Cleland McAfee was a preacher and song writer from Parkville, Mo,. He lived in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. He was known for often writing his own songs that fit the theme of a sermon he was preaching. In 1903 he suffered the tragic loss of two infant nieces to diphtheria.
His daughter, in her book Near to the Heart of God, describes what happened.
“The family and town were stricken with grief. My father often told us how he sat long and late thinking of what could be said in word and song on the coming Sunday. And so he wrote this little song.”
There is a place of quiet rest,
near to the heart of God;
a place where sin cannot molest,
near to the heart of God.
O Jesus, blest Redeemer,
sent from the heart of God,
hold us who wait before thee
near to the heart of God.
“The choir learned it at the regular Saturday night rehearsal, and afterward they went to Howard McAfee’s home and sang it as they stood under the sky outside the darkened, quarantined house. It was sung again on Sunday morning at the communion service.”
The sentiment of McAfee’s song is Bible based. James 4:8 admonishes, “Draw near to God and be will draw near to you.”
Drawing near suggests that God welcomes us to seek Him. To come to Him. To commune with Him. To communicate with Him. To enjoy fellowship with Him. In fact, Paul pictures God as calling us to leave behind the darkness of sin, and the fellowship of the world, and to come to Him. He declares that He will be our Father. And that we can be his children–His sons and daughters (2 Cor. 6:17-18). He desires that we be with Him.
Often we hear in our assembly, “Lord be with us….” This is a wonderful petition and a noble request. Yet, the Bible teaches that the Lord is not “with us” when we engage in vain worship, defile the sanctity of the home, or fail to follow His Word in our daily lives. It is possible to draw near to God with hollow words. Jesus’ warning is real in this regard. “These people draw near to Me with their mouth, And honor Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.” (Matt. 15:18- 19).
Part of the challenge may lie in our genuine desire and effort to develop our relationship with God. In his book, One Holy Hunger, Mike Cope writes, “When our vision of God diminishes or fails to grow, Christianity becomes a tame, drab, lukewarm, safe religion that fits comfortably into our malnourished world view.” Could it be that we want to live as we please, asking for divine favor, and neglect to “draw near to the heart of God?”
Our attitude needs to be that of Asaph, the Psalmist, who penned, “But it is good for me to draw near to God; I have put my trust in the Lord God, that I may declare all Your works” (PS 73:28).
As we assemble on the Lord’s day to sing, pray, listen to the Word, and enjoy fellowship, let us draw near to the heart of God, and pray that we be with Him.
When we leave the assembly to walk out into the world to work may we seek to walk in His way. Instead of trying to squeeze God into what we already feel, believe or practice, we need to draw near to God. Come to know His heart. His Word. His Plan for our lives.
Indeed there is a place of quiet rest…a place where sin cannot molest…a place of comfort sweet…A place where we our Savior meet…A place of full release…A place where all is joy and peace….NEAR TO THE HEART OF GOD!
—Ken Weliever, The Preacherman