My pastor has some helpful reflections on the Christian’s privilege to “draw near to God” at our church blog.
Another important aspect of drawing near relates to Israel’s system of offerings and sacrifices. There are a cluster of Hebrew words that relate to this:
- qarab — to draw near, to offer; used frequently to speak of worshippers bringing an offering
- qorban — an offering, or the “thing brought near”
- qereb — inside, in the midst, inner parts; used of the inner parts of an offering that are burned and made to ascend into God’s presence
So, we can say that God’s people draw near to him through offering a sacrifice. There are two ways in which this is true for the Christian — first, we draw near through the once-for-all sacrifice made by Jesus nearly 2000 years ago. But second, we draw near week to week by offering ourselves, by offering a “sacrifice of praise.”
The purity regulations for worshippers also come into view as we draw near. There are also two ways to take this; on the one hand, we have “once been cleansed” (Heb. 10:2) by Jesus’s blood, so we may stand with confidence before our king. But on the other hand, we are called to actively cleanse our hands and purify our hearts (James 4:8), and we do so by confessing our sins (1 John 1:9). What this means is that the church’s historic practice of corporate confession and public proclamation of our forgiveness in Christ is a very appropriate and helpful part of our drawing near.
Finally, we are helped by remembering the ultimate outcome for sacrificial worship — a fellowship meal with God. The offerings themselves were food for God (Leviticus 1:9), and all but one of Israel’s offerings culminated in the priests or the worshippers sharing food with God. Furthermore, the high points of Israel’s liturgical calendar were the feasts where they met and ate in God’s presence at God’s house. The most familiar example of this is the annual Passover feast at the tabernacle and temple. In the same way, the high point of Christian worship, our drawing near, is our fellowship meal with Jesus in his house: the Lord’s supper. As Calvin writes, “the sacrament [of communion] might be celebrated in the most becoming manner, if it were dispensed to the church very frequently, at least once a-week.” Even if you do not practice the Lord’s supper weekly, you can remember and rejoice in the fact that you have an open invitation to sit at Jesus’s table.
See also: Ascent