From a Distance Study No. 142

Music can communicate in powerful ways, very different from speech or writing. However, many listen to music and donít hear the message. When one understands the lyrics and the music, the effect is often overpowering.

For some time, I have been intrigued by the popular song, From a Distance, recorded by Bette Midler on Atlantic Records (lyrics and music by Julie Gold, copyright 1987 by Wing and Wheel Music & Julie Gold Music). Although the singer and song writer probably didnít intend it, From a Distance presents an inspiring "Feast of Tabernacles" message. It teaches us how God looks at us, and how we should look at others.

"From a distance," the song begins, "the world looks blue and green, and the snow-capped mountains white." Orbiting astronauts are awed by the sight of the green earth and the blue ocean waters, and the white mountains. What a marvelous creation this good earth is! But, as we look at the world more closely, we see that it is not all blue and green and crystal white. We know there are many troubles in this world now, donít we?

"From a distance, the ocean meets the stream, and the eagle takes to flight. From a distance there is harmony, and it echoes through the land. Itís the voice of hope, itís the voice of peace. Itís the voice of every man." Harmony? Peace? Not in this world. There is starvation in Somalia, ethnic fighting in the Balkans. Yet, within every man there is a groaning hope of harmony and peace.

In Romans 8:18-25, we hear the same song as this musical masterpiece. The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us, when we, who have been called and have Godís Holy Spirit, are born as Sons of God in His glorious kingdom. We will then be delivered from the bondage of this flesh and its sins into the glorious liberty of the children of God. We and the whole creation groan in hope for this coming day. We are saved through this hope, and are patiently waiting for that day.

"God is watching us, God is watching us,  . . . from a distance. Itís the hope of hopes, itís the love of loves. This is the song of every man. And God is watching us. God is watching us, God is watching us, . . . from a distance." Here is the key theme of the song. If we misunderstand what it means, "God is watching us, . . . from a distance," we will miss the whole point of the song. What does this mean?

"Ah," some would sneer, "God is only watching from a distance, so therefore He is powerless to intervene in the course of human affairs. He is a distant Being who isnít concerned with mankind." This is NOT the message of From a Distance!

Man has hope for peace and harmony, in spite of the reality of unending human misery and warfare. Likewise, God has an even greater hope, the hope of hopes. In His love and mercy, God is watching us from a distance, in the hope of bringing many sons into His family (kingdom). The Messiah in us is the "hope of glory," Colossians 1:27. From a distance, He sees the end purpose for which He created mankind. If God did not look at us from a distance, but instead looked at us close up, He would see all our imperfections, our worthlessness, and turn aside in disgust (read Psalm 14, and Psalm 53).

You see, anything man does (or is), upon closer examination, is not as good as it looks from a distance. Take this page of text, printed at 300 dots per inch on a laser printer, and duplicated on an offset printing machine. The letters look crude when magnified, because all they are is a series of ragged dots, which appear to be joined together when viewed from a distance. On the other hand, anything the Creator makes is awesome from a distance, and the closer you look at it, the more marvelous, intricate and ingenious it becomes. As an example, examine a snowflake under a microscope, and you will see a magnificent design. Some say no two snowflakes are alike. Arenít you glad God is watching us, from a distance?

Because God is watching us from a distance, we should have hope in the Millennium, the wonderful world tomorrow. This is described in verse two of the song, From a Distance. "From a distance, we all have enough, And no one is in need. There are no guns, no bombs, no diseases, No hungry mouths to feed." This will never happen when man rules this world. Only in the Messianic Kingdom of God will there be an end to war, as nations will be forced to live in peace, and beat their swords into plowshares, Isaiah 2:2-4. Only when the loftiness of man is bowed down, and the LORD alone exalted, will that day come, verse 17. The good news of the Bible is: that day IS coming, and we will be "marching in a common band; Playing songs of hope, playing songs of peace, Theyíre the songs of every man." Yes, there will be a new song we will learn to sing in that day, Revelation 5:9-10, 14:3, 15:1-4. This new song may include the words, "God is with us," because He certainly wonít be "watching us from a distance" any more.

At this time, God is watching us, from a distance, and therefore to be around in the day of His Kingdom, we must also watch others from a distance. This is the explained in verse three of From a Distance. "From a distance, you look like my friend, Even though we are at war. From a distance I just cannot comprehend, What all this fighting is for." This verse hurts, because it is so true. What a tragedy that so many people who claim to be following the Bible cannot get along with each other. From a distance, you canít tell a dimeís worth of difference between them doctrinally, yet they fight and argue over the most petty points. Sometimes, they forget what the original point of contention was about, but still they fight.

Protestants argue over such things as postmillennialism, premillennialism, or amillennialism. The story goes, one hard-bitten premilleniallist wouldnít have anything to do with postmillennialists ó why he wouldnít even eat Post Toasties! Donít laugh, because the reality is just as bad.

Recently, I spoke with a minister who left a Sabbath-keeping group. He says the main reason he left his former affiliation was over the counting of Pentecost. I was puzzled, because both he and his former affiliation keep the same day of Pentecost. The important issue to him was how to count the day, not the fact that they both came to the same day! From a distance, these two ministers look the same, but for some strange reason, they are at war. I cannot comprehend what their fighting is for. I majored in mathematics. If two individuals solve a mathematical problem two different ways, and both come to the same correct answer, what teacher would mark one of their answers wrong? I could repeat such examples until the cows come in, of the ridiculous fighting among Sabbath-keepers. Shame on us! If we do not look upon our brethren, "from a distance," but instead closely scrutinize fellow believers, the Eternal is going to look at us in the same way, and we will come up abysmally short.

And so, from a close-up view of the actions of mankind, we continue to see warfare. Physical and spiritual hunger abound. Disharmony echoes throughout the land, and even, to our disgrace, in our congregations. But, the good news is that,

From a distance [in the Kingdom of God] there is harmony, And it echoes through the land. Itís the hope of hopes, itís the love of loves. Itís the heart of every man [the true desire and need of everyone]. God is watching us. God is watching us. God is watching us, . . . from a distance [lovingly, with the hope of what we can become through Him, not what we are now, miserable, wretched, sinful creatures]!

See your local music store for a copy of the sheet music, and/or the recording by Bette Midler, for From a Distance. W