How Great Is God's Presence
When was a time that you felt you were alone? How did that make you feel? I think many folks are feeling that way right now during the COVID-19 pandemic. Isolation is taking its toll. However, that feeling of aloneness is not restricted to isolation. Indeed, it is possible to feel alone even when you are surrounded by a large crowd. And those feelings of aloneness, regardless of the context, can be overwhelming, discouraging, and even terrifying. However, one of the attributes of God speaks directly to this area of concern in our lives. Are you feeling alone? Then, contemplate the greatness of God’s omnipresence!
God Is Everywhere
Broadly speaking, God’s omnipresence means that God is everywhere at the same time. It is what David speaks of in Psalm 139:7-8 when he writes, “7 Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? 8 If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!” David sites two extremes to represent the whole. That is, God is present in the highest heights (heaven) to the deepest depths (Sheol). God is everywhere! How great is God’s presence!
God’s Presence Is Incomprehensible
How does that even work? How can God be everywhere at the same time? The short answer is, “I don’t know.” The temptation is to think that God is just really big, that is, bigger than all creation. But even thinking of God in those spatial terms is misleading. One theologian described it this way. “We should try to avoid thinking of God in terms of size or spatial dimensions. God is a being who exists without size or dimensions in space. In fact, before God created the universe, there was no matter or material so that there was no space either. Yet God still existed. Where was God? He was not in a place that we could call a ‘where,’ for there was no ‘where’ or space. But God still was!” [cf. Grudem, Systematic Theology, 175]. Wow! God’s presence is truly beyond our abilities as finite creatures to comprehend. How great is God’s presence!
God Acts In Different Ways In Different Places
God is all that He is everywhere all the time. But He acts in different ways in different places. As this relates to all creation, Paul writes in Colossians 1:15-17, “15 [Jesus] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” So, on the one hand, God is everywhere holding all things together. Otherwise, they would fall apart and cease to exist.
On the other hand, God may be acting to bless in some places while at the same time acting to bring judgment in other places. It is helpful to understand, though, that the doctrine of God’s presence with His people is so reassuring that most times when the Bible talks about God being “with” someone, it is speaking of Him being with them to bless or help them in some way. That is why we find Paul describing the terrors of hell for those who neither know God nor obey the gospel in 2 Thessalonians 1:9 in this manner, “9 They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might.” It is not that God is not present in hell at all, but rather that He is absent in the traditional sense of understanding God’s presence to help and to bless. In other words, in hell, God is acting exclusively in judgment and wrath. How great, and terrifying, is God’s presence!
You Are Never Alone
So, where does that leave us today when we struggle with being alone? In Psalm 139:1-3, David writes, “1 O LORD, you have searched me and known me! 2 You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. 3 You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways." In other words, you are never alone!
First, when we consider this doctrine in terms of God’s holiness, it can be a sobering thought! One preacher put it this way, “If you believe that God is about your bed and about your path and spies out all your ways, then take care not to do the least thing, not to speak the least word, not to indulge the least thought that you think would offend Him.” That does not mean you need to run around being scared that God will zap you if you mess up! Instead, it simply means that how we live our lives, especially as God’s children, matters to God. And while you might fool other people, you’re never going to fool God! Would you think more carefully about how you lived your life from day to day if you knew an angel or another person you greatly respect was present with you? How much more should living in light of God’s presence affect our daily lives!
Second, when we consider this doctrine in terms of God’s compassion and grace, it can be an incredibly comforting thought! For, indeed, the Lord promised to never leave you or forsake you (cf. Hebrews 13:5-6). And Jesus said, “28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. 29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. 30 But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows” (Matthew 10:28-31). In other words, you matter to God and He loves you! As one of His children by grace through faith in Jesus as your Savior, God is always with you providing everything you need for life and godliness, whether that be a painful correction or rebuke or the reassurance of His comfort and empowering grace.
Consider, in closing, the words of this song from Rebecca St. James as she contemplated God’s presence in “Psalm 139” [LISTEN HERE].
You search me, You know me. You see my every move. There is nothing I could ever do To hide myself from You. You know my thoughts, my fears and hurts, My weaknesses and pride. You know what I am going through And how I feel inside.
But even though You know, You will always love me. Even though You know, you'll never let me go. I don't deserve your love, but You give it freely. You will always love me, even though You know.