“For what great nation has a god as near to them as the LORD our God is near to us whenever we call on him?” (Deuteronomy 4:7, NLT).
When the Israelites were wandering in the desert, the pillar of cloud during the day and the pillar of fire at night was a constant reminder of the nearness of God. They kept their eyes on it because as soon as it began to move, they had to start packing. I imagine it would have been difficult to forget who was making the cloud and fire—just think if you woke up and went to sleep with that outside your door! Even so, they didn’t want him too close as they were a bit afraid of God and what he might do.
God is still near today, even though many don’t acknowledge him and those who do aren’t sure just how close they want him to be. It’s more comfortable keeping him at arm’s length and only calling on him when things get tough. Wanting God to keep his distance is an exercise in futility because as Paul said, “In him we live and move and exist” (Acts 17:28). He doesn’t hang around like a puppy, waiting for us to throw a stick or scratch his ears. He’s always as close as our own heartbeat, engaged and active in our lives. Our response to him makes all the difference—will we run away or engage with him?