There is nowhere we can go to hide from the presence of God. He is nearer even than our own hearts. Today, Barry Cooper depicts the omnipresence or “all-presence” of God.
We’d love to be omnipresent.
There’s a place in my home city of London which tourists flock to. It’s in Greenwich, and it’s a long, narrow indentation, etched into the ground, which marks the Prime Meridian Line of the world. Everything on one side of the line is the Eastern Hemisphere of the earth, and everything on the other is the Western Hemisphere. And one of the reasons people love to take pictures of themselves straddling this line rather than just standing beside it is because where else does a human being get to be in two places at once? One foot in the East, one in the West.
It’s a fun illusion, of course. People are still very much in one place. But we love this idea that we could be in two places at once.
I think that’s because as humans, we soon discover that we really aren’t designed even to do two things at once, let alone be in two places at once. It frustrates us. It frustrates us enough that we attempt ill-advised things like texting while driving or checking a wristwatch while holding a drink. Research suggests that even when we think we’re multitasking or focusing on two things at once, what we’re actually doing is just switching our attention from one thing to the other at incredible speed. In other words, we can’t even mentally be in two places at once, let alone in any other sense.
Our Creator, however, isn’t like that. He is unconfined by physicality. He can be everywhere simultaneously, to the fullest extent. So God never finds Himself “spread thinly” no matter how vast the universe becomes or how many people on earth call out to Him.
This is what people mean when they talk about God’s omnipresence: omni- meaning “all” and presence meaning “presence.” He doesn’t live “over there” or “over here.” As it says in the book of Acts: “The Most High does not dwell in houses made by hands.” “The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man.”
In other words, God is everywhere. He isn’t confined by space, and yet He fills every part of it, fully.
Now, in talking about this kind of uncontainable, immeasurable, all-encompassing presence, it’s tempting to think of God as distant and cold and somehow aloof.
But we mustn’t. Because this God, the One who is everywhere, was also, two thousand years ago, very much somewhere. Without sacrificing the omnipresence of His divine nature, the Son of God became a man. The Son of God did not cease to be truly God, but the director became a vulnerable character in His own film. The One who declares that He doesn’t live in temples made by mankind, deliberately elected to become flesh—the flesh that He Himself had made for mankind.
He came down to earth from heaven,
Who is God and Lord of all,
And His shelter was a stable,
And His cradle was a stall:
With the poor, and mean, and lowly,
Lived on earth our Saviour holy.
Without surrendering the omnipresence of His divine nature, nevertheless, taking on a human nature, He was formed in the virgin’s womb, and then rested in an animal’s feeding trough, in a neglected backwater in the Middle East. He laid himself down in a fisherman’s battered boat. Walked deliberately into a desolate wilderness. Submitted himself to the overwhelming grief of a darkened city garden. Entrusted himself to a group of friends, one of whom would betray him. He chose to experience, firsthand, an agonizing instrument of Roman torture.
“Come down from there, and we’ll believe in you.” But He would not. And surely, you have to wonder, why?
If you could be anywhere and everywhere, why would you choose to be somewhere—especially that somewhere? Why would the director insert himself into His own film if He knew that by so doing He would be choosing to suffer at the hands of His own characters?
The answer is love. He took on a weak and vulnerable frame because He wanted to identify with the weak and the vulnerable. He took on a mortal human body, so that they could one day take on immortal resurrection bodies. He veiled Himself in flesh, so that they could know God, and so that the veil in the temple, the one separating them spiritually from the omnipresent God, would be resoundingly torn down from top to bottom.
If God’s presence alarms us, we need to accept there is nowhere we can go to hide from Him. As Augustine said, He is even more deeply inward than your own heart.
On the other hand, if God’s presence is something we yearn for, we needn’t go far. It requires no plane ticket, no pilgrimage. The omnipresent God is everywhere already, warmly inviting us to draw near to Him in repentance and faith.