God Is Ever Near
by Charles R. Swindoll
All right, so God knows me and controls me (Psalm 139:1–6); He can do that at a distance, through millions and millions of light years of space. But is He near? According to Psalm 139, David's song about the amazing attributes of God, yes.
How Close Is God to Me?
God is no distant, preoccupied Deity. In fact, He is omnipresent. In verse 7, David states this in the form of two questions:
Where can I go from Your Spirit?
Or where can I flee from Your presence?
The rebellious prophet Jonah must have wondered, Can I find any place that will remove me from God? He found out the hard way that the answer is an emphatic "No!" David puts it in terms anyone can understand.
If I ascend to heaven, You are there;
If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there.
If I take the wings of the dawn,
If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea,
Even there Your hand will lead me,
And Your right hand will lay hold of me.
In the Hebrew Bible, the pronouns referring to God are abrupt and emphatic: If I go up to heaven—YOU! If I go down to the grave—YOU!"
The next verse carries us out into the vast ocean on "the wings of the dawn." It's a beautiful expression, but what does it mean? Most likely it describes the rays of the morning sun that flash across the sky. Perhaps we could paraphrase it more technically by saying: "If I could travel the speed of light." Just think of that! By traveling at such speed, I would get to the moon in less than two seconds—You! (God would meet me.) It would take about four years to reach the first star at that speed, and again—You! (God would be there as well.) Omnipresence simply means there is no place where He is not.
And the huge body of water we call an ocean may make me seem insignificant and remote—but still He is there. He never leaves me lonely—"even there Your hand will lead me."
The first time I grasped the magnitude of these verses I was in the Marine Corps on a troop ship crossing the Pacific Ocean, bound for the Orient. It took seventeen days. The ocean swells on stormy days were forty to fifty feet high; and when our ship was down in the bowels of the swell, the crest loomed above like a giant domed building about to fall on us. As we would rise up to the peak, we could see nothing but water all around—deep, blue-black swells, never-ending across the horizon, 360 degrees around. I remember opening my Bible early one morning to Psalm 139:7–10, and honestly, I almost shouted. I suddenly felt at ease in His presence. My loneliness seemed utterly foolish. His hand was leading me, His right hand was holding me right there in the "remotest part of the sea." Though I was literally insignificant by comparison to the vast stretches of water around me, a calm, secure feeling swept over me.
That is the point David is communicating here. God is never absent.
Adapted from Charles R. Swindoll, Living the Psalms: Encouragement for the Daily Grind (Brentwood, Tenn.: Worthy Publishing, a division of Worthy Media, Inc., 2012). Copyright © 2013 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. All rights are reserved. Used by permission.
Used with permission. All rights reserved.