Emmanuel. God with us. This is the name of the God we know, love, and serve. A God who is not distant, far-off, aloof. A God who pursues us relentlessly — as Michael Card once put it, the Hound of Heaven. He doesn’t stop to test the temperature of the water before He jumps right in. He is a hands-on kinda guy.
I saw that distinction made so clearly in this chapter. First, Moses warns the people not to play with fire: "Destroy completely all the places on the high mountains, on the hills and under every spreading tree, where the nations you are dispossessing worship their gods. Break down their altars, smash their sacred stones and burn their Asherah poles in the fire; cut down the idols of their gods and wipe out their names from those places." (vs 2-3)
Why did those nations build places of worship on the high mountains and the hills? I think one of the main reasons was that they were desperately trying to get as close to their gods as they could. The fact is, they had never had any sort of communication from these gods, and they didn’t know anything about them. They were feeling their way along in the dark, trying to understand how to appease them, but they had never actually seen any of these gods. In building their worship spots on the mountains, they were trying to catch a glimpse of the gods. They were the ones doing the seeking.
By contrast, the God of Heaven is a seeker. Before we can even think of trying to catch a glimpse of Him, His presence is imminent: "You must not worship the Lord your God in their way. But you are to seek the place the Lord your God will choose from among all your tribes to put his Name there for his dwelling. To that place you must go; there bring your burnt offerings and sacrifices, your tithes and special gifts, what you have vowed to give and your freewill offerings, and the firstborn of your herds and flocks." (vs 4-6)
Who is this God of the Israelites, who chooses for Himself a place of worship? This is unheard of among the ancient nations! The servants of Baal and Molech would have cut off a limb (quite literally, probably) to have their god announce anything — especially a place and method of worship. But no such announcements were forthcoming — the servants of these "gods" were left in darkness with their own suppositions.
By comparison, the true God — Light of the World — never leaves us in the dark. He is "the true light that gives light to every man." (Jn 1:9) Long before we want to find Him, we realize that we are already found by Him. He doesn’t wait for us to want a relationship with Him. He is constantly hunting us down, this Hound of Heaven.