Draw Near

By Jerelyn Wright Pearson


I find it very comforting to think about drawing near to God, and I’m sure you do too. Wherever we are physically, intellectually, emotionally, or spiritually, we can always draw near to God. As Christians we have his Holy Spirit dwelling in us. That’s pretty close. As the old hymn says, “There is a place of quiet rest near to the heart of God.”

But as comforting as it is to know that we can draw near to God, there is so much more to it. I decided to dig a little deeper and discovered that the Biblical path that allows us to draw near is deep and dramatic.

In the beginning, in the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve had a close relationship with God.

Genesis 1:26-27
26 And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: …
27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.

As we know, their disobedience changed the nature of that relationship. Once they had eaten of the forbidden fruit, God banished them from the Garden. While we often think of their exile as punishment, it also included protection.

Genesis 3:22-24
22 And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever:
23 Therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken.
24 So he drove out the man; …

Adam and Eve were protected from eating of the tree of life and dwelling in sin eternally.  

So began man’s journey to once again draw near to God. Of course, God’s perspective is different from ours. God already had a plan to restore that broken relationship. The Lord is always near to us. We are the ones who wander away.

In Psalm 73 we find an example of an individual who wandered away from God. He went down the path of envying the foolish and the wicked who prosper. He even came to the point of wondering if he had cleansed his heart in vain.

Psalm 73:1-3
1Truly God is good to Israel, even to such as are of a clean heart.
2 But as for me, my feet were almost gone; my steps had well nigh slipped.
3 For I was envious at the foolish, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.

How many times do we stumble over envy?

Continue with verses 5, 7, and 11-14:

5 They are not in trouble as other men; neither are they plagued like other men.
7 Their eyes stand out with fatness: they have more than heart could wish. 11 And they say, How doth God know? and is there knowledge in the most High?
12 Behold, these are the ungodly, who prosper in the world; they increase in riches.
13 Verily I have cleansed my heart in vain, and washed my hands in innocency.
14 For all the day long have I been plagued, and chastened every morning.

At this point the Psalmist realizes he has gone too far in his thoughts. Instead of speaking aloud, he enters the sanctuary of God.

Verses 15-17, 21-22:
15 If I say, I will speak thus; behold, I should offend against the generation of thy children.
16 When I thought to know this, it was too painful for me;
17 Until I went into the sanctuary of God; then understood I their end.

21 Thus my heart was grieved, and I was pricked in my reins.
22 So foolish was I, and ignorant: I was a beast before thee.

We can be thankful that even when we wander away in our thoughts, God keeps us.

Verses 23-28:
23 Nevertheless I am continually with thee: thou hast holden me by my right hand.
24 Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory.
25 Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee.
26 My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever.
27 For, lo, they that are far from thee shall perish: thou hast destroyed all them that go a whoring from thee.
28 But it is good for me to draw near to God: I have put my trust in the Lord GOD, that I may declare all thy works.

When we draw near to God, we too can declare his good works. When we wander away, we cannot fulfill our purpose. But even when we wander away from God in our thoughts, he holds on to us. We can turn and draw near to him. Then we can declare his good works.

There came a time when God’s people removed their hearts far away from him.

Isaiah 29:13-16:
13 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:
14 Therefore, behold, I will proceed to do a marvellous work among this people, even a marvellous work and a wonder: for the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid.
15 Woe unto them that seek deep to hide their counsel from the LORD, and their works are in the dark, and they say, Who seeth us? and who knoweth us?
16 Surely your turning of things upside down shall be esteemed as the potter's clay: for shall the work say of him that made it, He made me not? or shall the thing framed say of him that framed it, He had no understanding?

We know that the New Testament reveals what the Old Testament conceals. We find Isaiah’s prophecy fulfilled in the New Testament when Jesus responds to the scribes and Pharisees who have accused the disciples of transgressing the law.

Matthew 15:1-2
1 Then came to Jesus scribes and Pharisees, which were of Jerusalem, saying,
2 Why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? for they wash not their hands when they eat bread.

In verses 7-14 Jesus responds

7 Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying,
8 This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.
9 But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.
10 And he called the multitude, and said unto them, Hear, and understand:
11 Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man.
12 Then came his disciples, and said unto him, Knowest thou that the Pharisees were offended, after they heard this saying?
13 But he answered and said, Every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up.
14 Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.

Remember that although Adam and Eve fell away due to disobedience, they were protected from eating of the tree of life and dwelling in sin eternally. God’s plan always included a way back for mankind.

God also had a plan for the redemption of his chosen people.

Romans 10:12
12 For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him.

But not all have obeyed the gospel.  God’s people had been warned by Moses as well as Isaiah.

Romans 10:16-21
16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report?
17 So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
18 But I say, Have they not heard? Yes verily, their sound went into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the world.
19 But I say, Did not Israel know? First Moses saith, I will provoke you to jealousy by them that are no people, and by a foolish nation I will anger you.
20 But Esaias is very bold, and saith, I was found of them that sought me not; I was made manifest unto them that asked not after me.
21 But to Israel he saith, All day long I have stretched forth my hands unto a disobedient and gainsaying people.

God had a purpose for the stumbling of Israel.

Romans 11:11
11 I say then, Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy.

The Gentiles are warned not to be boastful that branches were broken off so they could be grafted in.

Romans 11:18-21
18 Boast not against the branches. But if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee.
19 Thou wilt say then, The branches were broken off, that I might be graffed in.
20 Well; because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not highminded, but fear: 21 For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee.

Here we see that Jews were broken off because of their unbelief, and Gentiles stand by their faith.

The fundamental reason that anyone, including the Gentiles, can draw near to God is through the work of Jesus Christ.

Hebrews 7:19
19 For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did; by the which we draw nigh unto God.

So, how do we draw near to God?

James 4:6-10 gives us instruction:

6 But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.
7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
8 Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded.
9 Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness.
10 Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.

Let’s summarize these instructions for drawing near to God.

God gives grace to the humble. Be humble, not proud.
If we submit ourselves to God and resist the devil, the devil will run away from us.
Draw close to God and he will draw close to you.
Cleanse your hands and purify your heart. (Repent)
Humble yourself and he will lift you up

Verse 6 begins by teaching us that God gives grace to the humble. Verse 10 concludes by instructing us to humble ourselves. We are also given an encouraging promise.

10 Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.

We don’t have to pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps. The Lord will lift us up.

Let’s conclude with Hebrews 10:22:

22 Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.


Presented 31 August 2022 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana