“Draw close to God, and he will draw close to you.”—JAS. 4:8.
1. What need do humans have, and who can satisfy that need?
HUMANS have an immense need to feel close to other people. Individuals are said to be “close to each other when they like each other very much and know each other very well.” We naturally thrive on the relationships that we have with family and friends who love us, appreciate us, and understand us. However, the Person with whom we need to develop the closest relationship of all is our Grand Creator.—Eccl. 12:1.
2. What does Jehovah promise us, but why do many people not believe that promise?
2 Jehovah urges us in his Word to “draw close” to him, and he promises us that if we do, “he will draw close” to us. (Jas. 4:8) What an uplifting thought that is! Yet, many people think that it is unrealistic to believe that God wants to be close to them; they feel that they are unworthy to approach him or that he is too remote to be approached. Is closeness with Jehovah really possible?
3. What fact must we realize about Jehovah?
3 The fact is that Jehovah “is not far off from each one” who wants to find him; it is possible to get to know him. (Read Acts 17:26, 27; Psalm 145:18.) Our God purposed that even imperfect humans should be close to him, and he is ready and willing to receive them into his favor as close friends. (Isa. 41:8; 55:6) From personal experience, the psalmist could write about Jehovah: “O Hearer of prayer, to you people of all sorts will come. Happy is the one whom you choose and bring near.” (Ps. 65:2, 4) The Bible account regarding King Asa of Judah provides an example of someone who drew close to God, and it shows how Jehovah responded. *
LEARN FROM AN ANCIENT EXAMPLE
4. What example did King Asa set for the people of Judah?
4 King Asa demonstrated a wonderful zeal for pure worship, having removed the temple prostitution and idolatry that had gained a strong presence in the land. (1 Ki. 15:9-13) With freedom of speech, he urged the people to “search for Jehovah the God of their forefathers and to observe the Law and the commandment.” Jehovah blessed the first ten years of Asa’s reign with complete peace. And to what did Asa attribute that tranquillity? He told the people: “The land is still at our disposal, because we have searched for Jehovah our God. We have searched, and he has given us rest all around.” (2 Chron. 14:1-7) Consider what happened next.
5. What situation tested Asa’s reliance on God, and what was the outcome?
5 Put yourself in Asa’s situation. Zerah the Ethiopian has come against Judah with 1,000,000 men and 300 chariots. (2 Chron. 14:8-10) How would you react to the sight of such a huge army marching into your kingdom? Your military force totals only 580,000! Outnumbered about 2 to 1, would you wonder why God is allowing such an invasion to occur? In response to this emergency, would you try to handle the matter according to your own wisdom? Asa’s reaction demonstrated his close and trusting relationship with Jehovah. He fervently called out: “Help us, O Jehovah our God, for we are relying on you, and in your name we have come against this crowd. O Jehovah, you are our God. Do not let mortal man prevail against you.” How did God respond to Asa’s heartfelt plea? “Jehovah defeated the Ethiopians.” Not one of the enemy survived the battle that ensued!—2 Chron. 14:11-13.
6. What about Asa should we imitate?
6 What enabled Asa to trust fully in God’s guidance and protection? The Bible says that “Asa did what was right in the eyes of Jehovah” and that his “heart was complete with Jehovah.” (1 Ki. 15:11, 14) We too need to serve God with a complete heart. It is absolutely vital that we do so if we are to enjoy a close relationship with him now and in the future. How thankful we can be that Jehovah has taken the initiative to draw us to him and to help us to form and maintain a close bond with him! Consider two ways in which God has done so.
JEHOVAH HAS DRAWN US CLOSE THROUGH THE RANSOM
7. (a) What has Jehovah done that draws us to him? (b) What is the foremost way in which God draws us to himself?
7 Jehovah showed his love for the human family by creating our beautiful earthly home. He still expresses his love for us by sustaining our life by means of his marvelous physical provisions. (Acts 17:28; Rev. 4:11) More important, Jehovah looks after our spiritual needs. (Luke 12:42) He also assures us that he personally listens as we pray to him. (1 John 5:14) However, the foremost way in which God draws us to himself and we are drawn to him is through the love he expresses by means of the ransom. (Read 1 John 4:9, 10, 19.) Jehovah sent his “only-begotten Son” to the earth so that we might be delivered from sin and death.—John 3:16.
8, 9. What role does Jesus play in Jehovah’s purpose?
8 Jehovah has made it possible even for people who lived before the time of Christ to benefit from the ransom. From the moment Jehovah prophesied about a future Savior for mankind, the ransom was as good as paid from his viewpoint, for he knew that his purpose would not fail. (Gen. 3:15) Centuries later, the apostle Paul expressed gratitude to God for “the release by the ransom paid by Christ Jesus.” Paul added: “God in his forbearance was forgiving the sins that occurred in the past.” (Rom. 3:21-26) What a vital role Jesus has in our being close to God!
9 Only through Jesus can humble people come to know Jehovah and enjoy closeness and intimacy with him. How do the Scriptures highlight this truth? Paul wrote: “God recommends his own love to us in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Rom. 5:6-8) Jesus’ ransom sacrifice was provided, not because we are worthy, but because we are loved. “No man can come to me unless the Father, who sent me, draws him,” said Jesus. On another occasion, he stated: “No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 6:44; 14:6) It is by means of holy spirit that Jehovah draws individuals to himself through Jesus and helps them to remain in His love with everlasting life in view. (Read Jude 20, 21.) Consider yet another way in which Jehovah draws us to himself.
JEHOVAH DRAWS US CLOSE THROUGH HIS WRITTEN WORD
10. What does the Bible teach us that helps us draw closer to God?
10 Thus far in this article, we have quoted or cited scriptures from 14 different Bible books. Without the Bible, how would we have known that we can draw close to our Creator? Without it, how could we have learned about the ransom and about our being drawn to Jehovah through Jesus? By means of his spirit, Jehovah inspired the writing of the Bible, which reveals to us his appealing personality as well as his grand purposes. For example, at Exodus 34:6, 7, Jehovah described himself to Moses as “a God merciful and compassionate, slow to anger and abundant in loyal love and truth, showing loyal love to thousands, pardoning error and transgression and sin.” Who would not be drawn to someone like that? Jehovah knows that the more we learn about him through the pages of the Bible, the more real he will become to us and the closer we will feel to him.
11. Why should we endeavor to learn about God’s qualities and ways? (See opening image.)
11 Explaining how we can reach out for a close relationship with God, the prologue to the book Draw Close to Jehovah states: “In any friendship we forge, the bond is based on knowing the person, admiring and valuing his distinctive traits. So God’s qualities and ways, as revealed in the Bible, are a vital field of study.” How thankful we can be, therefore, that Jehovah had his Word written in a way we humans can understand!
12. Why did Jehovah use humans to write the Bible?
12 Jehovah could have had the angels do the writing of the Scriptures. After all, they have a keen interest in us and our activities. (1 Pet. 1:12) No doubt, the angels could have written down God’s message to mankind. But would they have seen things from a human perspective? Would they have been able to relate to our needs, our weaknesses, and our aspirations? No, Jehovah knew their limitations in this regard. By having humans write the Bible, Jehovah made it more personal for us. We can understand the thinking and emotions of Bible writers and others mentioned in the Scriptures. We can empathize with their disappointments, doubts, fears, and imperfections as well as rejoice in their joys and successes. Like the prophet Elijah, all the Bible writers had “feelings like ours.”—Jas. 5:17.
13. How does Jonah’s prayer speak to your heart?
13 Consider, for example, whether an angel could fully have conveyed the emotions of Jonah when that prophet ran away from his God-given assignment. How much better it was that Jehovah had Jonah write his own account, including his earnest prayer to God from the depths of the sea! Jonah said: “When my life was ebbing away, Jehovah was the One whom I remembered.”—Jonah 1:3, 10; 2:1-9.
14. Why can you relate to what Isaiah wrote about himself?
14 Consider also what Jehovah had Isaiah write about himself. After seeing a vision of God’s glory, the prophet was moved to say about his own sinfulness: “Woe to me! I am as good as dead, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, Jehovah of armies himself!” (Isa. 6:5) What angel would have been prompted to utter such words? But Isaiah could, and we can relate to how he felt.
15, 16. (a) Why can we relate to what fellow humans feel? Give examples. (b) What will help us to draw closer to Jehovah?
15 Would angels have been able to say that they were “unworthy,” as Jacob said he was, or were “sinful,” as Peter felt he was? (Gen. 32:10; Luke 5:8) Would they have been “fearful,” as Jesus’ disciples were, or would righteous angels have needed to ‘muster up boldness’ in the face of opposition to tell the good news, as Paul and others had to do? (John 6:19; 1 Thess. 2:2) No, the angels are perfect in every way and are superhuman. When imperfect humans express such emotions, however, we immediately understand their feelings because we too are mere humans. When reading God’s Word, we can truly “rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep.”—Rom. 12:15.
16 If we ponder over what the Bible says about Jehovah’s interactions with his faithful servants of the past, we will learn countless wonderful things about our God, who patiently and lovingly drew close to those imperfect humans. Thus we will come to know Jehovah very well and come to love him deeply. As a result, we will be able to draw closer to him.—Read Psalm 25:14.
FORGE AN UNBREAKABLE BOND WITH GOD
17. (a) What good counsel did Azariah give Asa? (b) How did Asa ignore Azariah’s counsel, and with what result?
17 After King Asa won a resounding victory over the Ethiopian army, God’s prophet Azariah had some words of wisdom for him and his people. Azariah said: “Jehovah is with you as long as you remain with him; and if you search for him, he will let himself be found by you, but if you abandon him, he will abandon you.” (2 Chron. 15:1, 2) Later in life, though, Asa failed to heed that good counsel. When threatened by the rival northern kingdom of Israel, Asa turned to the Syrians for assistance. Rather than calling out again to Jehovah for help, he sought an alliance with pagans. Appropriately, Asa was told: “You have acted foolishly in this matter; from now on there will be wars against you.” The remaining years of Asa’s rule were marred by continual warfare. (2 Chron. 16:1-9) What is the lesson for us?
18, 19. (a) What should we do if we have allowed some distance to develop between God and us? (b) How may we draw closer to Jehovah?
18 We should never draw away from Jehovah. If we have allowed some distance to develop between him and us, we should act in accord with Hosea 12:6, which states: “Return to your God, maintain loyal love and justice, and always hope in your God.” Let us, then, draw closer and closer to Jehovah by reflecting appreciatively on the ransom and by diligently studying his Word, the Bible.—Read Deuteronomy 13:4.
19 “Drawing near to God is good for me,” wrote the psalmist. (Ps. 73:28) May all of us continue to learn new things about Jehovah and come to appreciate even more the many reasons to love him. And may Jehovah draw ever closer to us now and throughout all eternity!
^ par. 3 See the article about Asa entitled “There Exists a Reward for Your Activity,” in the August 15, 2012, issue of The Watchtower.