ATTRIBUTES OF GOD – OMNIPRESENCE

In today’s world, we can go, quite literally, around the world.  While most of us cannot do that in person, we have the ability to travel to anyplace that we want to go, at least through technology. 

A striking comparison brought home how the 21st century has changed how we can be “present”, even across thousands of miles.  I came across my father’s pocket notebook from when he was in Europe during World War 2.  He said that he had written my mother, and it took 3 weeks to receive her response. 

In comparison, in the early 2000s, our son was in a war zone overseas during a long deployment.  At the cost of his sleep, he “skyped” home so that the children could see him and hear their father as if he was in the room with them, even though he was on the other side of the world.  But, he was not with them.

Our daughter went to Manila, in the Philippines, twenty years ago to work with a missionary doctor.  Given the machinations of the international date line and varying time zones, we put her on a plane on Saturday and when we returned to our home after church on Sunday morning, we had received a picture of her working in the clinic on Monday.  While we were excited to see that she was alright, she was not with us. 

Right now, the Winter Olympics are underway in South Korea, and I am certain that there are many parents, coaches and friends who have found their way to South Korea in support of the athletic competition.  Those of us who did not go to attend the competition in person can watch it in real time, and we can see their skill and cheer the wins and empathize with those who lost the round, but we are not with them, even though technology makes it seem as if we were.

All this to say, our saying that God is everywhere is a fairly understandable concept, much more so than in centuries prior to our own.

However, God’s presence is dissimilar to our presence in other places in every way possible.  God is everywhere at the same time.  In other words, there is nowhere that we can go, at any time, that God is not present.

God’s being everywhere at all times is known as “omnipresence”.  As with omnipotence, the “omni” means “all” and the “presence” means “existing, being at a place”.  He is existing at all places, at the same time.  This is sometimes referred to as “ubiquity”, meaning that God is everywhere present in the fullness of His being. 

In the Old Testament times, there were a multitude of gods in the land.  People thought of their gods in terms of territory or space.  For example, it was believed that the god of the Amorites lived in the land of the Amorites while the god of Philistia lived in the land of the Philistines, and the gods did not have power in areas other than their own geographical setting.  The plagues that God visited upon Egypt were targeted at the gods of Egypt, the Lord God establishing that He alone was God and that He had ultimate power and presence, even in a land supposedly ruled by other “gods”.  Indeed God repeatedly says that He is God and there is none like Him.

The God of Abraham, Jacob and Isaac is not limited in space or territory.  Our God is omnipresent – He is everywhere at the same time.

The omnipresence of God was stated eloquently by Rahab, the harlot who lived in Jericho and who gave refuge to Israel’s spies prior to their conquest of the city.  We read her understanding of God in Joshua 2:9-11:

“”I know that the LORD has given you the land, and that the fear of you has fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land melt away before you.  For we have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red Sea before you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon and Og, whom you devoted to destruction.  And as soon as we heard it, our hearts melted, and there was no spirit left in any man because of you, for the LORD your God, he is God in the heavens above and on the earth beneath.

God is so great that the heavens cannot contain Him.  1 Kings 8:27.   The prophet Jeremiah says God’s words:

“”Am I a God at hand, declares the LORD, and not a God far away? Can a man hide himself in secret places so that I cannot see him? declares the LORD. Do I not fill heaven and earth? declares the LORD.”

Jeremiah 23:23-24

As I have mentioned in previous posts on The Ruminant Scribe, one of my favorite passages in scripture is Psalm 139.  David experienced all the emotions, great joy, desperation, guilt, fear, shame, redemption, and in this passage, he describes the omnipresence of God:

“Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence?  If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!  If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me.”

Psalm 139:7-10. 

I again would encourage you to read Psalm 139 in its entirety, and then contemplate the greatness of our God.  In the book of Acts, we read:

The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.  And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for ‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are indeed his offspring.'”

Acts 17:24-28

Since God is omnipresent, we cannot take ourselves out of His presence.  This is a comfort for the Christian who takes joy in God’s presence and in following Him throughout our day.  This attribute is, however, not of comfort to the non-believer.  Rather, it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the God Who is aware of each and every act of disobedience and rejection of His Son, Jesus Christ.   

We cannot understand the omnipresence of God.  Job responded to questions from God, and he expressed his inability to understand God:

“I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. ‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. ‘Hear, and I will speak; I will question you, and you make it known to me.’  I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”

Job 42:2-6

We, too, cannot understand how God can be ubiquitous but yet can take actions locally, where we live and work each day.  It is a doctrine that we accept, and because scripture teaches it, we can do no less. It is a doctrine that gives both comfort and warning. 

Praise our God for His incredible nature and for the love that He has exercised on our behalf.

Father, I confess that I do not understand Your omnipresence, the ability to be everywhere at once and to be present with all Your attributes in all places at the same time.  I cannot comprehend Your greatness, Your power, Your majesty, Your holiness. I am finite and mortal, You are too great for me to comprehend.  But I believe Your word, I believe Your Son is the Christ, the Messiah, Who shed His blood for my sin.  I praise Your Holy Name.

 

ATTRIBUTES OF GOD — IMMANENCE AND IMMUTABILITY

Today we are considering two aspects of God’s nature that we almost never think about, but which are aspects of the majesty of God with respect to His relationship with us – Immanence and Immutability.

IMMANENCE

Immanence is a fancy way of saying God is with us, always.  Our God is at hand and He works even through the minutiae of our lives to produce a love for and enjoyment of His Word and, in fact, of Himself.  This attribute is in direct opposition to the concept that God established the world and then just walked away and left it to spiral wherever it wanted to go.  That God did not involve Himself with the creation; once the creation was done, He was finished with it and things could go well or poorly and God didn’t really care.

In Jeremiah, God asks:

“Am I a God at hand, declares the LORD, and not a God far away? Can a man hide himself in secret places so that I cannot see him? declares the LORD. Do I not fill heaven and earth? declares the LORD.”

Jeremiah 23:23-24

The Psalmist frequently talks about God and His relationship with the creation.  One of my favorite chapters is Psalm 139 where David says God knows him so well that He even knows when we stand or sit, or recline in slumber.  God is so near that He knows what we are going to say, even before we express the words out loud.  There is absolutely nowhere on earth or heaven or hell that we can go where God cannot see us, reach us, hear us.  This chapter extols the immanence of God, without using that term.  Beloved, read this chapter and know that our God cares about you, personally and intimately.

In Acts 17, verses 27-28 we read:

“Yet He is actually not far from each one of us, for in Him we live and move and have our being; as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are indeed His offspring.'”

Acts 17:27-28 

Scripture describes our God as One who does not sit back and merely observe a creation which He set in motion millennia ago; He is present and actively participating in His world.

What does this mean to you as a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ?  Immanence is an attribute of God that provides the believer confident rest in the knowledge that there is no place or situation that is too far to be under God’s providence and protecting hand.  Things may be difficult as far as this world is concerned, but there is no reason to fear that things will remove you from His love and care.

Paul put it best:

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Romans 8:38-39

IMMUTABILITY

Our world is always changing.  Even things that we consider unchangeable, immoveable – actually do change.

Half dome (C)
Half Dome, Yosemite National Park

Mountains such as those found in Yosemite appear so strong and solid, and they are – at least until God shakes them in an earthquake.  But even mountains are changed, albeit gradually, by the ravages of weather. 

Yosemite giant sequoia fallen tree (C)
Giant Sequoia Tree fell and its root system was exposed.

Even Giant Sequoia Trees that have stood for centuries, change and, at some point, will come crashing to the earth.  Change in this world is inevitable.

Because of this, we have a hard time contemplating the attribute of immutability.  Nothing in this world stays the same … everything changes.  But not so with God. 

Not only does God know every little thing that is going on with each one of us, His immanence, the attribute of immutability means that God will not change His mind when it comes to His ultimate will for His children’s care and protection. 

“For I the LORD do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed.”

Malachi 3:6

God, Himself, is saying that He does not change – a characteristic that is totally foreign to us.  He is immutable.  He is the same today as He was before creation even existed. 

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.

James 1:17

The fact that God does not change his mind, his characteristics, his plan, or anything else guarantees God’s character will remain the same and that which He has willed, will, in fact, occur.   

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”

Hebrews 13:8

This gives the believer security to know that when we have been adopted into God’s family through faith, we can trust God not to change His mind and “unadopt” us on a whim.

No man can slip through His fingers into the breach of hell if that person is a child of God and has expressed faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. God neither changes His plan, His covenants, His prophecies, nor His justice. In other words, God is dependable – God is immutable!

Listen to the beautiful hymn “Great is Thy Faithfulness”.   Note the words “As Thou has been, Thou forever wilt be.”  That’s immutability!  As you listen, identify other phrases that point to God’s immutability.  Praise Him that He is unchangeable, and He loves us with an unchanging love!

This hymn is sung by Robert and Robin Kochis on the album entitled “Great is Thy Faithfulness”.

Father, Your mercies, grace and love are magnificent.  Your involvement with us on a moment by moment basis is such comfort and security, even when things seem to be going poorly, we know that nothing will thwart Your plan for us.  I praise You for your Immanence and Immutability.  You are God.  I praise Your Holy Name.  May my life reflect Your grace to others throughout my days.