February 16 – Omnipresent
David takes God’s personal, comprehensive knowledge of him in verses 1-6 and then asks rhetorically, “Where can I go that you aren’t?” Can he escape God by going all the way up to heaven, or all the way down to the depths of the earth (Sheol)? Can he go all the way east to the sunrise, or all the way west to the end of the sea? The understood answer is, repeatedly, no. It’s just not possible to go somewhere outside the reach of God. So David goes further; if he can’t escape God’s presence, can he at least escape God’s perception? Can he hide himself in darkness and put some sort of barrier between himself and God? Once again, no, it simply isn’t possible. The very nature of God nullifies our attempts to escape his presence or attention.
This makes me think of Jonah. As a kid, when I first heard the story of Jonah fleeing from his calling, I imagined him aboard the ship to Tarshish keeping away from the windows so God wouldn’t find him, as if God was looking down from heaven with binoculars or something. I think that’s basically the way we think about God’s attention towards us, that we’re only sometimes in his view. But what we see in Jonah’s story is that even in the depths of the sea, in the belly of a whale, God is still there.
And look at how David paints God’s omnipresence in verse 10. It isn’t some scientific fact or atomic force, barely perceptible but always passively present. Should David flee to the ends of the earth, even there God’s hand shall lead him and his right hand shall hold him. God’s presence everywhere means everywhere we go, in every context and situation, even there God can guide us and comfort us. He is infinitely accessible.
And we, thankfully, don’t have to be. In our last discussion question we’ll ask how God’s presence in all places can help us be present in our one place. Our society, particularly with its engulfing use of technology and social media, begs to keep our attention everywhere, all the time. You can have literally thousands of people clamoring for your attention if you build up enough online presence. Not to mention the compounding demands of work, family, friends, or civic engagement. Rejoicing in God’s presence everywhere can help you rejoice in you being present in only one where. You simply can’t keep the world, or even just your little world, running; you don’t have the presence of mind for it. But if God’s everywhere-presence guides and holds you then you can trust him to keep holding everything together, even when you aren’t looking.
Questions for Discussion
• Can someone read Psalm 139:7-12 for us?
• What stood out to you from this passage?
• How does this psalm describe God’s presence?
• Why do you think David was thinking about fleeing or hiding in darkness?
• What does God’s omnipresence mean for the way you relate to him?
• How can God’s presence in all places help us be present wherever we are?