“Near to the Heart of God” by Cleland B. McAfeeby Dr. Zelda Robinson on March 15, 2022
In the book, “Unrevealed Until Its Season,” the author James C. Howell introduces our focus hymn as one he grew up hearing his grandmother sing. I personally do not recall ever hearing this song, but the story behind the hymn and the words grabbed my attention. The song reminds me of how gracious God is. Despite His greatness, He is mindful of me. He has a secret, quiet place in which I can find peace and joy, and rest from the burdens of this world.
The hymn was written by Cleland B. McAfee, a preacher and choir director of the campus Presbyterian church at Park College, Parkville, Mo. Pastor McAfee wrote the words to this hymn because of a loss he suffered when two of his nieces died from diphtheria in 1903.
The hymn describes a “place of quiet rest,” a place that is near to God’s heart. That place is a safe place that allows one to meet with the Savior for quiet rest, comfort, joy, and peace. The hymnist draws a picture of a place where one can meet with God intimately, whether face to face or just in the comfort of His arms. Genesis 17, describes God as El Shaddai, Almighty God.
The Scofield’s Reference Notes, describes God’s character as:
Shaddai, meaning "the breasted." God is "Shaddai," because He is the Nourisher, the Strength-giver, and so, in a secondary sense, the Satisfier, who pours himself into believing lives. As a fretful, unsatisfied babe is not only strengthened and nourished from the mother's breast, but also is quieted, rested, satisfied, so El Shaddai is that name of God which sets Him forth as the Strength-giver and Satisfier of His people.”
Scofield, C. I. "Scofield Reference Notes on Genesis 17". "Scofield Reference Notes (1917 Edition)
The hymn reminds us of the blessing of being in intimate fellowship with the Lord. Near to the heart of God is a place where believers can find rest for their souls, fellowship with the Savior, a safe place where they are protected from attraction or pull of sin.
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.
Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. James 4:7-8