145 I cry out with my whole heart;
Hear me, O LORD!
I will keep Your statutes.
146 I cry out to You;
Save me, and I will keep Your testimonies.
147 I rise before the dawning of the morning,
And cry for help;
I hope in Your word.
148 My eyes are awake through the night watches,
That I may meditate on Your word.
149 Hear my voice according to Your lovingkindness;
O LORD, revive me according to Your justice.
150 They draw near who follow after wickedness;
They are far from Your law.
151 You are near, O LORD,
And all Your commandments are truth.
152 Concerning Your testimonies,
I have known of old that You have founded them forever.
When a friend has moved away, how do we keep them near to us? We keep pictures around, objects that have specific meaning for us. We play music that person likes, and perhaps watch movies we used to enjoy together. In this day of cellular phones, instant messaging and online social networks, we can contact our distant friends in so many different ways, keeping that contact alive as much as we like. Thanks to email, I am able to send messages to many family members and friends, and they can interact with me quickly and without the cost of a postage stamp. Our constant contact with distant friends is almost all about speech or writing, about conversation and dialogue. We keep them present through words.
The same is true of God. We can have a dialogue with the Lord any time we like. I am sure that for many people it may seem at times that the conversation is a bit one-sided. We pray and whisper and shout and weep, and it seems as if God never hears us and never answers us. We stay up all night praying, waiting for an answer that never seems to come. Our situation gets worse, our enemies surround us and may even drag us down, tragedy strikes, and still we seem to hear nothing from on high. "What am I doing wrong?" we ask. Or, with David and our Savior Jesus, we may ask, "Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?" - "My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?" (Psalms 22:1, Matthew 27:46)
But are we really listening? As Christ was wont to say, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear!" Have we turned our ears in the right direction? Have we "tuned in" to the voice of God? While on the run from Jezebel's vengeance, the prophet Elijah hid in a cave and the Lord God came to him there.
1 Kings 19:11-13
11 Then He said, "Go out, and stand on the mountain before the LORD." And behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake;
12 and after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice.
13 So it was, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood in the entrance of the cave. Suddenly a voice came to him, and said, "What are you doing here, Elijah?"
The Lord confronted Elijah, asking the prophet why he was wasting time in the wilderness when he was supposed to be down in the land doing the Lord's work. Despite having been fed by ravens in the desert, Elijah had felt abandoned, and he had hidden from his enemies. Although God had once answered Elijah's calls for fire and for miracles, Elijah felt then as if God was far away. But on that hillside, Elijah watched and listened and understood that God was not in the wind or the earthquake or the fire, but He was in the "still small voice" that spoke in Elijah's heart.
Looking at today's verses from Psalms 119:145-152, we can see the psalmist has that same dilemma. He cries out to God and prays that he is heard. He gets up early to pray to God, seeking Him from before sunrise to deep in the night. He asks again and again for God to hear his plea and revive him. And yet, we must note that the psalmist never says he does not hear God. In fact, he mentions God's words quite often. It is God's Word that keeps the psalmist's hope alive! The psalmist knows that God is near because he has kept the Word of God close by, within his heart and mind. He has listened for the voice of God and has heard Him, and now he simply asks that God listens to him.
How can we know that God WILL listen to our prayers?
2 Chronicles 7:13-15
13 "When I shut up heaven and there is no rain, or command the locusts to devour the land, or send pestilence among My people,
14 "if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.
15 "Now My eyes will be open and My ears attentive to prayer [made] in this place."
But know that the LORD has set apart for Himself him who is godly;
The LORD will hear when I call to Him.
"The poor and needy seek water, but there is none,
Their tongues fail for thirst.
I, the LORD, will hear them;
I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them."
Therefore I will look to the LORD;
I will wait for the God of my salvation;
My God will hear me.
"But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly."
Oh yes, the Lord hears! He hears the prayers of the humble, the faithful. He hears those who hear Him. He is always near to those who seek Him. The psalmist never assumes that God is far off. However, knowing that he himself is but a sinful man striving after God's righteousness, the psalmist prays that the Creator will hear the prayer of the created. The psalmist knows that God's Word is truth and hope and light, and he never lets go of that. But he prays to God humbly, asking for the salvation which he knows comes only from the Lord.
Is the Lord near to us today? Yes. He is near to us, and if we will listen to His Word we can hear Him at any time. If we will meditate upon His Word, keep His testimonies in our hearts, believe in the gospel of His Son, Christ Jesus, then the Word of God is never far from us - and we are never far from it. We who have faith in Christ have ears to hear if we will but use them. We use our ears when we seek God's Word with patience, with perseverance and with hope. We hear His Word when we are diligent about seeking it. If we leave our Bible lying on a shelf, then God will almost never speak to us. But when we actively seek His Word, then He will always be near, and we will always hear.
I once heard a story from some missionaries who were sharing the gospel in Mexico. The missionaries asked the couple they were visiting if they had a Bible at hand, and the husband went and pulled a big Bible from between some other things on a high shelf. The missionaries then walked them through passages in the family's own Bible, showing them the proper way to approach the gospel and worship the Lord God. Soon, the husband turned to his wife and said, "And to think that the answers have been sitting on our shelf this whole time, just gathering dust!"
Don't let the Word of God gather dust in your life, in your home. Seek God's Word daily, and keep His commandments and His precepts alive in your heart and mind. Be near to God through the gospel and He will always be near to you. Then, when you pray to Him in the depths of darkness, you will hear His voice, and you can be sure that He will hear you.
Heavenly Father, I do not cry out to You today, but I approach Your throne of grace on bended knee. I seek Your salvation, Lord. Please, save me from the things You know are wrong in my life. Know, dear Lord, that I love You and I will seek Your face all the days of my life. Teach me Your righteousness and Your measure, so that I can keep Your statutes with all of my heart. Amen.