From a Distance is a song written in 1985 by American singer-songwriter Julie Gold and made famous in 1990 by Bette Midler. Julie states she believes in an immanent and beneficent God and that this song is about the difference between how things appear to be and how they really are. The words of the song express the longing of the human heart, as she describes the beauty of our world; the conflict of hunger and war in our world; and the cry for provision, peace, harmony and hope. The chorus states… God is watching us, God is watching us, God is watching us from a distance.
This song expresses what I have heard by many over the years about how they feel about God and His involvement in our lives and our world. They feel God is just watching us, not really involved too much with us but rather keeping His distance from us. Maybe He created the world we live in but has left it to run on its own—just watching it all from a distance. Though this may be how we feel at times, the Bible describes a very different and more accurate picture.
I am sure the Israelites must have felt the same way as slaves in the land of Egypt. We pick up the story in Exodus 3:1-15 as we read on January 26 in our one-year daily Bible reading this week. Moses has fled Egypt after killing a man and is tending sheep in the backside of the desert. He encounters a burning bush. As he takes a closer look, God speaks to him from it:
Then the Lord told him, “I have certainly seen the oppression of my people in Egypt. I have heard their cries of distress because of their harsh slave drivers. Yes, I am aware of their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the power of the Egyptians and lead them out of Egypt into their own fertile and spacious land. It is a land flowing with milk and honey—the land where the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites now live. Look! The cry of the people of Israel has reached me, and I have seen how harshly the Egyptians abuse them. Now go, for I am sending you to Pharaoh. You must lead my people Israel out of Egypt.”
These verses describe three things in regards to God’s interaction in our world and lives.
THE GOD WHO SEES
Then the Lord told him, “I have certainly seen the oppression of my people in Egypt. (v.7a)
God makes it abundantly clear that He has seen the current conditions and afflictions of His people. In fact He knows exactly where they are located: in the land of Egypt. He states further that he has seen how harshly and abusively they are being treated by their fellow man—their slave owners. The truth is God sees. He is omniscient, the all-knowing God. He actually sees everything, and knows everything. Absolutely nothing escapes His notice and purview. If you are tempted to wonder if God sees what you are going through, be assured from the truth of His Word, He does! Remember He sees not only everything happening TO YOU but also what is done BY YOU!
THE GOD WHO HEARS
I have heard their cries of distress because of their harsh slave drivers. (v. 7b)
God goes on to declare that the cries of His people have reached His ears. God hears everything, from the faintest whisper of despair to the loudest wail of distress. He evens knows our thoughts before our mouths give voice to it. If you ever wondered about whether He is listening, be assured He is THE GOD WHO HEARS!
THE GOD WHO IS AWARE
Yes, I am aware of their suffering. (v. 7c)
Yes, indeed He is aware of all their suffering, brokenness, hurt and heartache. He makes sure His people do know that He is aware of what is going on in their world, this world and our world.
THEN WHY DOESN’T GOD DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT?
He did. He has. He will. In the context of this passage, God’s response is:
So I have come down to rescue them from the power of the Egyptians and lead them out of Egypt into their own fertile and spacious land. It is a land flowing with milk and honey—
So I have come down to rescue them from the power of the Egyptians and lead them out of Egypt into their own fertile and spacious land. (v.8)
In this scenario, God is coming to rescue His people out of Egypt and the power of the Egyptians. He declares He will lead them into their own fertile and spacious land. the Promised Land (Canaan). And He will do it by a demonstration of His mighty power too, due to the hardness of Pharaoh’s heart (v.19-20). Also when His people leave the land, they will not be empty-handed but rather with a great portion of the wealth of Egypt. (v.21)
Like the Israelite’s, God has also rescued us from our oppressor and the oppression of sin and Satan through the death of His Son, Jesus Christ on the cross.
The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life. (John 10:10)
God’s Word makes it abundantly clear that we too are on a journey to a promised land. A day is coming when God will ultimately deliver us from evil and oppression of this world and bring us into the promised land of heaven (Rev 5), His thousand year reign on the earth (Rev 20:4-6), and ultimately a new heavens and earth (Rev 21:1-8).
As the song states, God indeed is watching us—He sees, hears and is aware—but not from a distance. Rather He is intimately involved in the details of our lives, world and destiny. So we should be filled with thankfulness, praise Him for His care and provision in our lives and rest in that truth today, God is watching us!