Tuesday, August 2, 2016

A meditation on God's omnipresence

Psalm 139:7-12  "Where can I go from Your Spirit?Or where can I flee from Your presence? 8 If I ascend to heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in Sheol, behold,You are there.
9 If I take the wings of the dawn,
If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea, 10 Even there Your hand will lead me, And Your right hand will lay hold of me. 11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will over whelm me, And the light around me will be night,” 12 Even the darkness is not dark to You, And the night is as bright as the day. Darkness and light are alike to You."

Yesterday's meditation was based upon Psalm 139:1-6, wherein we peered into that glorious attribute of God known as His omniscience. We saw that God's ability to know all things has to do with four main areas:

1. His direct knowledge of all things
2. His all-encompassing knowledge of the essence of all things, including thoughts and properties of objects
3. God knows all things past, present and future (including free-will decisions and events that could had occurred if circumstances had been different)
4. The course and destination which all things will take. 

We could also add a fifth category covered under God's omniscience, namely the knowledge God has of Himself (see Romans 11:33-35; 1 Corinthians 2:11-13; John 1:18). We also noted that the Bible uses terms to refer to different aspects of God's omniscience: foreknowledge (Romans 8:29); predestination (Romans 8:29; 2 Peter 1:1-2); foreordination (Acts 2:23-24); plan or purpose or counsel of God (Ephesians 1:11); wisdom (Psalm 89:14) and of course, knowledge (Isaiah 41:21-23). 

To begin with God's omniscience is appropriate when approaching the subject of God's very being (called in the study of Christian theology, "theology proper"). Stephen Charnock's classic work: "The Existence and Attributes of God", page 409, traces the root meaning of the Greek word for God (theos) to a verbal form that means "to see, to contemplate". Today's post will attempt to move to that second part of Psalm 139 that has to do with a second major attribute of God's essence and being: namely His omnipresence.

Reflections of God's omnipresence
The above photograph is that of the so-called "Sombrero Galaxy" (so-called due to its resemblance to the hat), or as known by its more technical designation "M104". Astronomers tell us that the Sombrero Galaxy is some 28 million light years from earth and measures 50,000 light years across (see NASA's link to this galaxy at ). It is amazing to think that God is as much present at that Galaxy as He is here with me in the chair in which I am typing this post. 

God's omnipresence is the focus of today's post. To get our thoughts attuned, I will mention some observations made by Elmer Towns in his very accessible systematic theology entitled: "Theology for Today". On pages 119-121 of his work, Towns spells out the following six-points about God's omnipresence, of which I will summarize below:

1. God's omnipresence is a manifestation of His immensity.
This is to say that God's nature knows no limits. God is everywhere in, through and at every point in space and outside of it. I liken God's immensity to a circle in relationship to a line, which we could say represents "time and space". The circle can lie outside of it, or the circle can include the line. Either way, the circle is not limited by the line, but is bigger, can overshadow it or be everywhere that line is. 

2. God's omnispresence implies His immensity. According to Towns, this means God is everywhere present at the same time.

3. God's omnipresence allows for His transcendence. What Towns is speaking of here is God's relationship to the universe itself. In the language of classical Christian theology, God necessarily exists, which means God must and has to exist, since He sustains all things. The universe, on the other hand, does not have to exist and is thus "contingent", meaning it's existence relies upon God to sustain, as well as the fact that the universe is finite in age, and thus not eternal.

4. God's omnipresence means He will manifest Himself in some places more than others.  I will admit this point made by Towns is at first surprising. Why? We know by definition that God's omniscience implies He is everywhere. However, there is, in Town's language, the "localized" presence of God in Heaven and the "institutionalized presence" of God in His people. Ultimately, there is no place where God's influence and presence is not felt. 

5. God's omnipresence implies His omnipotence and omniscience. As Towns rightly points out, any one of the so-called "omni" attributes presupposes the other two. God must have all power in order to directly affect every point and moment in time and space as the Omnipotent God, henceforth referring back to His omnipresence. In like manner, God must know the outcomes and means by which the effects of His causing all things occurs by way of His omnipotence. Again, such a property of God's infinite being implies His omnipresence.

6. God's omnipresence. The practical ramifications of God's omnipresence is brought home in the following observation by Towns: "The fact that God is means that God is here and now. He comforts, guides and protects the believer with His omnipresence. And the fact that God is here, implies that God is everywhere." Certainly such Bible passages as Psalm 23 or where Jesus in His incarnation could walk the earth as man while still holding sway over creation as God (see John 3:13; Colossians 1:13-16) gives us great comfort in knowing that He will never leave us nor forsake us (see Matthew 28:18-20). 

In reflecting on these six points, we can see why David writes what he does in Psalm 139:7-12. To anchor our thoughts on God's omnipresence as presented in these verses, the reader can note the five places where I underlined the word "if". David is himself reflecting on the significance of God's omnipresence in His own life. In following those five places in their particular order, we can note that God's omnipresence covers the highest, deepest, largest, most remote and darkest regions of created reality and life. This is the God you and I need dear reader. God's omnipresence is that constant reality that is unimpaired by life's darkness, isolation, overwhelming moments, deepest valleys and highest obstacles. Let us thank God today for His omnipresence.