Intimacy or Idolatry

I'm re-reading J.I. Packer's Knowing God, and came across this quote the other day:

"Some Christians seem to resign themselves to following afar off, believing the Bible record, indeed, but neither seeking or expecting for themselves such intimacy and direct dealing with God as the men and women of the Bible knew."

We tend to idealize the situation of the people in the Bible. But they struggled with a similar challenge to the one we face. It's hard to balance God's nearness with His farness. (Jeremiah 23:23), but the people of the Bible felt that too. God is a God who called Abraham His "friend" (Isaiah 41:8), but also a God whose face cannot be seen because His presence would utterly consume a sinful person (Exodus 33:20). 

We struggle with that, and most of us fall to one end of the spectrum. I counsel a lot of people who seem to really believe that Jesus is their homeboy, and who see God as a friend who doesn't really care what you do or who you do it to. 

Packer seems to be speaking to the people on the other end of the spectrum; those who see God as distant, uninvolved, and separate from us. They read the Bible and wish they could have lived during those times - while failing to remember that the people of the Bible struggled with the same issue. 

Remember the people of Israel in Exodus 32? Moses was up on Mt. Sinai receiving a hand-written note for the people of Israel, and they had a hard time feeling like God was near. They needed something - something more. So they built a calf out of gold and bowed down to it. That kind of thing happened over and over throughout the Old Testament. 

In fact, that's the danger of falling to the end of the spectrum that doesn't believe God is a "near God." It will always drive us to worship something that isn't God. We as humans are hard-wired to worship, and we're hard-wired for intimacy. When we don't rightly understand that God is near - that He lives inside of us (John 14:16; 16:7), is actively defending us against the accuser (1 John 2:1), and who invites us to draw near to Him (James 4:8) - we inevitably end up worshiping something that is not God. We turn to something that we feel like can be pursued and obtained - a job, a husband or wife, a child, our golf game, or knowledge itself. 

We have an even greater capacity to know and obey than those in the Bible - we have a more sure word than they had to know the God of the Universe (2 Peter 1:19). So, who (or what) is it that you are worshiping? Is God the source of your worship and intimacy, or are you seeking those things in something else?