GOD IS WITH US
W. Graham Scroggie, in his commentary on the Psalms, tells the story of an atheist who wanted to persuade his young son with his philosophy of life, who much to his concern was getting interested in the Christian faith. So this atheist father prepared this very attractive plaque and hung it on the wall where his son could see it everyday. This plaque said, "GOD IS NOWHERE."
When the boy got home from Sunday School that day he saw the plaque he was excited. He said to his father, "Why that’s exactly what my Sunday School teacher has been teaching me all along! GOD IS NOW HERE!" (Four words out of three and the way he read it was more appropriate than what his father had intended)
GOD IS NOW HERE. That’s what we are going to talk about this morning. And what a great truth it is. God is right here with us. God is not housed in a church building. God is now here with us. And when we leave this place, He will be with you as you drive home. He will be with you when you lay your head on your pillow tonight. He will be with you when you wake up tomorrow morning. As you go to work tomorrow, He is with you. He is always "Now Here."
It’s called the doctrine of God’s omnipresence. God is present everywhere.
I’m not sure if you read that great scholarly work called the Reader’s Digest, but I do sometimes. There are a lot of good stories and jokes in it. This one was written by a lady with a son named Doug. "While my young son Doug was looking at a full moon one night, he asked, ’Mom, is God in the moon?’ The mom explained that God is everywhere. ’Well, is God in my tummy?’ ’Well, I suppose so’ she responded not sure where these questions were leading. Then little Doug declared, ’Mom, God wants a banana!’"
What we do know from Scripture is that God is everywhere. And this is what David the Psalmist talks about in Psalm 139, a great Psalm about God. David starts off the Psalm about how God knows us (vv. 1-6). But God not only KNOWS us, He is also WITH us (vv. 7-12).
David starts off in v. 7 with A STATEMENT OF GOD’S PRESENCE (v. 7)
Now, I don’t know why anyone would really want to escape God’s presence. But I know some have tried. And I think most often it is because we try to hide our sin from God. Look at Adam and Eve after they sinned. Genesis 3:8 after they had sinned, "Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden."
Somehow they thought that they could really hide themselves from God’s presence. Foolish, but that’s what they thought. Sin does that to us. It makes us want to escape God’s presence. An infinite holy God strikes fear into our hearts and we want to hide from Him. We sin, so we try to hide. How tragic!
St. Augustine said it well when he said,
"The only way to flee from God is to flee TO him." What he was getting at is that in God alone can we find relief from the punishment that our sin really deserves. And instead of fleeing FROM God, we should be fleeing TO God. Only by running TO Him can we find forgiveness and freedom from the guilt of sin.
Jonah tried to run and hide from God too. Remember? When God asked him to go to Ninevah to preach and the wickedness Jonah decided that was the last thing he wanted to do and he decided to take off in exactly the opposite direction to Tarshish. Jonah 1: 3 says this, "But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish."
Jonah thought he could run from God’s presence. What a ridiculous notion that somehow God wasn’t in Tarshish! (Spain somewhere) But are we any different sometimes? When we are called to do a difficult thing, go to a difficult place, do we try to run from God, hide from Him by not doing it? By putting it off? It’s foolish to try to run from God. We cannot hide from God’s presence!
Actually, there’s really no evidence that David was trying to flee from God’s presence in this verse (Psalm 139:7) Just asking the question doesn’t mean he wanted to. I think rather, he was finding a great deal of comfort and encouragement from God’s omnipresence. He wasn’t trying to get away from God. He couldn’t do it even if he wanted to. But the point is he doesn’t want to because there is tremendous comfort and encouragement from the truth of God’s omnipresence.
GOD IS EVERYWHERE. GOD IS WITH US. God is an infinite Spirit, free from the limitations of space, holy present everywhere, all at the same time! All over the world, all over the universe, filling heaven and earth, God is present everywhere! And He is present everywhere at the same instance. It’s not that He is scattered everywhere with a little bit of Him here, a little bit of Him there. No! He is fully present in every place! Wherever He is, He is there in the fullness of His being.
The prophet Jeremiah taught us this same truth in Jeremiah 23:23-24. "’Am I only a God nearby, declares the Lord, and not a God far away? Can anyone hide in secret places so that I cannot see him?’ declares the Lord. ’Do I not fill heaven and earth?’ declares the Lord."
Our minds cannot fully comprehend the truth, but it is true. God is fully present everywhere. He fills the heavens and the earth.
This does not mean, however, that God is to be identified with His creation. That is the false philosophy called pantheism. Pantheism teaches that God and His creation are one. That God is merely an impersonal force, or the forces of laws of nature.
Stephen Spielberg in his Star Wars tried to teach this false philosophy, "May the Force be with you."
It is not true. God does not become the trees, and the flowers, the sky, the rocks, etc. God is not some impersonal force out there one with nature. That’s a serious error in thinking that can only lead to eternal death.
God is a personal being, not an impersonal force. God is a personal being, separate and distinct from His creation, transcendent above His creation and yet present in every part of His creation. (Repeat) As difficult as that might be for us to understand, it is the truth of God’s revealed Word. And that is what leads to a right relationship with this wonderful Person who created us for Himself. And that’s what leads to precious fellowship with this Lord God, the Creator of heaven and earth.
God is omnipresent.
Maybe a poem will help us understand this truth better...
"He was just a little lad. And on this fine Sunday he was wondering home from Sunday School and doddling along the way. He scuffed his shoes into the grass. And found found a caterpillar. He found a fluffy milkweed pod, and blew out all the filler. A bird’s nest in a tree, o’er head so wisely placed on high was just another wonder that caught his watchful eye. A neighbor watched his zigzag course and hailed him from the lawn. Asked where he’d been that day and what was going on. ’Oh, I’ve been to Sunday School.’ He carefully turned a sod and found a snail beneath it. ’I’ve learned a lot about God.’ ’Hmmm, a very fine way,’ the neighbor said, ’for a boy to spend his time. But if you’ll tell me where God is though, I’ll give you a brand new dime.’ Quick as a flash his answer came, nor were his accents faint. ’I’ll give you a dollar mister, if you tell me where God ain’t!’"
Where can I go from your presence? Where can I flee from your Spirit? The answer is: NOWHERE. Because God is present EVERYWHERE! That’s the truth of God’s omnipresence.
Let’s talk next about THE EXTENT OF GOD’S PRESENCE (vv. 8-12)
After making a statement about God’s presence, David follows up with specific illustrations of God’s presence. He does it with a series of 3 couplets:
(1) The Highest and the Lowest (v. 8)
(2) The Fastest and the Farthest (vv. 9-10)
(3) The Lightest and the Darkest (vv. 11-12)
Let’s look at the first couplet,
1) THE HIGHEST AND THE LOWEST (v. 8)
This is a little confusing isn’t it? We can understand God in heaven, but what about the depths? (Sheol, "hell" in some translations). What I think David is using here is just the highest and lowest extremes to illustrate God’s omnipresence. If you could scale the highest mountain (Mt. Everest) 29, 028 ft, God is there. Fly if you want, 35,000 feet or more, God is there with you. Or even get in a spacecraft and rocket yourself into outer space. God is there. As far as you can go, God is there.
You might remember in the early days of space exploration, a Russian cosmonaut suggested there wasn’t any God. "I didn’t see him in outer space, so there obviously is no God." I love what W.A. Criswell, pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas said when he read that. He announced to his congregation one Sunday, "If he had stepped out of his spacecraft, he would have met him in a hurry!"
God is there! As high as you can go, God is there. And if you could go to the very highest, what Paul calls in II Corinthians 12 the "third heaven," God is there.
But even going as low as you can go, God is there as well. "Sheol" is used in a number of ways in the Old Testament. We immediately assume it means "hell", but it doesn’t always mean "hell." Sometimes it just means "the grave." Sometimes it means "the heart of the earth." So as high as you can go, as low or deep as you can go, God is there. I’m not sure which one it means here, but I tend to think David is referring to the heart of the earth. I can’t prove that, but it seems to make the most sense to me. "As high as you go, as low as you can go on this earth, God is there."
The highest and the lowest is the first couplet and illustration of God’s omnipresence. The second couplet is:
2) THE FASTEST AND THE FARTHEST (vv. 9-10)
The first couplet was vertical (top to bottom). This couplet is horizontal (east and west). As far as you go, east or west, you can never go beyond God’s presence.
v. 9 "wings of the dawn (morning)" is beautiful and very descriptive. What does it mean? How I picture it is when the sun breaks over the Cascades looking out east from our home. When those rays first appear over the mountains we know that they are speeding at the rate of 186,000 miles per second. That rate of speed it takes 2 seconds to reach the moon. Now suppose that you could climb on the top of one of those light beams and race out over the mountains as those rays. If you could take the wings of the dawn "morning" that is what David is talking about here.
So the thought is, "What if I could outrun God?" "Maybe He can’t run that fast." Right? Wrong! No matter how fast you go, He is right with you, directing you and guiding you.
How about that next phrase, "...if I settle (dwell) on the far side of the sea." No matter how far you go into the sea (and David didn’t even know how vast the size of the ocean) even there, God is there with you. And even there His hand will guide you, His right hand will hold you.
Now those who are left handed, don’t be alarmed. The Bible is not prejudiced against left handed people. References to God’s right hand are references to His power. God is a Spirit. He doesn’t have a literal hand. But phrases like this are used to help us understand God. And the right hand is generally the strongest hand for most people. So what David is saying is that God is holding us in His care and His power is being used on our behalf. No matter how far we travel from home, even the farthest side of the sea, He has His powerful hand right there for us, leading us, protecting us, and caring for us. What a wonderful, comforting truth that is!
This has many implications for us. One I thought of is that we can claim this not only for ourselves, but our children, our grandchildren, should God call them away from us. If we really believe God’s Word, if we take Him at His Word, how can we possibly resist God sending them wherever God wants them to be. Don’t resist God’s call on your life or on your children or grandchildren. Claim this promise that God is with them, no matter where they go.
Well, we’ve seen the examples of the HIGHEST AND THE LOWEST, and then the FASTEST AND THE FARTHEST, let’s look at the last couplet of the LIGHTEST AND THE DARKEST in vv. 11-12
3) THE LIGHTEST AND THE DARKEST (vv. 11-12)
You see, maybe God cannot see in the dark. Some people think that. Especially those who are trying to hide from God. Seems that so often sin occurs in the dark. Christ said that men love darkness rather than light, because their deeds are evil. Somehow they think that God cannot see what they do in the dark. Friends, God can see in the dark as well as in the light. Darkness is as light to Him. He doesn’t need infrared night vision to see in the dark as we do.
The Apostle John taught us that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. So if God is light, His presence guarantees light. He can even lighten the dark places.
But what about us who are not really trying to hide from God? Maybe you’re just afraid of the dark. Rest assured of God’s presence with you. God is there with you.
I heard a cute little story about a little girl who was left alone at home one night when her parents were called away on some emergency. They tried to assure her that everything would be ok. The house was locked up and everything and that they would try to get back just as quickly as they could. Unfortunately, it took them longer than they thought it would and they were concerned that she would be upset when they returned home. So when they returned they asked her if she was ok. "Oh, I wasn’t afraid," she said. "When you’re here, God expects you to take care of me. But when you’re gone, He does it all by Himself!"
And that’s just the way God does it. All by Himself.
Contrast that with the little guy who spilled some milk on the kitchen floor before going to bed at night and his mom asked him to go out and get the mop from the back porch. "No, mommy, it’s dark out there, and I’m scared!" The mother tried to reassure him that Jesus was with him and that Jesus was there and there was nothing to be afraid of. Finally, he mustered enough courage to stick his head out the door and call out into the darkness, "Lord, if You’re there, could you hand me the mop please!"
That’s the way some of us live our whole lives. We’re scared of so many things. Many times we are paralyzed by fear. Fears of so many kinds. Take God at His Word! There’s nothing to fear! OUR GOD IS WITH US!!!
That’s the truth of this Psalm. And darkness and light are both alike to God. It doesn’t make any difference.
Early American Indians had a unique practice to train their young braves. On the night of the young brave’s 13th birthday, on his threshold of manhood, after learning hunting, and fishing, and scouting skills, he was put to one final test. He was put into a dark, dense forest, and was expected to spend the entire night alone. Up until that point he had never been separated from his family and tribe where there was a lot of security for him. But on this night, he was blindfolded and taken several miles away. After taking off the blindfold, there he was in this thick woods. And after what would seem like eternity, finally dawn would break, and the first rays of sunlight would break through the dense forest. And he would look around, and to his utter astonishment he would see down the path an outline of a man standing there holding a bow and arrow. It was his father! He had been there all night, watching over his son, protecting him even though he couldn’t see him.
What a great illustration of our Father, who’s there, even though we cannot see Him. Watching over us, protecting us.
So if you feel like that young brave, take comfort in knowing God is with you, watching over you, protecting you. Maybe you feel this morning like you are in a dark place, you’re being surrounded and engulfed by the darkness. Maybe it’s some difficult trial or problem closing in on you and you feel like you’re lost in a jungle, and you feel like you are in the dark and don’t know which way to turn. And you think to yourself, "Maybe God isn’t here. I know the Bible says He’s here, but maybe He’s not really here. Maybe He can’t really see the darkness of my problem. Maybe He doesn’t really care." And it seems so dark for you. Maybe you’re getting discouraged or depressed.
Look at this Psalm. The densest darkness is no problem to the all-seeing, ever-present eye of God. He is with us! Even in the darkness. Even though we cannot see Him. That confidence can bring the light of confidence and hope and encouragement to our troubled hearts.
A few years ago a very happily married Christian man with a beautiful wife and lovely three year old daughter seemed to be sailing through life without a problem. Everything was going well for him. And then, tragedy struck. His wife was killed in an automobile accident. And all the joy he had known seemed to vanish immediately. And he was plunged into the darkness of grieve, sorrow, and fear. Fear of what the future would hold for him and his 3 year old daughter. The night after the funeral he was getting his little girl ready for bed, and the lights in his house suddenly went out all over the house. He decided to go down to the basement to investigate to see what might be wrong with the electrical panel. He tried to reassure his daughter that he would be right back, but she was afraid and wanted to go with him so he scooped her up in his arms and made his way down the hall down to the basement. At first the little girl snuggled up to him in silence, but when they got to the basement, she tightened her arms around his neck and said, "It’s so dark, Daddy, but I’m not afraid, because you’re here with me." Tears came to his eyes and he buried his face into the little girl’s hair and reassured her, "Yes, dear, it IS dark, but I’m not afraid either, because MY Father is here with ME too."
Her words reminded him of the great truths in this Psalm. God was with him. He was encouraged by that thought and found light in the darkest hour of his life. The light of God’s hope.
Now, I don’t know what trial you might be facing this morning. I don’t know how dark it might seem to you, but I’m sure that for some of you it might seem that a dark cloud is all around you. And you don’t know which way to turn. I may not know what you are going though, but I DO know this:
If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, GOD IS WITH YOU! And with that confidence, even the darkness can be light around you.
Maybe you’re facing the darkest place of all, what David calls the "valley of the shadow of death" in Psalm 23. "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil." Why? Because "THOU art with me."
That same truth is repeated throughout Scripture.
GOD IS WITH US!
Will you believe it?
Will you trust Him?
Will you enjoy the wonderful light of His presence?
GOD IS WITH YOU!