God Is Here
When a long-time choir member moves away, Pastor Doug will often award them the privilege of choosing their favorite choir anthem for the choir to sing before they go. In truth, Gwen Sankey actually chose the one I might have selected, The Mind of Christ, and we had recently sung Far Above All, another favorite, so I was free to go deeper into my favorites list. It isn’t that God Is Here is less beloved than those above, but there are a number of anthems we have sung which are like…our children—we love each of them in different ways. One of the benefits of being in this worship choir is we are blessed by Pastor Doug’s determination to select songs that are not only melodically pleasing but deep with meaning lyrically. Even the songs with the less complex lyrics are rich with significance and feeling.
In rehearsal last week Doug asked me why I had chosen this anthem, but my answer was overly simplified. There is so much in it to delight in. Melodically it is very evocative, and so is the spirit of the text. It is full of the yearnings of the heart of one who knows the Lord—longing for His presence and His voice in their lives.
It makes me think of the psalmists’ words, “My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?” and “Deep calls to deep.” If we don’t long to experience this on a regular basis in this life, we need to ask if we are fit to experience it in the next.
The author writes of a stillness in the atmosphere. In the world of din around us, isn’t there a longing for peace, for quiet, for the fulfillment of the verse, “Be still and know that I am God”? Unlike the church sanctuaries of old, where there were signs on the door urging people to enter quietly, most worship centers now are a hubbub of the melodious sound of people fellowshipping. There is high value in that, but it doesn’t cultivate the “stillness in the atmosphere” this song speaks of. However, Psalm 131 says, “I have stilled and quieted my soul.” Even in the midst of the fellowship around us, we can intentionally work to cultivate a stilled and quieted soul, one open to receive the presence of the Lord—One that looks for His presence even in the interchange around us with His people.
This begins with seeking the quiet at other opportunities, such as when we are alone with Him. It means turning off the devices occasionally, and tuning into His presence. Over time we become stronger in this ability to turn away from the din to His presence, and can tune in more easily when the distractions are more profound. Even then we can sense, “He is here!”
In the next lyric we are urged to “come lay down the burdens that you carry.” We need to do this to meet with God. We shouldn’t just put them behind us so they aren’t in the way as we worship at His feet, then pick them up again when we leave. We should lay them at His feet and see how small they are in comparison to Him. He may “break the yoke” and remove them from us, or, if we must still bear them, He will “lift the heavy burden,” enabling us to carry it. In His presence our perspective on them changes—which can even fundamentally change us.
It reminds me of Psalm 73, where the writer was burdened by the circumstances of life, and seeming injustice of how life plays out…until he comes to worship, and in the presence of the Lord he sees the eternal reality of all that had him burdened. This is what happens when we come face to face with the truth that God is here.
Have you experienced that? Often? We are inviting our hearers to experience His nearness, His presence—have we? Are we singing of what we know, and inviting others to join us? It will change our lives if we can answer “yes” to these questions, but it may also change the lives of our hearers.
The lyrics go on plead for God to speak. We often long to have God tell us what to do, especially in situations far beyond our ability to control. The voice of God is such an amazing blessing. That the great and sovereign God would condescend to talk with us, tell us of His love and salvation, guide us, warn us, enlighten us! What a privilege we’ve been given!
But there is a responsibility that comes with hearing God speak: obedience. This is not easy if what He says doesn’t correspond with our desires. In Jeremiah 42, those remaining in Israel asked Jeremiah to inquire of God as to what they should do. They promised to do whatever God said. God did speak to Jeremiah, even warning them of the consequences of disobedience, but the people chose to do the exact opposite of what God told them, reaping the dire consequences. We need to not only hear Him speak, but heed His voice all the way to obedience.
Whether we realize it or not, He is here. Whether we hear Him or not, He is speaking. Let us still our hearts, quiet our souls, and seek to experience these blessings. Let’s declare, “He is here!” And plead, “Speak, Lord” in order to encounter Him in life-altering ways!
by Sheri Cook, Director of Special Ministries