What the Bible teaches us about … Where God is.
ILLUS.: Friends of ours have two sons – David and George. On their first trip in an aeroplane, George the younger one, peered out of the window when the plane levelled off above the clouds at about 30,000 feet and announced “I can’t see him!” “What was that George?” asked a surprised Dad. “I can’t see him!”
“Who can’t you see?”
“Jesus, you said he was up here!”
We grow up with the perception – often confirmed by what we learn from SS / parents – that heaven it up there G- and hell it down there H- And God lives in heaven, therefore God is up there. Wherever up there happens to be!!
We also learn in time that God has no beginning and no ending – God is infinite / unlimited. This does, however, refer only to time but to every aspect of God being. God’s love is infinite. God’s power is infinite. As the song goes “… his goodness and grace has no limit!”
This infinity is also true of God when we speak of space.
One of the first things we learn about God as we open our bibles is that he is Lord of space – Genesis 1:1 1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
God created every planets, star and galaxy.
Moses reminded the people of Israel of God’s Lordship over the universe in Deuteronomy 10:14 To the LORD your God belong the heavens, even the highest heavens, the earth and everything in it.
In theological jargon we talk about God as being omnipresent – ‘omni’ meaning all – God is all-present.
One of the characteristics of God’s nature is that he is everywhere.
- 1. GOD IS EVERYWHERE.
We can’t measure God – he doesn’t fit into a particular space no matter how big that space may be. What we can say is that God is present at every point in space AND all-of-God is present at every place.
ILLUS.: If I had a bucket of red chalk dust and blew it all over the room we could say the chalk dust is everywhere. BUT it has been dissipated.
We can’t think of God in that way. God doesn’t spread himself thin around creation. He is everywhere completely.
In the book of Jeremiah we have God rebuking the prophets who think that their words or thoughts can be hidden from God. Jeremiah 23:24
24 Can anyone hide in secret places so that I cannot see him?”
declares the LORD.
“Do not I fill heaven and earth?” declares the LORD.
David beautifully expresses this in Psalm 139:7-10
7 Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
9 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. (NIV)
There is no where in the entire universe where God’s is not present.
We must never think that it is simply part of God in one place and part of him in another. God is present with his whole being in every place and so Paul says in Acts 17:28 ‘For in him we live and move and have our being……
Or Speaking of Christ in Colossians 1:17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
- 2. GOD IS EVERYWHERE AND MORE.
It is necessary that we speak about God being everywhere – there is no where that God isn’t.
BUT we need to stress that God is more – God cannot be contained by any space
After King Solomon had built a magnificent temple in Jerusalem he dedicated it to God and said this in his prayer of dedication: 1 Kings 8:27
27 “But will God really dwell on earth? The heavens, even the highest heaven, cannot contain you. How much less this temple I have built! (NIV)
No matter how big space is, it is always too small to contain God!
The fact that God is everywhere should be of great encouragement to us – we can come to God in prayer at any time and in any place.
We don’t have to go to a particular place or perform a religious ritual. Wherever we are, God is there, and we can pray to him. This should be of great comfort to us.
When we say God is everywhere and more does that mean that however big space is, God is just that much bigger?
We must avoid thinking that God extends infinitely in all directions – it is not that God is somehow simply bigger than the space of the universe. In fact we shouldn’t really think of God in spatial terms. God is without size or dimension as we know it.
If we think of God simply in terms of inhabiting created space we have a major problem! What problem?
Where did God live before he created space?
God exists in a realm that is so different and so much greater than anything we can imagine!
In saying that God is everywhere there is a danger that we must avoid.
It is the belief that God is equivalent to part or all of creation. It is that ancient belief of Pantheism – Everything is God and God is everything!
Except maybe it is not so ancient after all!!
Where do we see this kind of belief today? In much of the New Age movement. So we have Shirley MacLean – the goddess of New Age, saying “I am god”
Because God is everywhere and in everything God is therefore in me and so I am god!!
God is present in his creation BUT is distinct from it and in no way dependent on it!
ILLUS.: Water in a sponge – it is everywhere in the sponge yet distinct from it – [Limited illustration but may help!]
- 3. GOD IS EVERYWHERE IN DIFFERENT WAYS.
This teaching that God is everywhere trouble some people greatly – even Christians. In what respect do you think?
How can God be present in hell? Isn’t hell the opposite of the presence of God? Isn’t hell being cut off from the presence of God?
It is not a major difficulty when we realise that God is present in different way in different places.
a) God is present to punish.
The bible often portrays God as being present in judgement.
There is a terrifyingly vivid passage in Amos 9 where God is warning wayward and rebellious Israel of impending judgement:
1 I saw the Lord standing by the altar, and he said:
“Strike the tops of the pillars
so that the thresholds shake.
Bring them down on the heads of all the people;
those who are left I will kill with the sword.
Not one will get away,
none will escape.
2 Though they dig down to the depths of the grave, [Sheol = Hell]
from there my hand will take them.
Though they climb up to heaven,
from there I will bring them down.
3 Though they hide themselves on the top of Carmel,
there I will hunt them down and seize them.
Though they hide from me at the bottom of the sea,
there I will command the serpent to bite them.
4 Though they are driven into exile by their enemies,
there I will command the sword to slay them.
I will fix my eyes upon them
for evil and not for good.” (NIV)
It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of an angry God. Just as we are unable to fathom the loveliness of God’s love so too we are unable to fathom the fearfulness of his anger.
b) God is present to sustain.
Put another way, the universe keeps on existing and keeps on functioning because God is keeping it going!
Every breath we take is not just automatic – our hearts keep on beating and we keep on breathing because God is sustaining us.
Paul speaking of Jesus Christ – who is, of course, fully God says this: Colossians 1:17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
In Hebrews we read : Hebrews 1:3 3 The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. ……
God didn’t wind up the universe and then go on holiday. If God removed his sustaining presence for the universe it would all fall apart.
C) God is present to bless.
Most of the time when the bible speaks about God’s presence it is a reference to God blessing us.
This idea of God present to bless is clearly seen in the OT –
– The Cloud by day and pillar of fire by night was evidence to the
Israelites of God’s presence with them
– God was perceived to be present in the Tabernacle/Temple.
Exodus 25:22 There, above the cover between the two cherubim that are
over the ark of the Testimony, I will meet with you and give you all my
commands for the Israelites. (NIV) God speaking to Moses.
1 Samuel 4:4 … the ark of the covenant of the LORD Almighty, who is enthroned between the cherubim. …..
It was not that God was not present anywhere else – or that he was less present anywhere else. Rather he made his people aware of his presence.
In the NT age in which we now live God has not chosen to show his presence in a geographical place – as we saw this morning talking about worship.
Jesus speaking to the Samaritan woman in John 4:19-24
19 “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet.
20 Our fathers worshipped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”
21 Jesus declared, “Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.
22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews.
23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshippers the Father seeks.
24 God is spirit, and his worshippers must worship in spirit and in truth.”
Do you think it is true to say that God is more present in heaven?
Not strictly speaking.
Do you think it is true to say that evidence of God’s presence and glory is more evident in heaven?
In the light of – Revelation 21:3, probably –
3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. (NIV)
It is not that God is ‘more present’ in heaven but rather that he shows his presence more fully in heaven And we will experience it more fully when we get to heaven!
How can we now experience the blessing of God’s presence?
In Christ is all the fulness of God. Colossians 2:9
9 For in Christ all the fulness of the Deity lives in bodily form, (NIV)
When a person becomes a Christian the bible talks about us being ‘in Christ’ and Christ being ‘in us’.
In this sense therefore God is clearly with believers in a way that he is not with unbelievers.
A believer is one who has the Spirit of God dwelling within while an unbeliever does not have the Spirit.
So usually when the bible speaks about God being present it usually refers to present to bless.
Thus when we meet together as believers it is probably incorrect – although we usually know what we mean – to ask God to be with us. God is with us what we need is an awareness of his presence.
Some examples of how the bible speaks about God’s presence to bless?
2 Corinthians 3:17 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.
Romans 8:9-10 9 You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.
10 But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. (NIV)
23 Jesus replied, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. . and so on.
Opposite to God being with us and near us – the bible usually uses expressions of ‘God being far away’ as a sign that he is not present to bless.
2 But your iniquities have separated
you from your God;
your sins have hidden his face from you,
so that he will not hear. (NIV)
29 The LORD is far from the wicked
but he hears the prayer of the righteous. (NIV)
And so God is everywhere – we need to be aware that we live in the presence of God. This is a very sobering thought that God is everywhere – there is nowhere in all creation where we can be outside God’s presence – surely an incentive to know God better.
It is also a great comfort for us to know that God is everywhere.
There is no where that we can go as God’s children that he is not there.
Nothing that can happen to us that he doesn’t know about.
Nothing that can be said that he does not hear.