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Last week, we looked at the first six verses of Psalm 139 and talked about the omniscience of God.  God is omniscient, which means He is all-knowing.  This week, I want to talk about the omnipresence of God, which means God is everywhere all at one time. It is a hard concept to grasp because we are so limited.  We can only be in one place at one time, so it is hard to conceive of God being able to be everywhere.

Let’s continue with Psalm 139:Where can I go from your Spirit?   Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there;   if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn,   if I settle on the far side of the sea,10 even there your hand will guide me,  your right hand will hold me fast. 11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me  and the light become night around me,” 12 even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day,  for darkness is as light to you.

I remember the day I received a call from the Church of God Missionary Board, asking me if I would consider missions work in the Middle East. There was an opening for a fifth-grade teacher at an English-speaking school on the island of Cyprus in the Mediterranean. The Gulf War had recently ended. It didn’t seem like the safest place for a single, 22-year-old girl to be. However, as I prayed about it and expressed my anxiety about it being number one, far from home and two, in the seemingly turbulent Middle East, it was as if I heard God audibly say, “Do you not think I will be with you there just as I am here in the U.S.?”  In an instant, I knew I had to go.  I believed I would be safer in the Middle East, inside the will of God, than I would be if I stayed home and was disobedient.  The God who was with me in Indiana, where I was living at the time, would be with me on in the Middle East.  And He was.  How thankful I am for those two life-changing years where I grew to appreciate God and deepened my relationship with God beyond what I could have thought possible at the time.

David, the guy who was in awe of the fact that God’s hand was in his life, Psalm 139:5, in spite of who he was, went on to deeply appreciate the fact that God was always with him.  He drew some contrasts in verses 8-12. He spoke about the heavens and the depths of the earth and about how God was in both places. He talked about being on the wings of dawn, wherever the sunrise might be located from wherever he was at that moment, and he talked about the complete opposite location as he referenced the far side of the sea.  God was in both places.  He spoke of both darkness and light, and how God would be wherever he was, no matter what time of day it was.  God is everywhere.  He is omnipresent.

Let me say something before we delve into this topic, something that is very important for us to understand:  Satan is NOT omnipresent.  He is a created being.  He is not able to be in more than one place at a time.  That said, he does have demons who do his bidding, and he works in and through the world’s systems once he gains entrance into them.  So, it might appear that he is everywhere, but he is not.  His influence might be seen in many places, but Satan, himself, can only be in one place at one time.

We can acknowledge God’s presence, or we can try to ignore it, but we can’t change that wherever we go, there God is.

Do you remember Jonah?  God wanted to send him to Nineveh to preach a word of warning to that city, but Jonah wasn’t having it. He viewed the people who lived there as enemies. They were pretty barbaric and had given Jonah several reasons to hate them.  He didn’t want them to be blessed of God. He didn’t want them to be “off the hook,” but wanted them to be held accountable for their actions. He didn’t want to take the assignment because he didn’t want them to repent and then receive forgiveness from God. You would have to really hate someone to hope that they died without being right with God.

So, Jonah took off running in the other direction.  He went to Joppa and found a ship that was going to Tarshish.  He bought a ticket and verse 3, in the NKJV says, he was going to flee from the presence of the Lord. In fact, fleeing the presence of the Lord is stated twice in that one verse. Jonah didn’t just set out to disobey the command to go to Nineveh, but he set out to get away from God altogether.  He wanted to avoid the presence of God.  Apparently, he hadn’t learned what David had learned.  David told us in Psalm 139 that we cannot flee from the Lord’s presence.  Wherever we go, He is there.  While we are going there, He is there.  Wherever we leave, He remains there as well.  There is nowhere God doesn’t dwell.

Jonah soon learned what David knew.  He could take the fastest ship to the furthest and most secluded place, but God was going to be there when he got there.  God brought about a great storm on the sea and everyone on board started crying out to their individual god.  They threw cargo over to try to lighten the ship’s load. They told Jonah to cry out to his God.  They knew he was on the run from his God because he had told them he was.  Check it out in Jonah 1:10. They made a direct correlation between the storm and Jonah’s God being unhappy about his decision. Jonah didn’t try to deny that his disobedience was the reason for the storm. In verse 12, he told them to throw him overboard and the sea would become calm.  He was just going to end it all. It’s interesting that verse 16 tells us that those men who had cried out to their various gods, not the one, true, Living God, but various gods, all of the sudden feared the LORD and offered a sacrifice to Him. Jonah’s disobedience led to them having an opportunity to have their eyes opened to see God and respond to Him.  Things like that only happen because God is present in every situation.

Notice something very important in Jonah 1:17:  “Now the Lord provided a huge fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.”

The fact that Jonah was swallowed by a huge fish was a good thing, a God-thing.  It was the provision of God and grace of God, that Jonah was swallowed by a whale instead of drowning and dying in that sea. God could provide the huge fish for Jonah because He was there.  He was watching over Jonah.  He was involved in Jonah’s life.  He wasn’t left behind when Jonah left Israel.  God was there in the middle of the mess that Jonah had created.  Some people wrongly think that God abandons us when we mess up.  Not so.  He is just as near in those moments as He is when we are on the mountaintop with Him.  In mercy and love, He made a way for Jonah to have a three-day time out in the belly of a huge fish.  Not my idea of a great location for such, but God knew best.

Remember what David said in Psalm 139:8?  If I make my bed in the depths, you are there.  Jonah had literally made his bed in the depths of the sea.  He was in the belly of a stinkin’ fish!  It’s a good thing God was there because Jonah decided it was time to pray.  Who wants to pray to a God who isn’t even there to hear them?  I mean, if I could go beyond where God could hear me, how would He reach me to help me?  What would the point of prayer even be?  Jonah recognized the fish had been sent by God when the fish didn’t chew him up, when the digestion process seemed to be stalled, when Jonah realized he was still alive and intact.  So, he prayed to the God he knew would hear him.  And after a three-day, “Come to Jesus” prayer meeting, the fish hurled, spewed, vomited Jonah out onto dry land and guess what?  He went to Nineveh, and guess who was there? The Everywhere Always There God.  

God is there when we try to run and hide.  He is there when we are willfully disobedient. He is also there when other people do us dirty, when we are the victims of other people’s cruelty and meanness. Joseph, another Old Testament character, was hated by his brothers. They literally put him in a pit while they tried to decide how to get him out of their lives. Joseph was sold by his brothers to slave traders. They faked his death by telling their father he had been killed by a wild animal. The slave traders took him to Egypt and sold him into slavery to a man named Potiphar. While there, even though Joseph was an incredible servant and was promoted by Potiphar to be the head of his house, Potiphar’s wife falsely accused Joseph of trying to take advantage of her.  That landed him in prison.  While in prison, the warden elevated Joseph to be a sort of caretaker at the prison. Joseph met a prisoner who promised to help him when he got out, but that guy forgot about Joseph. It was one blow after another, and yet Joseph was always elevated and would rise to a position of authority every time someone knocked him down.  The resounding theme of Joseph’s life is clear all throughout this story. In fact, four different times, we read that the Lord was with Joseph. God was with Joseph when he was in the pit.  He was with Joseph when he was in Potiphar’s house as a servant.  He was with Joseph when he was in prison and eventually, Joseph was promoted to palace life as he became second in command to Pharaoh. It was God’s presence, in every place, all along the way, that made the difference for Joseph.

God isn’t just there, like in that He is in the room, but He is there with us to make a difference for us.

In the Middle Ages, Christian theologians had a saying that went like this: “God’s center is everywhere; God’s circumference nowhere.”  In other words, He is just as much present in any place as He is any other place. Nowhere do you find a limitation on the presence of God. God’s presence and availability aren’t the problem.  The issue is our awareness and acknowledgement of God’s presence in every place and circumstance.

God is always present with us, but we are always present with Him?

Do we live with a God-consciousness?  Do we live with an awareness of His presence?  Are we looking for Him, or are we trying to avoid Him?  Where are our eyes focused?  On the things of the world or the things of God?  There is an awesome Bible story in II Kings 6 about this very thing.  We read there how these mighty armies of Aram had surrounded God’s people with horses and chariots during the night. The next morning, this guy, a servant of Elisha the Prophet, when he woke up and saw the army with horses and chariots, and that they had surrounded the city, he panicked.  He asked Elisha what they were going to do.  And this was the reply from Elisha in II Kings 6:1, “Don’t be afraid.  Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”  It didn’t appear that way to the servant. From where he stood, they were surrounded.  They were outnumbered.  They were doomed.

But verse 17 says Elisha prayed that the eyes of his servant would be opened so that he could see how God was there with them. The Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.  God was absolutely present.  God was with Elisha in that situation and had given him the ability to see that there was no reason to panic. Elisha had the ability to see God and to see how God was at work to protect and help them, but the servant had to have his eyes opened to the presence of God.

I think many of us need to have this happen for us today.  We need our spiritual eyes opened to be able to see God in our midst, see God here to rescued. We need to see and be focused on the presence of God, but often we are focused on our problems instead of God’s presence. Often, we are focused on our enemy instead of God’s presence. It is the acknowledgement of God’s presence that will make a positive difference in any circumstance.  Hebrews 13:5 tells us that God will never leave us or forsake us.  God can’t leave us because He is always everywhere. The fact that God is omnipresent means you and I are never alone.

One more Old Testament example of how God is present with us. The Babylonian King, Nebuchadnezzar, built a huge gold statue to honor a false god. In addition, he wanted everyone to know how wealthy and powerful he was. He commanded his subjects to bow to the statue when music was played. Anyone who refused to bow would be thrown into a fiery furnace to be executed.

Well, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, three Jewish men who had been taken captive to Babylon, were not going to bow.  They were going to stay true to God. They said this to the King in Daniel 3:16ff: “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. 17 If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us[c] from Your Majesty’s hand. 18 But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”

Into the fire they went. What Nebuchadnezzar didn’t realize was that he was going to have a front row seat to the delivering presence of God. He thought he was large and in charge.  He thought he was in total control. He ordered that the furnace be heated to seven times hotter than it was, as if the fire that was already blazing wouldn’t be enough to consume the three men. He also ordered that the three Hebrew boys’ hands and feet be tied up as well. Well, the fire was so hot that even the soldiers who carried them to the top and threw them in were killed by the flames.

King Nebuchadnezzar had witnessed the faith of the Hebrew men. He heard them say that God would be with them, that God would deliver them, and he waited around to watch. I think he was curious. They had spoken so confidently about God’s ability to deliver them that I think Nebuchadnezzar was nervous that they were correct about God’s power.  He wasn’t going to be satisfied until those three young men were dead, so he was there to watch it all.  Daniel 3:24ff says, 24 Then King Nebuchadnezzar leaped to his feet in amazement and asked his advisers, “Weren’t there three men that we tied up and threw into the fire?”  They replied, “Certainly, Your Majesty.”  25 He said, “Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.”

Who was that fourth man in the fire?  Who untied the hands and feet of the three Hebrews? Who enabled them to be fireproof as they walked around in the fire?  It was the Everywhere-Always-There-God. The pre-incarnate Jesus was in the fire with them!  They banked on God being with them, and they were not disappointed.  Well, the King ordered them to come out of the furnace, and when they did, their clothes and hair weren’t even singed.  There wasn’t even any smell of any smoke on them.

Just like God was with them, delivering them in and through the fire, God will be with you in your fiery trial. When you are falsely accused, when you are the victim of other people’s selfish choices, when the bad news is delivered, when that financial hardship occurs, when there is an unexpected illness, when you are hard-pressed and stressed, even in the Valley of the Shadow of Death, Psalm 23, we do not have to live in fear because God will be with us.

I guess you can say King Nebuchadnezzar became a believer. He praised Shadrach, Meschach and Abednego’s God!  He made it a law that no one could even speak anything negative about God.  He said that no other god could save the way God had saved them, and he promoted the three young men.  Listen, when you believe God will be with you and you declare that in faith, not only will you experience Him in your fiery trials, but others will also see Him, and their lives will be changed.

God is available to you no matter where you find yourself. Maybe you have tried to escape Him, to escape His presence, and you now realize you can’t.  That’s a good thing.  That’s a very good thing. Maybe you feel you have been swallowed by a whale.  That is a God-given opportunity to pray to the God who is there. Maybe you have been a victim of those who have rejected, used or abused you.  God is still with you, and those scars, those hurts and pains, can be transformed by the hand of God that is still on your life.  They can be the reason, in the end, that you are elevated to the place God has prepared for you.  And if, you have been placed in a fiery trial because you have been unwilling to compromise your commitment to Christ, know that He will walk with you even when the fire is hotter than you could ever imagine. God isn’t afraid of the fire, and He will bring you out.  God is even there whether you can see Him at work or not.  Pray today that your spiritual eyes will be opened.

I’m involved with some people whose family life it tumultuous.  There are mental challenges.  Physical challenges.  Addiction challenges.  Demonic strongholds. Legal issues.  Several interactions with Law Enforcement. Jail. Malpractice. Hospitalizations. Relational trauma. Stress beyond anything I could comprehend. Every day is a battle, and the intensity of this complicated situation has been going on for years. If I were to describe the situation to you, you would be overwhelmed in the first two minutes of what could take an entire day to communicate.  I have never seen such suffering in my life. Answers seem beyond reach. Yet, I got a text this week from someone in the family that read:  “We’re still in turmoil, but for the past several days, little by little, I’ve felt God’s presence and have experienced being able to have moments of being able to not borrow troubles from tomorrow which brings some peace.  For me, that’s a major gift.”

The only way she could make such a claim is because God is with her.  Could you take a moment as we begin to end this service, to acknowledge the God who is there and let Him be there for you in your situation.

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