My brother’s job, as a policeman with firearms training, occasionally required him to do bodyguard work for Queen Elizabeth II when she came to her Sandringham estate on the east coast of England.
One time, he and another policeman accompanied the Queen, Prince Philip, and members of the royal family on a private barbecue held at the beach. As would be expected of someone who did his job well, my brother would never divulge details.
Yet, being so near to the Queen and her family must have given him specific insight into their personal lives—what they were like as people, what made them laugh, what upset them, what they enjoyed eating, and much more. I’m not sure if my brother saw being close to the Queen as a special privilege, probably more like a huge responsibility.
In a similar way, it’s an exceptional privilege when the Sovereign God invites us to come near to him. When we’re invited to come close, it’s not because of any special abilities we have, but because he longs to be near—in our living rooms, while walking in the park—and to be present in the nitty gritty of our lives.
His invitation also enables us to know him more intimately. We come into God’s personal space, so to speak. When we’re up close, we get to know him more, discover his concerns and what is important to him, hear what he says, learn what he is doing now and will do in the future.
Yet, sometimes we can have doubts about approaching God, or letting him into our lives. His greatness can be intimidating. His holiness can make us fearful. Our reaction can be to keep our distance. And our hesitancy can stem from what we read in the Bible, particularly the Old Testament.
In Exodus 19 we read that no one could approach God and live. Instead, the people had to go through two days of preparations—washing their clothes, not having sexual relations—to make themselves “holy” and acceptable before meeting with God. Even then they had to keep a distance. Only Moses and Aaron, God’s specially chosen representatives, could come into God’s presence.
So, how do we make sense of a God who seems to say “stay away” with a God who says “come close?”
Before letting these requirements, and consequences if not followed, make us fearful or hesitant about approaching God, we should instead let them give us perspective.
It’s not that God couldn’t stand having the people near him, it’s that a holy God cannot accept ungodliness or sinfulness: “Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrongdoing” (Habakkuk 1:13).
Yet, in his love and compassion, God sent his Son to make us clean and holy. Jesus has done everything to satisfy God’s requirements so we can freely come near to him.
We can come to God with respect instead of fear of his greatness and holiness. We can approach with regret and humility about our wrongdoing. We can step forward with faith in what Jesus has done for us.
When we do, God comes close to us. He showers us with grace and forgiveness. He makes us pure and holy. He gives us protection.
today I want to move closer to you.
I don’t want to be intimidated or fearful of your greatness,
but in awe of who you are.
As I come close to you today, through my faith in your Son,
shower me with your grace,
make me pure and holy,
and cover me with your protection.
In Jesus name,