At face value, Bette Midler’s beautiful song “From a Distance” is a song of hope for humanity.
The second verse says,
From a distance, there is harmony,
And it echoes through the land.
It’s the voice of hope, it’s the voice of peace,
It’s the voice of every man.
But that’s “from a distance”. Is that really true up-close? It is the chorus, where God is introduced, that strikes for me an ambiguous note:
God is watching us. God is watching us.
God is watching us from a distance.
Is God only watching us “from a distance”? Is he impersonal and detached from the affairs of this world? If so, then all the beautiful songs we might sing will be for nothing.
The reality is that there are many religious systems in the world that start from the premise that God is far away from you. God either remains high above and far away, or if the worshipper says the right prayers, performs the right rituals, pays the right amount of money, or does the right required works, then he might be able to come closer to God.
The Bible tells us a different story. It tells us of a God who is very close to every one of us, delighting in those moments in which we acknowledge his presence and open our lives up to his love. In fact, God is near to us, especially in our darkest moments:
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit (Psalm 34:18.)
God’s nearness to us is one of the key messages of Scripture. In love for us, God came into this world through his Son Jesus Christ, to be as near to us as our very flesh and blood.
Bette Midler was wrong. God isn’t watching you from a distance.
The nearness of God is made especially clear in the way in which we are saved. The apostle Paul writes this powerful passage in his epistle to the Romans:
Moses writes this about the righteousness that is by the law: “The person who does these things will live by them.” 6 But the righteousness that is by faith says: “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’” (that is, to bring Christ down) 7 “or ‘Who will descend into the deep?’” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). 8 But what does it say? “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” that is, the message concerning faith that we proclaim: 9 If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved (Rom. 10:5–10)
The Jewish people believed that God was far above them in the heavens, and that to come closer to him, you had to obey his law as scrupulously as you could. But Paul tells us that it’s not like that at all!
He tells us that righteousness is near you. It is as near as your own heart with which you believe it, and as your own mouth with which you confess it.
What this is all telling you is that God loves you. He loves you so much, as he loved the world, that he came in the person of his own Son to be with us. Jesus became one with humanity, not only in the experience of life, and also in the experience of death, with and for us.
Jesus doesn’t stand aloof from sinners. He never did that when he walked the earth (Matt. 9:10–13)
As beautiful as her song is, Bette Midler was wrong. God isn’t watching you from a distance. If you will accept him, he is as close to you as your heart.
Article supplied with thanks to Dr Eliezer Gonzalez.
About the Author: Dr Eli Gonzalez is the Senior Pastor of Good News Unlimited and the presenter of the Unlimited radio spots, and The Big Question. Sign up to his free online course called Becoming a Follower of Jesus to learn about Jesus and His message.