If God seems far away, remember these seven promises.
First, God is jealous for His people. The first commandment is still the first commandment. (cf. Exodus 20: “I am Yahweh your God. You shall have no other gods before me.”) There will always be one door that opens heaven at that is the name of Jesus (cf. Acts 4:12). Like a lover, God pursues and woos His beloved until we say yes to Him alone.
Second, God’s responds when His people groan. “The LORD looked down from his holy height, from heaven, he beheld the earth, To hear the groaning of the prisoners, to release those doomed to die.” (Psalm 102:21) Groaning is the one language common to all of God’s people. Paul instructs us in Romans 8:26, “But the Spirit intercedes along with our groans that cannot be expressed in words
Third, God desires to speak. In today’s Old Testament reading, Zechariah repeats the phrase, “Thus says the LORD” four times in eight verses. When we sin the heavens are silent, instead of confessing our sins we turn to preachers that tickle our ears. God told Ezekiel, “condemn the prophets of Israel who say they speak in my name, but who preach messages that come from their own imagination. Tell them it’s time to hear my message” (cf. Ezekiel 13:1). If however, we faithfully confess our sins (cf. I John 1:9), God might speak on Sunday morning in what Paul called the “foolishness of preaching.” (cf. I Corinthians 1:21)
Fourth, the name of God is holy. Psalm 102 looks forward to the day when “the nations will revere your Name” ( i.e obey the second commandment). Even the Jews in Acts knew there was something to the name of Jesus. Acts 19 records it, “Some Jews who went around driving out evil spirits tried to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who were demon-possessed. They would say, “In the name of the Jesus whom Paul preaches, I command you to come out.” Seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this. One day the evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know about, but who are you?” Then the man who had the evil spirit jumped on them and overpowered them all. He gave them such a beating that they ran out of the house naked and bleeding.”
Mark 16 reminds us. “In My name, they will cast out demons” not the name of James or John or ____.
Fifth, God’s unity creates joy. When God returns, “old men and old women, each with staff in hand because of old age, shall again sit in the streets of Jerusalem. The city shall be filled with boys and girls playing in its streets. ” When Jesus returned from the grave, He said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that, he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” God stays away when we are too proud to confess our sins (cf. James 5).
Sixth, childlike faith produces children of faith. When the disciples were jealous and acting like children (cf. Luke 9:46), Jesus took a child and placed it by his side and said to them, “Whoever receives this child in my name receives me.” For every Chesterton (“paradoxes lead to paradise) there are hundreds of low to middle brow seekers who recoil at the necessary wealth and intelligence the average church requires. When the skid row bum and the aristocrat sit next to each other, then you know God is pleased.
Seventh, God uses other people besides me. John points out to Jesus, “Master, we saw someone casting out demons in your name and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow in our company.” Jesus said to him, “Do not prevent him, for whoever is not against you is for you.” The day you call on the name of the Lord is the day you begin to climb “the mountain of the LORD of hosts, the holy mountain.” It’s a big mountain. Never miss an opportunity to give a fellow climber a toe hold.