Our preacher, Harry Gipson, passed away recently and because he liked to encourage others with a good joke, his brother, who performed the funeral, repeated some of Harry’s favorite jokes, as did other family members. Having come from eastern Kentucky, one particular joke of which I’ve heard many variations, was about the wise men visiting the manger dressed as firefighters because they’d come from afar (that’s briarhopper for ‘a fire’). That the wise men came from afar is from the song, “We Three Kings,” rather than the Bible, which says they came from the east (Matthew 2: 12). But, it’s a good joke and I visualized Harry starting to laugh as I did when I knew what was coming. It also led me to some thoughts for this article that mix the two meanings (afar and a fire).
First, Psalm 138: 6 says that while God is on high, he looks down on the humble, but he keeps his distance from the proud. Our sin, which is usually based in pride, separates us from God so he’ll know us only from afar (Isaiah 59: 1, 2; Psalm 139: 2). He’s not so far away, though, that he cannot know our thoughts, and no distance prevents him from being able to save us if we humbly reach out to him (Jeremiah 29: 13). In fact, he even puts us in the best place and time to do that (Acts 17: 26-31). Additionally, while he seems far away at times, he’s always closer than we think and knows our predicaments completely (Jeremiah 23: 23, 24; Hebrews 4: 14-1).
Because humankind has distanced itself from God through sin, God has provided the mechanism for us to come back to him through his son, Jesus (Ephesians 2: 11-18). That includes faith acted upon (John 3: 16-18; James 2: 14-24; Romans 10: 8-13), repentance acted upon (Luke 13: 5; Acts 26: 19, 20), baptism based in faith in God’s power (Acts 2: 38, Mark 16: 16; Romans 6: 3-5; Colossians 2: 11, 12; 1 Peter 3: 21, 22) and a life of continued faithfulness in obedience and good deeds (1 John 2: 3-6; 3: 7-10; Galatians 6: 6-9; Ephesians 2: 8-10; Revelation 2: 10).
This plan is the same for everyone, whether in Bible times or alive today, even for those who are afar off (Acts 2: 39). This isn’t farfetched; it’s from the Bible (if you’ve read all the passages cited here, you know that). The intent of God’s word is to save us from a “far” (fire – John 1: 1-3, 10-14; Luke 19: 10; Isaiah 55: 10, 11; John 12: 47, 48; Matthew 25: 31-46; Revelation 20: 11-15).
Harry Gipson encouraged many people during his time on earth and now he’s cheering us on from afar as a member of the great cloud of witnesses who prove that we can be saved from the “far” (fire)(Hebrews 11: 1 to 12: 1).
Have you reached out to God? He’s not far from any of us.