Communion with God!
William Nicholson, 1862
"But as for me, it is good for me to draw near to God!" Psalm 73:28
Prayer is a duty and privilege of great importance, and of absolute necessity. Before we enter Heaven, we must pray. All who have entered that bright world above, have loved prayer. We can . . .
never perform our duties aright,
never overcome our foes successfully,
never be pleasing to God, and
never fully taste the pleasures of religion
— without sincere prayer.
Prayer is a constituent element of the Christian character, and an evidence of his vitality. "Behold he prays." Acts 9:11.
When the Psalmist Asaph compared the afflictions of the righteous with the prosperity of the wicked, he was tempted to infidelity, but was preserved from it by repairing to the sanctuary. There he saw the end of the wicked, and his own vileness. Then he saw the excellency of communion with God. "But as for me, it is good for me to draw near to God."
I. The Duty and Privilege of Drawing Near to God.
1. Observe what this presupposes. It implies,
(1.) That sin has rendered God inaccessible. "Your sins have separated between God and you."
(2.) God is accessible through Christ. He . . .
is the great Mediator between sinful man and holy God,
is the only way to the Father,
has broken down the middle wall of partition. Hebrews 10:19,20. The great Intercessor pleads our cause in Heaven. Ephesians 3:12; Hebrews 4:14-16. He perfumes our prayers by the incense of his meritorious sacrifice.
(3.) It is an act of infinite love and condescension to allow sinners to "draw near to him." Job thought it almost incredible, "Can a mortal be innocent before God? Can anyone be pure before the Creator?" Job 4:17.
Solomon was overwhelmed with the magnificence of the idea, that God should dwell, etc. 1 Kings 8:27. Yet through Christ, he grants the privilege. Enoch and Noah walked with God, Abraham and David communed with him, and all the contrite enjoy this inestimable privilege. "This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word!" Isaiah 66:2
(4.) There are particular seasons and circumstances, in which it is necessary to draw near to God.
When the soul is oppressed with guilt, and pants for forgiveness.
In times of trouble and adversity.
When poverty chills and depresses the body and mind.
In the hour of temptation, when Satan desires to have us.
When the world fascinates, and would ensnare us.
When the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches threaten our spiritual life.
In the season of bereavement, when separations the most painful and cutting are made by the grim tyrant.
In the season of bodily affliction, when we go down to the gates of the grave.
In prospect of death.
At a time when the arrangements of Divine Providence appear dark, complex, and inscrutable, as in the case of the Psalmist, "Surely in vain have I kept my heart pure; in vain have I washed my hands in innocence!" Psalm 73:13.
Blessed are those who draw near to God in such seasons.
(5.) We are often more disposed in those trials, to depend upon our own strength and wisdom than to draw near to God. How seldom is the "burden" cast upon the Lord! We endeavor to carry it ourselves. Some depend upon natural courage — some are apathetic, and let things take their course — some pretend philosophy — some rush to company, to amusement, to the intoxicating cup, etc. Let the Christian "draw near to God."
2. What does drawing near to God imply?
(1.) Conviction of need — the nature of our trials, our weakness and incapacity to bear them.
(2.) A full persuasion that God is both able and willing to help us. "He who comes unto God must believe that he is," etc.
(3.) Believing prayer. Spreading our needs before our Father at the throne of his grace, in humble dependence upon the promises he has made. "Ask, and you shall receive," etc. James 1:6; 1 John 5:14.
Our faith must ever rest upon our great High-Priest, who appears in the presence of God for us. See John 14:6-13; Hebrews 7:25. The solemn duty of prayer must not be attended to superficially, nor performed as a duty merely — but be regarded as intimate fellowship with him. See it in Abraham's intercession, Genesis 18:32, 33; Job 23:3, 4.
(4.) Self-examination, and the renunciation of every evil. When Jacob went up to Bethel, he purified himself and his household from all idols, and built an altar to the Lord, Exodus 35:1-4. Just so, with David, Psalm 26:6.
And when we draw near, we must clease our hands, etc. James 4:8; Hebrews 10:22. "Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!" Psalm 139:23-24
II. The Advantages Resulting from Drawing near to God.It is good because,
1. We obtain the blessings we need. It is good to obtain . . .
guidance in times of bewilderment,
comfort in times of distress,
strength in our weaknesses, etc.
How good the promise to Paul, the result of drawing near to God, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." 2 Corinthians 12:9, etc.
These blessings the Christian regards as inestimable. He regards them as lovely jewels brought from the cabinet of God's mercy! When he considers . . .
of what the blessings of the covenant consist,
the heart which devised them,
the hand which offers them, and
the goodness which bestows them —
he sees their value, and loves the Giver!
2. Our errors are collected. As in the case of Asaph, "When I tried to understand all this, it was oppressive to me — until I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood their final destiny!" Psalm 73:16-17. Drawing near to God annihilated his predilection for Atheism.
Is distrust arising in your mind,
is anger fermenting,
do you begin to feel worldly and sensual,
are you tiring in the ways of God?
Then go to the throne of grace — pray earnestly, and you shall be preserved.
3. We are preserved from the consequences of backsliding. Spiritual declensions always start by neglect of prayer. If drawing near to God preserves us — then how great is the privilege! By it the life of God is maintained in the soul.
4. It prepares for the discharge of spiritual duties, and makes useful and honorable in the world.
5. It is always pleasant. "It is good."
6. It prepares for Heaven and glory. Our approaches to God on earth, are the prelude of our dwelling in his presence forever. "You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory!" Psalm 73:24."You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand!" Psalm 16:11