God Is Omnipresent

I can never escape from your Spirit!
   I can never get away from your presence!
If I go up to heaven, you are there;
   if I go down to the grave, you are there.
If I ride the wings of the morning,
   if I dwell by the farthest oceans,
even there your hand will guide me,
   and your strength will support me.
I could ask the darkness to hide me
   and the light around me to become night—
   but even in darkness I cannot hide from you.
To you the night shines as bright as day.
   Darkness and light are the same to you. (Psalm 139:7–12 NLT)

Within the first few pages of Augustine’s autobiographical classic, Confessions, the early church father ruminates on what it means that God is omnipresent. In a paragraph that contains more question marks than periods, Augustine unpacks what it means for God to fill the heaven and the earth. “Do they therefore contain you? [. . .] Or is it not rather the case that you have no need to be contained by anything? You yourself contain all things and it is by containing things that you fill them.” He goes even more in-depth by postulating, “You who fill everything are wholly present in everything which you fill.” Ultimately he determines that his initial statement that God fills all of creation is better stated: “everywhere you are present in your entirety, and no single thing can contain you in your entirety.”

One of the implications of God being Spirit rather than flesh, blood, and bone is that we, composed of the latter, have a hard time understanding the nature of the former. The immutable laws of nature – such as, a person or object can only occupy one location in space at any given time – need hardly apply to the supernatural. God, being supernatural – or “beyond natural” –can just as easily be in Edmonton, Alberta, while simultaneously being in Buffalo, New York; Duala, Cameroon; and Osaka, Japan, all without diminishing any of his presence in any of those places.

There is no limitation to God’s presence, but God does veil his presence from us, not allowing us to see him at his fullest. When Moses asked to see God in his full glory, God replied, “You may not look directly at my face, for no one may see me and live” (Exodus 33:20). Even the six-winged seraphim attending God on his throne are not given the full and unobstructed view of the Lord, for they hide their faces behind their wings (Isaiah 6:2).

Thankfully, we need not see God the Father in all his glory to experience his presence. “No one has ever seen God. But the unique One, who is himself God, is near to the Father’s heart. He has revealed God to us” (John 1:18). Through Jesus, God is revealed to us and we can come to know him personally.

As we inch ever-closer to Christmas Day, spend the next week, like Moses in Exodus 33, inviting God to reveal more of his presence to you; then, be sure to remain aware so you don’t miss his still, small voice when he makes himself known.