Our God is near
The kingdom of our God is near, lift your eyes, lift your eyes The hope of heaven's drawing near, lift your eyes, lift your eyes…. You're blessed if you've been torn apart You're blessed if you've a broken heart For hope is waiting at the door Salvation's near.. ('cause) Our God is mercy, our God is mercy If Your heart is heavy, if Your soul is thirsty There is a refuge, a home for the lonely Our God is near, Our God is near
Most of us, when we hear the phrase 'the kingdom of God is near', hear a statement about timing, as in, 'God's judgement is only minutes away' or 'the end is nigh'(!). And in a sense this is true. God's judgement is definitely coming. And scripture tells us, it's coming soon. The street preachers are right. There will be a day when Christ returns to earth to judge the wicked and the righteousness, and He will set every wrong right. And for most of us this a statement that inspires fear and trembling. And it is right that it does so. For the day of the Lord is coming…
But the phrase can also be understood in another way. 'The Kingdom of God is near' can also be understood as a statement about proximity. It's a sentence that suggests that the kingdom of God is nearby, that God's Kingdom is within reach. And during Jesus' ministry on earth, this is the way in which He used these words most often. Understood in this way, 'the kingdom of GOD is near' becomes a statement of hope, an exclamation of good news. So when Jesus sent his followers out on their first 'ministry trip', this is what He said to them
"When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is set before you. Heal the sick who are there and tell them, 'The kingdom of God is near you.' But when you enter a town and are not welcomed, go into its streets and say, Even the dust of your town that sticks to our feet we wipe off against you. Yet be sure of this: The kingdom of God is near.' - Luke 10:8-10 (New International Version)
Then he turned to his disciples and said privately, "Blessed are the eyes that see what you see. For I tell you that many prophets and kings wanted to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it."
Every time we begin a worship set we are doing precisely what Jesus' disciples did 2000 years ago. We are proclaiming that the Kingdom of God is within reach. The very action of addressing our God in the first person - what scripture refers to as 'calling on the Name of the Lord' - implicitly expresses the truth that GOD can hear us, that He is actually close enough to hear us! And not just that He's close enough to hear us, but that He, our King and His kingdom, is near to us. Remember when Jesus announced the start of His ministry on earth? He began with a passage from Isaiah.
The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."[a] - Luke 4:17-19 (New International Version)
This 'anointing' Isaiah is speaking of in this passage is the same 'anointing' that happened to David, when he was selected as the future king of Israel by Samuel the prophet. It's a word that denotes Kingship - authority. When Jesus reads this passage He is saying that the Spirit of the Lord has anointed Him, has selected Him as King! And then He goes on to describe what His reign, His coming Kingdom, will look like. He is a King who speaks good news to the poor, who speaks freedom to those in chains, who speaks recovery of sight to the blind. This kingdom is good news for everyone who is in trouble! That's why both Matthew and Luke record Jesus as saying You are blessed if you're in dire straights. God's King and Kingdom is at hand. And this King is your deliverer, your hope, your song. 'Cause our God is mercy, our God is rest for the weary, our God is sight for the blind, our God is freedom for prisoners, our God is food and drink for the hungry and thirsty, our God is comfort for those who mourn. Our God is good news!!
"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." - Matthew 11 (NIV)
In many ways, the act of leading worship is radical evangelism. It is a proclamation of the Good news, it is a revelation of the living God and His kingdom. And something happens as people awake to the nearness of GOD. There is a spiritual transaction that takes place as we proclaim this news. As Jesus and His disciples proclaimed the Kingdom of God was at hand, repentance and signs of God's coming kingdom followed. The sick were healed, the tormented were delivered, the lonely were set in families.
As you go, preach this message: 'The kingdom of heaven is near.' Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy,[a]drive out demons. Freely you have received, freely give. - Matthew 10.
Many of us as worship leaders have the responsibility of being the first person in our communities to proclaim this news as we gather. If you are that person, take courage. Know that as we gather in His name, He is among us. He is near. In fact He promises to draw even nearer to us as we draw near to Him. And He brings with Him all power and peace of His kingdom. What an amazing task we have. How beautiful are the feet are those who bring this amazingly good news:
You're blessed if you're poor and broken down. God is near. You're blessed if you've been stuck in chains and locked up as prisoner 'cause God is near. You're blessed if you've been struggling to see your way through. God is near. You're blessed if you're thirsty and starving for God's righteousness, for He is near. You're blessed if you've been persecuted for righteous acts, if you've brought peace to troubled situations, if you've shown mercy. The Lord is near and His reward is with Him. And for these - and so many more - reasons, the message we bring is a message of hope. Just as every time we drink the wine and eat the bread of communion, we proclaim the Lord's death until He comes, so too as we call upon His name, we proclaim the nearness and coming of our GOD until He returns….