation.” For example, look at the box on page 24. The scriptures and questions are not designed as a review of the chapter. Rather, their purpose is to help you reflect on other important aspects of the subject. How can you make effective use of this feature? Look up each of the cited texts, and read the verses carefully. Then consider the question accompanying each citation. Ponder over the answers. You might do some research. Ask yourself some additional questions: ‘What does this information tell me about Jehovah? How does it affect my life? How can I use it to help others?’
24 Such meditation can help us draw ever closer to Jehovah. Why? The Bible associates meditation with the heart. (Psalm 19:14) When we reflect appreciatively on what we learn about God, the information filters into our figurative heart, where it affects our thinking, stirs our feelings, and ultimately moves us to action. Our love for God deepens, and that love, in turn, moves us to want to please him as our dearest Friend. (1 John 5:3) To come into such a relationship, we must get to know Jehovah’s qualities and ways. First, though, let us discuss an aspect of God’s nature that provides a compelling reason for drawing close to him—his holiness.
Interestingly, the Hebrew word rendered “intimacy” is used at Amos 3:7, which says that the Sovereign Lord Jehovah reveals his “confidential matter” to his servants, making known to them in advance what he purposes to do.
For example, the Bible speaks of God’s face, eyes, ears, nostrils, mouth, arms, and feet. (Psalm 18:15; 27:8; 44:3; Isaiah 60:13; Matthew 4:4; 1 Peter 3:12) Such figurative expressions are not to be taken literally, any more than are such references to Jehovah as “the Rock” or “a shield.”—Deuteronomy 32:4; Psalm 84:11.
Questions for Meditation
Psalm 15:1-5 What does Jehovah expect of those who want to be his friends?
Psalm 34:1-18 Jehovah is near to whom, and such ones can have what confidence in him?
Psalm 145:18-21 What activity on our part will bring us close to Jehovah?
2 Corinthians 6:14–7:1 What conduct is essential if we are to maintain a close relationship with Jehovah?
1, 2. (a) What might sound farfetched to many, but of what does the Bible assure us? (b) Abraham was granted what close relationship, and why?
3. What invitation does Jehovah extend to us, and what promise is connected with it?
4. How would you describe an intimate friend, and in what way does Jehovah prove to be such a friend to those who draw close to him?
5. What did Jehovah do to make it possible for us to be close to him?
6, 7. (a) How do we know that Jehovah is not a hidden, unknowable God? (b) In what ways has Jehovah revealed himself?
8. Why can it be said that the Bible itself is evidence of Jehovah’s love for us?
9. What are some examples of direct statements in the Bible that identify God’s qualities?
10, 11. (a) To help us see his personality more clearly, what has Jehovah included in his Word? (b) What Bible example helps us visualize God’s power in action?
12. How does Jehovah help us to “see” him in terms we can understand?
13. What mental picture does Isaiah 40:11 create, and how does it affect you?
14. Why can it be said that Jehovah provides the most intimate revelation of himself through Jesus?
15, 16. In what two ways did Jesus reveal his Father?
17. Illustrate what Jehovah has done to help us grasp what he is like.
18. How did Jesus express the attributes of power, justice, and wisdom?
19, 20. (a) How was Jesus an outstanding example of love? (b) As we read and reflect on the example of Jesus, what should we keep in mind?
21, 22. What is involved in searching for Jehovah, and what does this study aid contain to help us in this endeavor?
23, 24. (a) Explain the special feature “Questions for Meditation.” (b) How does meditation help us draw ever closer to God?
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The Bible helps us draw close to Jehovah
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Jehovah has revealed himself through his creative works and his written Word