ISSUE: 2014, Volume 11, Issue 2
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In the last issue of YPS (Feb. 2014), we commenced a study of Psalm 139, and discovered something about the character of God. In the second section, vv. 7-12, David considers God’s presence. He understands that God is in all places at all times. The word used to describe God being everywhere is ‘omnipresence’. The prefix ‘omni’ comes from the Latin and means ‘all’. This attribute of God is difficult for us to understand. We are all tied to a location. If I am in one place, I cannot be in another. If I am at work, I cannot also be at home. If I am in Singapore, I cannot be in London. However, God is not limited in this way. God is present everywhere at all times. There is not one part of God in one place and another part in another place; He is wholly present in all places. Although God is present everywhere in all of His creation, He is distinct from it.
David asks two rhetorical questions, ‘Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence?’ v. 7 ESV. The answer is implied within the question; you cannot escape from God. It was not as if David wanted to avoid God’s presence, but David was involved in the very useful act of ‘preaching to himself’. We do not know the circumstances or events that led to David having these thoughts. He could have been in physical danger. He may have felt alone, and isolated. It is helpful if, at times, we ‘preach to ourselves’ truth that we know about God. The truth that we have learned in the past can, by God’s grace, strengthen and empower us in any present situation. As one old preacher said, ‘The trouble with some people is that they listen to themselves rather than speak to themselves’.
David develops his thoughts on God’s omnipresence by reflecting on three occasions when someone might think that God could be absent from them.
David selects the example of heaven and hell in verse 8. If God is present in these two extremes, then He is present everywhere in between. The fact that God is present in heaven will not surprise anyone, but the fact that He is present in hell will surprise many. God’s presence produces different effects in different places. Usually, when the Bible speaks about being in God’s presence, it is speaking of a place of joy, Ps. 16. 11. God is not limited by location; His presence, and blessing, can be known wherever a believer is. Even in a Nazi Concentration Camp during World War 2, Corrie Ten Boom knew something of God’s presence! God’s presence in hell ensures that judgement, and justice, are dispensed.
David then reflects upon speed and travel deep into earth’s oceans. In verse 9, we read the delightful expression ‘the wings of the morning’, which refer to the sun’s rays that travel from the East to the West as dawn breaks. David knew that light travelled fast. We know that light travels at over 186,000 miles per second. If any of us could travel at the speed of light, we would be able to travel around the equator seven times in one second! David reflected on travelling at the speed of light to the remotest part of the sea, and knew he would still be in God’s presence. Every believer can be assured that distance and speed are no barrier to God.
The Bible frequently uses darkness in a spiritual sense, Col. 1. 13, but, in verse 11, David speaks of physical darkness. Darkness is often used by people as a cover for wrong! All kinds of sins are committed when people think that no one can see them. Darkness causes fear and anxiety in young and old alike. The biblical character Job also knew that darkness was no hindrance to God’s presence, Job 34. 22. In fact, darkness makes no difference to God. He is able to be as present in the dark as He is in the light.
We can be comforted and strengthened as we reflect on God’s omnipresence. Whether alone, in distress, in a strange place, or in a whole new set of circumstances, God can lead us. May our meditations on God’s omnipresence bring us blessing!
To be continued...