Drawing Near to God
- Draw near to God and He will draw near to you (Jas. 4:8)
Introduction. When we see how Cain responded with anger to God’s gentle rebuke over his disrespectful sacrifice, we get a clear picture of what was in his heart at that time. If he had loved or truly respected God, he would have humbly repented and drawn near again as Job did. Yet although Cain knew enough about God to acknowledge and go through the motions of worship, he did not have the true faith to be a genuine worshiper: “By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain.”
Why was anger his first choice? As a son before his heavenly Father, wouldn’t it have been more natural that his love and respect would lead him to a humble response? Yet, when his brother Abel (God’s first prophet) tried to reason with him, Cain’s stubborn and angry heart responded to Abel in the same way as all the others who killed the prophets sent to them (including Jesus). “Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who foretold the coming of the Just One, of whom you now have become the betrayers and murderers,” (Gen. 4:3-8; 1Jn. 3:10-11; Heb. 11:4; Jn. 4:23-24; Lk. 11:49-51; Acts 7:52).
Even in human relationships, anger is not a good response to tense moments. While in moments of duress, many do become angry. When it subsides, the desire to draw near again creates remorse and an apology. The refusal to apologize will damage any relationship or even bring it to an end. “Brightest links of life are broken by a single angry word” is more than just a stanza in a song; it is the sad legacy of many who lost a friend in a moment of anger.
This is why Cain’s final response seals our understanding that Cain never loved God. “Cain went out from the presence of the Lord,” without any apology or remorse. It became clear that Cain was the first who: “although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.” (Rom. 1:22). Cain did not glorify Him as God in his sacrifice, so God refused it. After his refusal led to anger, it revealed his lack of gratitude. His heart became futile after he “left the presence of the Lord.” Cain never “called on the name of the Lord,” nor did he teach his offspring to do so. (Gen. 4:16, 26). This has been the sad legacy of all who refuse to draw near to God. “The wicked in his proud countenance does not seek God; God is in none of his thoughts.” (Ps. 10:4).
Yet God did not strike Cain dead for his insolence and rebellion. God is “longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” (2Pet. 3:9). “God is love”, longing to bless, forgive and be helpful, patiently waiting for as many as possible to draw near by coming to repentance. If Cain had repented and apologized (confessed) as David did after him, God would have forgiven him. “I acknowledged my sin to You, And my iniquity I have not hidden. I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,’ And You forgave the iniquity of my sin.” (Ps. 32:5). But instead of “drawing near to God,” Cain “left His presence.” Sin had made a separation and Cain had no interest in the provisions God had made for his forgiveness, nor for the conditions necessary to be forgiven.
Jesus spoke of this class of people in the parables of the lost sheep and lost coin. (Lk. 15:1-10). Both of them end with “there is joy in heaven when one sinner repents.” The parable of the prodigal son followed immediately, also revealing the love of our Father toward those who will repent. Once again it is made clear: “Draw near to God, He will draw near to you.” God is no respecter of persons. He “wants all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth.” Any seeking to draw near will find Him. “He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and have our being.” (Acts 17:27).
Others have done far worse than Cain, and still received forgiveness when they chose to draw near to God. When Hezekiah died, his twelve-year-old son, Manasseh, began to reign. After describing his idolatry and wickedness, God also revealed: “Manasseh shed very much innocent blood, till he had filled Jerusalem from one end to another.” (2Kings 21:16). He too lived his life out of “the presence of the Lord.” His conduct was vile and his influence on others very evil: “Manasseh seduced Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to do more evil than the nations whom the Lord had destroyed before the children of Israel.” God finally had enough and allowed Assyria to capture and carry him off to Babylon: “The king of Assyria, took Manasseh with hooks, bound him with bronze fetters, and carried him off to Babylon.” So ended his life of ease and comfort. Yet God did not allow them to take his life because He saw something in Manasseh’s heart that would lead him to draw near. “Now when he was in affliction, he implored the Lord his God, and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers, and prayed to Him; and He received his entreaty, heard his supplication, and brought him back to Jerusalem into his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the Lord was God.” (2Chr. 33:1-13). Manasseh spent the rest of his life in “the presence of the Lord.” Because of his choice to draw near to God, God drew near to him.
This is just one of many amazing examples of God’s longsuffering. “For as the heavens are high above the earth, So great is His mercy toward those who fear Him; As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us. As a father pities his children, So the Lord pities those who fear Him.” (Ps. 103:11-13). Paul, the great persecutor of the church is another example of how far one can be from the Lord and still be allowed to come back and draw near to Him again. “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief. ... However, for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern.” (1Tim. 1:15-17).
God has always taken the initiative. “All things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ's behalf, be reconciled to God.” (2Cor. 5:18-21)
As Paul compares God’s efforts at reconciliation before and after, it makes a powerful contrast.
- God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. 10 For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. (Rom. 5:8-10)
- Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up. (James 4:8-10)