We give thanks to you. O God, we give thanks, for Your name is near. Psalm 75:1
Near – David knew the difference between thanksgiving for presents and thanksgiving for presence. His psalm is the expression of joyful gratitude for God as his neighbor; the one who is close at hand. In fact, this Hebrew word, qarov, is the same word used in Exodus 12:4 to describe the close proximity of a neighbor’s house. “Thank you, God,” says David, “for being right next door.”
How close is God to you? Is He there in the next yard while you’re cutting the lawn? Is He out washing the car when you pull up after work? Is He knocking on your door with a fresh-baked pie or an invitation to join Him for dinner? Is He the neighbor you ask to watch over your place while you’re on a trip? Or take care of the mail?
If you find these images a bit surprising, maybe the God you think about is too distant. David’s God is the neighborhood God, the one who is close at hand for celebrations and consolation. Yahweh, the God whose name we know, is the God who dwells in my community. And He likes it there.
Too often we live with God at a distance. He was once close at hand, present to our daily routines, a good friend. Then one day we realized that we moved. God is still in His dwelling place. He loves community. He is the best of all neighbors. But we saw the glitter of the next city, the draw of malls, the enticement of the bigger and better, and we left that quite, gentle neighborhood. We traded tranquility for power. We ended up with the pigs.
God is still working the land. He tends His garden, grows beautiful flowers, cleans the walk and enjoys the passing clouds from the hammock. He knows we’ll be back, when we are worn out with worthless worry. We’ll turn into the drive and He will greet us, just as He always greets each neighbor. Then we will say, with David, “God, I’m so glad you’re near. You’re the best neighbor anyone could have. Why did I ever think of leaving?”