The Universal Presence
Where Shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? (Psalm 139:7)
Adam sinned and, in his panic, frantically tried to do the impossible: He tried to hide from the Presence of God. Davis also must have had wild thoughts of trying to escape from the Presence, for he wrote, “Whither shall I go from thy spirit? Or whither shall I flee from thy presence? (Psalm 139:7)
Then he proceeded through one of his most beautiful psalms to celebrate the glory of divine immanence. “If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me” (verses 8-10). And he knew that God being and God seeing are the same- that the seeing Presence had been with him even before he was born, watching the mystery of unfolding life.
Paul assured the Athenians that God is not far from any one of us: for “in him we live, and move, and have our being” (Acts 17:28)
If God is present at every point in space, if we cannot go where He is not, why then has not the Presence become the one universally celebrated fact of the world? The patriarch Jacob gave the answer to that question. He saw a vision of God and cried out in wonder, “Surely the Lord is in this place; and I knew it not” (Genesis 28:16). Jacob had never been one for small division of a moment outside the circle of that all-pervading Presence. But he knew it not. That was his trouble, and it is ours. Men do not know that God is here.
What a difference it would make if they knew.
A. W. Tozer
On the night that Christ came in the flesh, the whole world went about its daily routine. In Bethlehem, except for those like the shepherds whose job require them to keep watch over the flocks, the city slept. In Jerusalem, the priests and the religious slept. In the castle the king and the inhabitants slept. So when God came into the world in the flesh, none noticed. We read that it was the angels that made the news known as they descended from heaven and lit up the night where the shepherds were declaring the Lord had come. I think had they not, the event may have gone unnoticed by all.
On another occasion the failure to recognize the God was near in tangible form occurred after the resurrection. We are told that two of the disciples are traveling on the road to Emmaus when they are joined by Jesus. He asks them what they are discussing and they respond with amazement that someone could not have known about the crucifixion of Christ. Apparently they were in such state of despair that they failed to recognize that God was walking and talking with them until they invited Him in to stay with them and He revealed Himself.
We read that on the night the disciples were in the storm and Jesus comes to them walking on the water, they cried out in fear supposing Him to be a ghost.
We read of Samuel as a child who does not know it’s the voice of God calling him.
Yet we are told by David that there is no place we can go that God is not there.
That my beloved is the most wonderful thing we can know for that is the source of peace and assurance.
Now I know from my own experience when things are difficult and we’re in a dark place, we wonder where God is. We are so filled with anxiety, or grief, or life, or even our own plans that we block out the vision of seeing God and we block out the feeling of God’s nearness. We allow sin and doubt and unbelief to so fill our hearts that they can hardly fathom that God can be and is near. Like Adam and Eve in the Garden our shame and fear cause us to hide from God as though that were possible. Like the disciples we become so surrounded by our struggles we can imagine God walking into our storm with us. Like Mary and Martha we often believe that even if God comes near, it’s too late.
But in truth God never abandons us no matter what life brings. In every circumstance God is near.
“For this commandment which I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you, nor is it out of reach. It is not [a secret hidden] in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will go up to heaven for us and bring it to us, so that we may hear it and obey it?’ Nor is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will cross the sea for us and bring it to us, so that we may hear it and obey it?’ But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, so that you may obey it.
For Moses writes that the man who practices the righteousness which is based on law [with all its intricate demands] shall live by it. But the righteousness based on faith [which produces a right relationship with Him] says the following: “ Do not say in your heart, ‘ Who will ascend into Heaven ?’ that is, to bring Christ down; or, ‘ Who will descend into the abyss?’ that is, to bring Christ up from the dead [as if we had to be saved by our own efforts, doing the impossible].” But what does it say? “ The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart ”—that is, the word [the message, the basis] of faith which we preach— because if you acknowledge and confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord [recognizing His power, authority, and majesty as God], and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.
Let your character [your moral essence, your inner nature] be free from the love of money [shun greed—be financially ethical], being content with what you have; for He has said, “ I will never [under any circumstances] desert you [nor give you up nor leave you without support, nor will I in any degree leave you helpless], nor will I forsake or let you down or relax My hold on you [assuredly not]!” So we take comfort and are encouraged and confidently say, “ The Lord is my Helper [in time of need], I will not be afraid. What will man do to me ?”
So whether we seek God at home, indoors or out; whether we seek him in the church building, indoors or out; we find Him for He is never far away. With all the challenges of the pandemic, those who choose to do so will never fail to experience the Presence. Oh yes, things may be different. We may not be able to replicate how we connected to God in the past but never fear, we will continue to experience His presence, perhaps in a more powerful way since we have become less occupied with our things and more occupied seeking a more fuller revelation of God among us. It’s never that God withdraws Himself from us. It is always we who withdraw. I encourage you today that if you aren’t experiencing the Presence of God to open your heart; to ask the Holy Spirit to open your eyes that you might behold the Lord and that He would make His Presence known to you. If you’re in a dark place ask now. Don’t try to wait till things get better. Ask now. Call out to God now. He makes Himself known in the storm as well as in the calm. If you’re one of those waiting for the end of the pandemic and a return to the church building so you can experience God, you don’t have to wait for those doors to open. Cry out to God for the windows of heaven are always open and the Presence is always near.
“Come close to God [with a contrite heart] and He will come close to you.”
Dr. John Thompson