God–with a person like me? After what I did last night, last week, last year? Are you kidding? He doesn’t want to be around a person like me! Not so.
Whether or not you read the Bible, many may have heard the term, Emmanuel, promulgated during the Christmas season when we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, who came as Savior of the world. It’s a Hebrew name meaning “God with us” and speaks specifically of Jesus Christ. Before Christ came into the physical world, however, God’s presence has always dwelt among humanity. We’ll see as we continue our discussion of Psalm 139. In verses 7-12, David shifts his focus from God’s omniscience (vss.1-6) to God’s omnipresence. He begins vs. 7 asking a rhetorical question, “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?” I don’t personally believe David wanted to get away from God; he was stressing a point for the congregation. The revelation how God knew all things possibly helped him understand the magnitude of God’s presence. After all, think of your most cherished relationships. How could you know your loved ones so intimately without often being in their presence? This is what is true about God. His being omnipresent means He is always everywhere in the universe and beyond. There’s no place we are that God is not. David makes his case by presenting us a few “what-if” scenarios he may find himself going, and concludes, in each, God would be there.
- Eternal places (vs. 8)
If, before our death, we choose to make our eternal destiny in heaven above with God or in a descent to hell, God’s Spirit would be there and be aware that we’re there. Contrary to one’s belief, we do have a choice in this matter.
- Remote places and times (vss.9-10)
Time and place are of no significance for God’s presence. David says, “If I were to fly away on the wings of the dawn or settle down on the other side of the sea, even there your hand would guide me, your right hand would grab hold of me.” This statement suggests a time of day or speed at which one might travel. During Amazon’s founder, Jeff Bezos’, space excavation on The Blue Origin capsule, God was there, whether they knew or not. From the rocket’s launch at a site in rural West Texas, to takeoff, and while ascending into space and descending back to earth, God was with them. As we’re moving throughout our day—doing laundry, dropping off kids, working, watching a movie, sleeping, lying sick in the hospital with Covid or another disease, or whatever—the Lord’s presence is with you. Whether late in the evening when most are asleep or five o’clock in the morning before the sun has risen, God is present. Even the most remote places in our world are not off God’s radar. I think of these places when I read in this verse, “the other side of the sea,” Remote places are where Christian missionaries often travel spreading the message of Christ in towns and villages we’re unaware of. While unknown to us, they aren’t to God; He’s there. There’s no time when or place where we can escape God’s watchful eye.
- Dark atmospheres (physical or spiritual) – (vss. 11-12)
Finally, the absence of light does not thwart God’s view. “If we say, Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me…” God’s presence could locate me when it’s completely dark outside, if there was no moon lighting the earth. In fact, there’s no difference between darkness and light to God, David informs us. How profound! He does not need prescription glasses to see better, as we do, or a flashlight to help navigate a path He’s taking. God’s presence supersedes darkness. Venturing past the literal interpretation here, I believe God is present even in the dark moments we sometimes find ourselves. They come upon us unaware, sometimes through no-fault of our own, or perhaps by our own neglect. As difficult as it may be to grasp, even in these, God is aware we’re in this dark place and is with us. This may be a solace for some but distressing to know for others. Regardless of your lifestyle, the Lord is there and sees; you don’t need to hide from Him, and can’t.
Consider Adam and Eve
I’m reminded of the story about Adam and Eve in Genesis, chapters 1-3. Read it if you haven’t. After creating heaven and earth and filling it with all things one would need for nourishment, sustenance, and pleasure, God creates the first man, Adam, and places him in His garden (Eden) to work and replenish it. He next forms the first woman, Eve, to be with him. Both had all they needed and were at liberty to enjoy the Garden and eat as they pleased. They were given only one instruction, “And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die” (Gen 2:16-17). Satan comes along, incites Eve, and engages her in discussion. She begins to reason (oh, yeah, how about that!) and eats from the tree and gives to Adam to eat. Suddenly, they realize their mistake, feel guilt, and try to cover themselves. God is walking, they’re afraid and run to hide. God calls, “Where are you?” (Has God ever called you?) Adam tells God he was afraid because he was naked, so he hid. Their nakedness was not an issue before. God asks two questions, “Who told you, you were naked?” and “Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” (Oops…there it is!) They did. The blame game starts. He blames her, she blames the serpent, and the serpent went on his usual way probably delighted he conquered, until God dealt with him.
We see how from the beginning, people attempted to hide from God and couldn’t, and neither should we. Actually, now, with our understanding about God’s omnipresence, we should humbly submit ourselves to this aspect of His nature and refute any attempts at hiding. As God is everywhere, He’s also all-knowing; it’s futile then to try and hide. Unfortunately, though, this is what sin and dark living produces—fear, guilt, shame, and spiritual separation from God. While God is not visible to us, He can be known and experienced through faith. He wants to be found; it’s why He’s been hanging out among us! (Lol)
You may wonder, how can God be everywhere that I am along with all the other billions of people on earth? Glad you asked. David ascribes God as being a Spirit (vs.7). This idea is also recorded in John 4:24 where it states, God is spirit, and His worshipers must worship Him in spirit and in truth. His presence is immanent—meaning it’s near and fully present in the physical world and accessible to us in various ways (Acts 17:27). However, His Spirit also transcends the material universe and functions wholly independent of it. There’s nothing in the physical world that God is relying upon to sustain Himself, as we need to.
In his book, Pursuit of God, A.W. Tozer writes, “God dwells in His creation and is everywhere indivisibly present in all His works. This is boldly taught by prophet and apostle and is accepted by Christian theology generally. That is, it appears in books, but for some reason, it has not sunk into the average Christian’s heart to become a part of his believing self…These are truths believed by every instructed Christian. It remains for us to think on them and pray over them until they begin to glow in us.” (Tozer. A.W. n.d. Chpt.5)
You heard me frequently refer to God’s awareness of us, in the places we go or situations we’re in. This is a good enough reason to stop trying to hide from Him. I suggest this for two reasons. First, David realized, and we should too, that there’s no physical place where God’s Spirit is not. Imagine a game of Hide and Seek with a group of pre-school children; many would return home pouting to their parents, “It’s not fair mommy, God always wins.” (Lol) God pays attention to you. His attention is not predicated by your race, how special you are, look, act, or even how you feel about Him. You know, our culture raves over individuals who wear the latest fashions, keep up with trends, or look a certain way. Even our presence on social media platforms can afford us a lot of attention or notoriety. God’s presence with us has no requirement we have to meet. He simply wants us to believe that He exists.
It’s also futile to hide from God’s presence because we learn from the Bible how God has always been working for and toward the good of humanity. He desires to find us and be found by us. In this text, we see God is not just simply being among us, walking around showing off His power and might. No. Once again, David shows us a God at work, extending His hand to help guide us, his right hand to keep us strong and stable in these “what-if” situations we may go. (See verse 10). References to God’s right arm in scripture usually denotes His powerful ability. David doesn’t say God is shaking His finger in our face saying, “No, no, you shouldn’t have done that.” There’s no mention either of God holding a club to bash us every time we falter. God’s hand is there to help. As Light, God lights our way and makes our path clear because there’s no darkness in Him and darkness does not affect Him.
God’s presence does not always mean that bad things will not happen, or that it will prevent calamity. It does mean our Heavenly Father, God one day, left His glorious throne and wrapped himself in human flesh to come and dwell among mankind. He is Emmanuel, “God with us.” God incarnate, Jesus Christ, became flesh in order to identify with our weaknesses. He was despised and rejected as we’ve been. He felt pain just as we feel. He suffered physical traumas and the grief of losing loved ones to death, just as we do. Every kind of temptation came His way as it does to us. Betrayed by His closest friends and misunderstood by the religious establishment who should have known. Jesus, the man, familiar with sorrow and pain, is our God. Because of this, the Bible says about Jesus in Hebrews 4:15,
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. (Heb. 5:15-16 (NIV)
God is with you, my friend. He sees. He knows. And, He really has “been there, experienced that.” Call on Him!
Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great
and hidden things that you have not known. Jeremiah 33:3 (ESV)
Be blessed until next time…
Tozer, A. (n.d.). The Pursuit of God (1443448650 1047447034 J. L. Snyder, Ed.).