This week, I have been listening to the worship music from the Passion 2015 conference. One of the songs led me to begin meditating on the concept of “drawing near” to God. Throughout the week I have asked myself questions like: What does it mean to draw near? What are the hindrances to drawing near and how do we actually do it?
Throughout my youth, my dad was a pastor. It was commonplace dinner dialogue for us to discuss the meanings of words in Greek and Hebrew, and engage in lively theological discussions. After we lived in Israel we became fluent in Hebrew. My mom passionately studied the Hebrew language and all its mysteries. She grew into a Hebrew expert and eventually taught Biblical Hebrew classes on the seminary level. She authored a book called Hebrew for the Goyim: Bible Codes. The book explains each Hebrew letter, their meanings, and how to interpret words overall.
It’s not uncommon for me, then, to look things up in the Hebrew and Greek. It’s fascinating to see common threads in Scripture come alive in new ways by understanding the root words. This is easy to do since Strong’s concordance is attached to most online Bibles.
Here’s an example:
James 4:8 says, “Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you” (NIV). Or another way: Come close or move towards God and He will come close to you.
The New Testament Greek word for draw near in this James verse is “eggizo”. In Hebrew, the same word meaning is “qarab”.
In Hebrew, each letter is like Egyptian hieroglyphics where they symbolize concepts. In the word “quarav” three letters are Kof, Resh and Bet. The three letters work together in their individual meanings and connect to form a concept.
The letter Kof looks like a man’s head and symbolizes force and defensiveness. The Resh is associated with linear movement and light. The Bet resembles a cave or house. Why is this meaningful? Well, in the original languages letters were used to form the concept or meaning that they wanted to convey to the readers. When we understand the letters we gain new insight into the words, and a deeper understanding of verses in the Bible.
Drawing near involves our active mind, with effort, moving towards truth, and retaining it. The effort could be as simple as carving out dedicated time consistently to be with the Lord, receiving what His Spirit is saying, and hanging onto it.
We find, however, that there are hindrances to drawing near to God. In the second part of James 4:8 it says, “Cleanse your hands, sinners, and purify your hearts, double-minded people!” (NIV). Although, the first part of the verse is about drawing near, the second part sounds kind of harsh.
God always tells us what’s true and real; what’s going to solve our problems, not just put a bandage on it. We can’t move towards the light when we are carrying the shame and fear that grows out of sin. Sin keeps us at a distance from God. The fear and shame hinder us from talking freely with our Creator.
Why? Because shame and fear grow out of sin, just like in the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve hid from God as soon as they had disobeyed. Any area of disobedience is a barrier to real intimacy with our Abba Father and hinders us from hearing His voice.
We are all double-minded as well. We move towards God for a while and then get distracted, or begin to distrust God when hard things happen in our lives. Another verse says that when we are double-minded we are unstable in all our ways. Unstable because while we are guided by God’s Spirit for a time, a sin like unforgiveness soon creeps in and creates a barrier to drawing near to God.
One other significant impediment to drawing near is lies we believe. These keep us from even trying to come closer.
Lies sound like:
- I feel too ashamed to be close to God.
- I’m afraid if I get near God, He will ask me to do things I don’t want to do (e.g., move to Africa).
- Quiet time with the Lord is not essential to my well-being.
- Other priorities are more important to my day.
- I never get anything out of my time with the Lord.
- I can’t connect with God on a deep level like other people.
- I can’t “hear” God talk to me like others.
- I always thought His Spirit didn’t speak anymore.
The lie, that this kind of communication is available to just a few special people, was something I believed at first. As I confessed and repented of believing that lie, I began to anticipate God talking to me, and things grew from there. Drawing near to hear His healing voice, both through His Word and through my spiritual ears has changed my life of faith in ways I never thought were possible.
The good news is that we’re not stuck with these lies, or any other sin that God makes us aware of. One simple method we use, just to keep it simple and memorable, is what we call the CRCR Method.
* CONFESS whatever God brings to mind.
* REPENT of believing the lie or participating in the behavior.
* Ask God to CLEANSE that from your life.
* Ask God to RESTORE what was lost.
So, what is true about drawing near? In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word “quarav” for come near, or draw near also means offering or sacrifice. There is an exchange when we draw near. We sacrifice time and attention, other interests, lay aside our own plans, and stop. We stop and choose to move towards God.
From the scripture we have learned:
- If we draw near and approach God, make an offering/sacrifice of time and attention, He promises to respond.
- As we draw near we must come with repentance, recognizing that many times we draw near to other things instead of Him.
- Admit we are double-minded. We want to draw near, but we also want to: meet our needs by ourselves, fix our own problems, and live out of our own strength.
In recent years, the greatest benefit to drawing near, for me personally, has been hearing God talk back to me in a still small voice. His responses to me have made me sense His nearness like I never had before. It’s one thing to try our best to draw near to God, but the intimacy in any relationship grows when communication goes both ways. As I talk to Him throughout my day now I hear: leading and direction, caution, conviction, answers to specific questions, and loving words. My relationship with the Lord has felt alive and vibrant like I had never experienced. Also, the scriptures have come alive for me as I sense His Spirit talking to me about specific areas.
Drawing near to God happens as we hear His voice. “Faith comes from hearing and hearing by the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17, NASB). The Spirit brings alive the words God speaks to us and makes us alive in the process. This happens whether we “hear” with our spiritual ears directly from Father or by reading the written words in scripture.
God wants us all to draw near. It’s not for a few special people. What’s in the way of drawing near for you? Are there lies you have believed about hearing His voice? Ask God to show you. It’s a conversation you won’t ever regret.