Draw Near to God - He Can Be Found in Very Ordinary Places
Draw near to God and He will draw near to you... James 4:8a
I was recently asked by someone who had been walking with the Lord almost all their life, "How does one draw near to God?" That's a great question. I had to stop for a moment to think about it. After all, I know what I think it means and what I have been taught by others, but...what does Scripture say about drawing near to the Lord? Let's take a look together and see what treasure the Lord has hidden in His Word for us to discover.
The Greek word used in James to mean "draw near" is eggizo (pronounced eng-id'-zo; Strong's #1448). Eggizo means to bring near, to join one thing to another, to draw or come near to, to approach. The most common Hebrew counterpart is karav (Strong's #7126; pronounced ka-rav). Note that karav is spelled with the following three Hebrew letters: koof, resh, beit.
The Hebrew word, karav, is similar to the Greek word, yet it has some sweet nuances that are lost in the translation. Karav is best expressed as being in or coming into a near and intimate proximity of an object (which, in this case, is God). It speaks of nearness in many ways. It speaks of nearness of proximity and space (see Genesis 19:20), nearness of time (see Deuteronomy 32:35), it even defines the nearness of an intimate encounter (see Isaiah 8:3).
God Can Be Found in Very Ordinary Places
Karav also speaks of the steps a man (or woman) performs in presenting themselves to God. For example, Moses was instructed not to draw near (karav) until he took off his sandals in Exodus 3:5: "Then He said, "Do not draw near this place. Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground."
This passage reveals a lot. First and foremost, drawing near to a Holy God is not a common or casual thing. Though the ground Moses stood on was common and just a spot in the wilderness that Moses had probably walked on a number of times, this time something was different. This time GOD WAS THERE!
Scripture reveals that Moses turned aside from the task at hand to see this uncommon phenomenon, and that was when the Lord spoke to him from the burning bush. Moses could have just seen the bush burning and that would have been super cool, but instead, he stopped what he was doing and turned aside and encountered God.
The common ground suddenly became uncommon, holy ground. The proper preparation at that moment was simply to remove what was common, his shoes, and step unto the uncommon ground and draw near to God. I'm not suggesting a formula, all I am suggesting is a heightened awareness to God, especially if you are actively seeking Him, because as Scripture reveals, He can be found in very ordinary places. Hallelujah!
The Free Gift of Grace that Brings Us Peace and Access to Draw Near
The last shade of meaning I want to share about our root word karav is how it is used in Leviticus 3:1-2 regarding the steps the soul takes to draw near to God. Regarding the peace offering of the sacrificial system it is written, "'When his offering is a sacrifice of a peace offering, if he offers it of the herd, whether male or female, he shall offer it without blemish before the Lord. And he shall lay his hand on the head of his offering, and kill it at the door of the tabernacle of meeting; and Aaron's sons, the priests, shall sprinkle the blood all around on the altar."
I highlighted every English word that contains our Hebrew root word karav because I find it interesting to note the various ways the word is used. Notice that it is used as the act of worship (i.e. bringing the offering) as well as the offering itself (what is brought). Through this, we see that what we offer is just as valuable as the physical act of presenting the offering, in regards to drawing near to God.
This sacrifice is typically known as the korban (Strong's #7133; pronounced kohr-ban) and means sacrifice, offering, and gift. The korban or offering was meant to bring someone who was far from God near once again. Through this, we can see that in a very real way we draw near to the Lord each and every time we sacrifice our will for His will.
Although korban may seem like a different word, it actually comes from the same word we have been studying: karav. The word korban is spelled koof, resh, beit, nun. The first three letters, koof, resh, beit, spell our root word karav. The word korban has one additional letter at the end; it is the letter nun. An amazing spiritual picture is painted through the Hebrew letters that spell the word korban. The letter nun is considered a symbol of faithfulness by the sages.
Thus by looking through this lens, we can see that it is the faithfulness (the nun) of God that provided the sacrifice (korban) of Jesus Christ which is a free gift of grace that brings us peace and access to draw near (karav) to God. Prior to the Cross there was much to do (sacrifice). This side of the Cross there is no work that we can do to make us worthy to draw near to the Lord...it has all been done by Jesus Christ. Jesus did it all.
Drawing Near is Only as Far as the Journey Inward to Our Heart
Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith... Hebrews 10:22a
There is an interesting twist to these three lovely Hebrew letters (koof, resh, beit) that we have been studying, for they have a secondary meaning. This secondary meaning is only used a little over 200 times. Nevertheless, it is noteworthy when pondering the journey the soul takes to draw near to God.
These same three Hebrew letters are also used to mean: in the midst of, among, and/or the inner part and is often used in parallel to the Hebrew word for heart (lev). This reveals that drawing near to God is not simply an outward motion but can also be an inward journey to the very heart and soul of our being.
Beloved, we can take a journey inward to our heart to draw near to God. On the flip side, we can also take a journey and find out areas in our heart where we are not drawing near to Him. Areas of anger, areas of fear, areas of sin, even areas of unbelief. Jesus said in Matthew 15:8, "These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me."
"Far" is the opposite of what we long for...to draw near to God. Therefore, the journey to the heart is a very important one for all of us to take on a regular basis. While it is true that in Christ Jesus sin is not a salvation stealer, it is a communion killer. Thus the Lord is inviting us, drawing us into His presence. He doesn't want us to hide; He wants us to come to His side. "Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool" (Isaiah 1:18 ESV). No matter what it is, just as we are, we can come unto Him and work it out as we draw near to God.
"Draw Me After You!"
In closing, let's take a look at the bridal cry in Song of Solomon 1:4 (ESV), "Draw me after you; let us run. The king has brought me into his chambers. We will exult and rejoice in you; we will extol your love more than wine; rightly do they love you." The word used here by the bride when she said, "Draw me," is NOT the same word as we have been studying. The bride uses the word mashakh (Strong's #4900; pronounced maw-shakh).
Mashakh has a very different meaning than our other word karav. Mashakh has the primary meaning of to draw, drag, and seize. For example, it is found in Genesis 37:28 where Joseph was drawn and lifted out of the pit. If you have ever tried to lift something heavy out of a deep hole you can understand why this word was used. Without having anything to place his hands and feet on, he had to have been dragged out of the pit...literally.
Beloved, just like Joseph was dragged and lifted out of the pit, God's love drags and lifts us up out of the pit that we too often find ourselves in. This is revealed in Jeremiah 31:3 where our word mashakh is being used as an expression of the drawing quality of God's love which brings us to Him: "Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you."
Now, with all that in mind, let's consider why the bride chose to use this word. She could have used another word. It's as if she knew the struggle that would arise in her soul at times and said, "Drag me, seize me, do whatever You have to do so that I will follow after You. Your love is better than anything I have experienced before! My spirit is willing, but my flesh is weak...mash-kheh-ne! Draw me!"
Can you identify? Notice where the Beloved leads her...to His chamber. "Draw me after you; let us run. The king has brought me into his chambers." Remember that the main word that we're studying (karav) speaks of an intimate relationship. It is in this intimate place with her Beloved that she notices her own darkness (verse 5), "I am very dark, but lovely, O daughters of Jerusalem, like the tents of Kedar, like the curtains of Solomon." In her shame she tells the Beloved not to look upon her (verse 6).
We all have situations in our lives that cause us to feel guilt and shame, but we don't have to hide them from God. Remember Jeremiah 31:3, the Lord has drawn us here so He can lift us up and out of it all. The goodness of God leads us, guides us, draws us to repentance so we can encounter Him and have a more intimate relationship with Him. Are we going to run away from Him? Or are we, like the Shulamite bride, going to say "Seize me, Lord?" Are we going to allow Him to have His way and clean up some of the junk that we carry around?
Drawing near to the Lord brings a transformation, beloved. From condemned to accepted, from dark to lovely. In this intimate connection, He washes us clean and we can experience again and again the gospel truth – nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.
He has paid it all so we can draw near to God and experience His everlasting love. Amen and Amen.
Tiffany Ann Lewis
Dancing with the Flame of the Lord Ministries