How Close to God Can You Get? A Lesson From Israel
We all have an inner ache to be close to the Almighty. For each of us, we have realized different ways or places that make us feel the closest to him. A friend once told me he felt closest to God while sitting in a deer stand in the early morning hours of a winter day. Others might have a special place in their heart for sunsets and gentle breezes. The question remains: How close to God can you get?
You might have heard of the Western Wall before. In past years, I had heard of it, but didn't full understand the significance of it. The Western Wall is the retaining wall on the western side of the Temple Mount. The Temple Mount was built by Herod thousands of years ago, and at one time was the site of the Holy of Holies - the place that God dwelt. Since Muslims have had control of the Temple Mount for quite some time, Jewish people are not allowed on it. For this reason, the closest the Jewish people can get to the Temple Mount, where the Holy of Holies once sat, is the western side of it - or the Western Wall. All throughout this wall, there are tiny slips of paper crammed into it. These are people's prayers, written down on paper, and stuffed in these cracks in an attempt to put them as close to God as possible.
On my last trip to Israel, I was there. It was surreal. Jewish men praying all around me, rocking back and forth, as they believe their entire body should be part of the process of praying. I stood there just watching at first. Then I began to pray, thanking God that through His Son, Jesus, I was able to know Him personally. I was grateful to realize that no person, or wall, could keep me from Him. As I stood there, I thought about what a conversation with a Jewish man at the wall would be like. Jewish men know their Hebrew Bible, and firmly believe in their doctrine. I believe the Bible is true, that it is God's word, and that it is living and active. So as I stood staring - hopefully not in a disrespectful way - a Jewish man approached me and asked me to take his picture in front of the wall. I saw this as a divine appointment.
After the picture, I asked the man where he was from and that began a great 15 minute conversation. He explained that he drove two hours to be at the wall, and he came because it was the "closest he could get to God." I asked him what he thought about Christians, to which he replied, "I have no problem with them."
In those 15 minutes, I really enjoyed the conversation we had. We both shared personal stories in our lives. I shared with him that as a 17 year old at a camp in North Carolina, I came to understand that God loved me and wanted me to know Him personally. He asked how I knew that. I told him how I believe there were many things working in my heart but that God's creation was testifying to His greatness as well:
"The Heavens declare the Glory of God, the skies proclaim the works of His hands." Psalms 19:1
Through the conversation with my new friend, Nissim, I was basically telling him that we are able to get closer than what this Western Wall will allow. He listened intently. It's not my goodness that gets me closer, or my good looks, or charisma. In fact, it is by nothing that I have done. It is what has been accomplished by Jesus' finished work here on earth.
"Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water." Hebrews 10:19-22
Here I am with my wife and Nissim. (Out of respect for Jewish custom, my head is covered with the hood of my raincoat. My wife's head was covered just because she was cold.)
I trust that God will use our time in His overall plan in Nissim's life. I look forward to seeing how.
Have you thought about this recently - how close to God can you get? What have you come up with?
If you liked this post, check out Kevin's personal blog, Following to Lead, where he regularly writes on following, leading, fostering and family.