Where shall I go from your Spirit?
Or where shall I flee from your presence?
8 If I ascend to heaven, you are there!
If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
9 If I take the wings of the morning
and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
10 even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me. Psalm 139:7-10
Psalm 139 is a very personal psalm we believe to be written by David. It has been called ‘the crown of the psalms.’ And it is one of the best, most beloved of all the psalms of all Scripture passages.
The structure of the psalm is a prayer broken into two parts: 1) praise (vv. 1–18) and 2) petitions (vv. 19–24). Take note that the praise comes first and gets the most attention. I know when I pray I tend to rush past the praise and get right to the request. “Ok, God, now that I have that ‘you are great and wonderful’ part out of the way, here is what I need you to do for me.” Have you noticed that in your prayer life as well? We have a tendency to rush to God with our petitions and to spend most of our time on them.
David reminds us in this Psalm why we need to take time out of our busyness to give God glory. God is to be praised because he is present everywhere, that is a foreign concept for us. We have a hard time wrapping our minds around a God who is everywhere, sees everything. While that may give us pause for concern, what it should do is give us reason to be comforted. The psalmist points that God is behind us and before us (v. 5). That no matter how hard we try we cannot escape from Him. To make his point the psalmist offers us places to hide from the presence of God, heaven (v. 8), hell (v. 8), the uttermost parts of the sea (v. 9), darkness (v. 11)—but none of those places will provide cover. We find no respite, no hiding place. All our efforts are of no avail. By using this description, David is helping us to find comfort and peace in the inescapable nature of God.
Bishop Lajos Ordass of the Lutheran Church in Hungary discovered that very nature of God. He was imprisoned for more than six years because he protested Communistic oppression. He was placed in solitary confinement in a small cell with no windows. His captors were trying to break his resistance by depriving him of contact with anyone. After he was finally released, he said, “They thought I was alone in my cell. They were wrong. The risen Christ was present in that room, and in communion, with Him, I was able to prevail.”
Jesus said, “I will be with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20) The Bible promises that no matter how bad the circumstances in our lives get, God is still there with us. Of course, the rest of the story is that no matter how bad we get, he is there with us. When you read the story of the prodigal son, or the story of Samson, or the story of Jonah, you realize that you just can’t run from God. He won’t let go of you. There’s an old hymn that says:
O love that wilt is not let me go, I rest my weary soul in thee I give thee back the life I owe That in thine ocean depths its flow may richer, fuller be.
The story is told of a gifted speaker a queenly soul from a distant land. Her message was challenging and compassionate. In dealing with the turbulence of the times, she focused on God’s guidance and support. Toward the close of her address, she shared a dream. In the dream, she was running from danger, and in the coastal sands, she observed her tracks and those she thought were God’s. He was ever so close and protective. Having survived many threatening experiences, at last, sorrow struck while on her spiritual pilgrimage. The trauma moved her to talk boldly with God, saying, “You were with me through danger and disappointment. I could see Your tracks as You accompanied me. But when death came to the family, You seemed to have disappeared. Where were You?”
“My child,” God gently replied, “you saw only one set of tracks because I was carrying you!”
By understanding the vast reach of our God we find comfort in the comfort and protection of our God. God is big and powerful enough that it is impossible for us to hide from him. Which also means that it is impossible for God to unaware of our need for him.