Dear radio friends,
Last week we studied the first six verses of Psalm 139 and explained the doctrine of God’s omniscience. We explained that doctrine as meaning that He thoroughly knows all things, not merely that He knows all possibilities or all conditions, but that He has determined all things. And we applied that doctrine of the omniscience of God especially to the knowledge of His people and all that they do in life, and to His knowledge of their heart.
The question now is, how can God know all things? How can He know all things about me, and how can He know all things about you at the same time? What explains His omniscience? The answer is that He is God, He is eternal, He is sovereign, but the answer also is found in verses 7-12 of Psalm 139, as David speaks of the omnipresence of God. Those verses should be read now.
Here David sets forth the doctrine of the omnipresence of God. That God is omnipresent means that He is everywhere present. I am not omnipresent, nor are you. We can be in one room at one time, one place at once; but Jehovah is everywhere. And by everywhere, we do not only mean everywhere on the planet Earth. God is everywhere in His whole universe. As a result, He knows everything that happens everywhere. Nothing escapes Him. I do not know right now what is happening where you live. I do not know right now what is happening on the other side of the world, in Europe, in Asia, or Africa, or Australia. But God does, for He is the omnipresent God.
God relates His omnipresence and His omniscience not only in Psalm 139 but also in Jeremiah 23:23, 24, where God says through Jeremiah, “Am I a God at hand, saith the LORD, and not a God afar off? Can any hide himself in secret places that I shall not see him? saith the LORD. Do not I fill heaven and earth? saith the LORD.” When the Lord says through Jeremiah, “Do not I fill heaven and earth?” He speaks of His omnipresence. When He says, “Can any hide himself in secret places that I shall not see him?” He is saying that, because Jehovah is omnipresent, He is also omniscient and all-knowing.
How can God be omnipresent? Because God is not a creature and He is not a material being, but He is Spirit. God is Spirit. Jesus told the Samaritans that in John 4:24. He is not bound by space or time. He is above space and, therefore, He is able to be everywhere. Once more we confess, just as we did last week, that this God is greater than we are. We are mere creatures, mortals, material beings limited in where we can be at any given time. But Jehovah, the one true God, is not limited.
David confesses the omnipresence of God in Psalm 130 especially by showing the futility of the attempts of men to escape His presence. David himself does not desire to escape the presence of God. When David asks in verse 7, “Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence?” David’s point is not to say that he really seeks to escape from God. Rather, he asks a rhetorical question, by which he means to show that the answer is: “Nowhere. No one can escape God.”
Yet some men do try to escape the presence of God, and David speaks of their attempts from the most extreme to the least extreme. “If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there” (v. 8). Some might try to escape from God by escaping from creation or the universe as we know it. They might go into heaven, that is, into outer space; or into hell, that is, the grave — to the highest or the lowest place on earth. Men might prefer death to standing in the presence of God. That would be a very extreme attempt to escape the presence of God, but men might try it.
Another way in which men might try to escape the presence of God might be to stay on the planet Earth but go as far away as they can. David says in verse 9, “If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea.” To take the wings of the morning, that is, to follow the dawning of the sun — that means to go west, of course. The sun dawns from east to west. “If I should dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea.” David writes as one who lives in the land of Canaan, on the eastern side of the Mediterranean Sea. He speaks as one who might go to the western part of the sea to try to escape the presence of God. But the answer is, still God will be there.
Another person might try to escape the presence of God by being covered with darkness. David says in verses 11 and 12, “If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me; even the night shall be light about me. Yea, the darkness hideth not from thee; but the night shineth as the day.” Because human beings need light to see, we might think that God needs light to see. If we work under cover of darkness, He cannot see us.
In these ways David speaks of attempts of men to escape the presence of God.
Why might men do that? The main reason would really be that man, as a sinner, is trying to escape the just punishment or chastisement of God. We all know that God exists. That God exists is impressed on the conscience of every human. And the attempts of men to escape God indicate that all men know it. Yet man seeks to escape God because he is a sinner who, by nature, loves his sins and wants to continue in his sins. If sinful man, however, should stand in the presence of God, he will be judged.
So David speaks of the attempts of men to escape the punishment and the judgment of God. He speaks of desperate attempts: fleeing, taking the wings of the morning, going with the speed of light. And while David speaks of attempts that are futile, the child of God must confess that, in fact, we do at times make such attempts. Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden made attempts to escape the justice of God. That was no different, really, than trying to escape His presence. They did so by making excuses for their sins. It might not be, then, that you or I try to go as far west as possible, or as far into outer space as is possible, or into the grave; but every time we deny our sins or try to cover up our sins or excuse them, we are trying to escape the presence of God.
We read of the wicked unbelievers who, in the last day, will call the mountains to fall upon them ( Rev. 6). In Exodus 14 we read of the Egyptians trying to flee while they were in the Red Sea and the waters began to cover them and they knew they were in the presence of the just God. But all such attempts of man to escape the presence of God are futile.
There are two basic reasons why. First of all, God is omnipresent. The answer to the questions David asks: “Whither shall I go from thy spirit; whither shall I flee from thy presence?” Nowhere. David says that very clearly in verse 8: “If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there.” God is even beyond the universe as we know it. That was verse 8. God is in the universe as we know it: “If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost part of the sea; even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me” (vv. 9, 10).
Then the second reason why all attempts to escape the justice and the presence of God are futile is because God is not a creature. That is the very reason He can be omnipresent. But because God is not a creature, His sight is not affected by creaturely things. Darkness is a creature. Darkness, therefore, hinders creatures. But darkness does not hinder its Creator from seeing and knowing all things.
Behind both of these reasons (that God is omnipresent and that He is Creator and above creaturely things) are some glorious truths about God. On the one hand, He is transcendent, that is, He is infinitely exalted above all creation and not bound by it. This is true of Jehovah God. We are not speaking, of course, of any god that we might imagine. We are not speaking of general truth about all gods. There is but one God and He is Jehovah. And this God Jehovah is infinitely exalted above all things. That is His transcendence. But that He is transcendent does not mean that He has no care or concern for His creation. For, at the same time that He is transcendent, He is also immanent, that is, present in every part of creation. These two truths about Jehovah are clearly taught in Acts 17:24, 27 ff.: “God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands.” There Paul is telling the people of Athens that God is transcendent. He made the world, He is Lord of heaven and earth, He does not dwell in a temple made with hands, He is above all things. But that does not mean that He is unknowable. For at the same time Paul tells the people of Athens, “That he be not far from every one of us, for in him we live and move and have our being.” He is present in all parts of creation, so that the child of God knows that our strength and our life and our existence depend on Him.
Because God is not a creature,
His sight is not affected by creaturely things.
That is how David sets forth now the doctrine of God’s omnipresence as a reason for how Jehovah might know all things. What effect does knowledge of this omnipresence of God have on you? In the first place, it ought to be that every child of God, yea every man, fears God. If God is present throughout all creation in His being and in His power, then there is nothing that we will ever do that will escape His sight — no sin that we commit anywhere that will escape His knowledge. We cannot commit crimes in darkness and think that God will not see, for darkness does not hinder God from seeing us. Yet man does that, does he not? Darkness is the time when much crime is committed. Many sins are committed. Darkness is the time when the policemen cannot see as well, and the criminals know that. But a man who understands that Jehovah is omnipresent and not bound by the creature darkness will fear God and live in obedience to His law.
But the child of God, specifically the believer, confesses also that this omnipresence of God is a presence with His people in His grace. David said in verse 7 of Psalm 139, “Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence?” David speaks here, not of the mere presence of God, but of the Spirit. Now we remember that God is present with His people by His Holy Spirit. Only the believer, then, can truly experience and understand the omnipresence of God, can truly confess it, because he realizes that the omnipresence of God is not only a presence of His being and of His justice, but also of His grace and of His love.
If God is present throughout all creation
in His being and in His power,
then there is nothing that we will ever do
that will escape His sight.
To show that He is very really present with His people in His grace and in His love, God sent Jesus Christ His Son to the death of the cross. But first He sent Him into our own flesh — Jehovah present with His people.
The child of God, then, who confesses the omnipresence of God in grace and in love is comforted. Verse 10 shows that David experiences that comfort: “Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me.” Are you ever scared in different circumstances of life — afraid of darkness, afraid of creatures that you might face, afraid because of circumstances in which you find yourself? Children are often scared of darkness, scared of strange things. The child of God who knows the omnipresence of God says, “Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me.” Because Jehovah is omnipresent He is always here to guide us, and not only to guide us, but also to hold us up by His powerful, loving hand. Can you confess that to be true of you in your circumstances of life?
Furthermore, the child of God is warned by his understanding of the omnipresence of God. If Jehovah is everywhere present and knows all things, let us not walk in sin. But what if the child of God does walk in sin? Even there, Jehovah sees. Even there Jehovah will turn His child from sin, perhaps afflict him with chastisements for sin, but Jehovah will not fail to impress upon His child that Jehovah knows and sees the sins His children commit.
What else can we say now about the effect that the knowledge of God’s omnipresence has on the child of God? We can say this also: Surely it will give us a reason to praise and adore God! There is no other God beside Jehovah. Do you know of another being of whom it can be said, “Even there shall thy hand lead me and thy right hand shall hold me”? Do you know of another being of whom it can be said that He is in heaven and in hell, that He is as far west as one can go and that He can see in the darkness? This is true of Jehovah God alone. Because Jehovah is omnipresent and knows all things, His people need not be afraid. They need not be afraid of what men can do to them, need not be afraid of what sin and Satan might do to them. They need not be afraid of what any creature might do to them. Jehovah is with them in His love.
Because Jehovah is omnipresent and knows all things, His people need not be afraid.
Do you make that your confession? Or are you, perhaps, going to be so bold yet as to deny that this Jehovah is the only God and that this Jehovah does know all things? Are you, perhaps, going to say, “That was David’s understanding of Jehovah but it is not mine”? Then I say to you, radio listeners: Be careful. David wrote not just as a man setting forth his own ideas, but as a child of God who knew from his own experiences the truths of which he wrote. And he wrote them by inspiration of the Holy Spirit.”
Therefore, to deny this is to deny the Word of God. And God knows when men deny Him. Give God the glory. Glorify Him as the God who is the only sovereign God, all-knowing because He is everywhere present. Amen.