Jeremiah 23:9 begins with the tragic statement from God, "Mine heart within me is broken because of the prophets". Why was God so upset with the prophets? Our text says that the land was full of wickedness. He had not sent these prophets nor were they speaking His words, but none of this had been kept from His eyes. He reminds them that He is God at hand and not a God afar off. Then, in verse 24, God explains why He was able to see all that the prophets had said and done: " Do not I fill heaven and earth?"
God did not say that He was in heaven and earth. No, He fills heaven and earth. When a glass is filled with water, there is no part that does not contain water. So we understand that there is no part of heaven or earth where God is not present. This is the attribute of God that scholars refer to as omnipresence. In this lesson we shall study the omnipresence of God and how we should apply it to our lives.
I. Defining Omnipresence
A. Positive Definition
The omnipresence of God, as defined by Emory Bancroft, means that in the totality of His essence, without diffusion or expansion, multiplication or division, God penetrates and fills the universe in all its parts. The omnipresence of God is not by extension or diffusion. In other words, God is not like a piece of gold which is beaten out to cover a large area of ground. Sunlight penetrates a window yet it remains unmixed with the window. So God fills the heavens and earth with His essence. Nor is the omnipresence of God by multiplication or division. One part of His essence is not in one place while another part is in another place. As a Spirit, it is impossible for one part of His essence to be separated from another.
As Charnock wonderfully states:
Had I wings endued with as much quickness as the first dawnings of the morning light, or the first darts of any sunbeam that spreads itself through the hemisphere, and passes many miles in as short a space as I can think a thought, I should find thy presence in all places before me, and could not fly out of the infinite compass of thy essence.
Just like the eternity of God means that God is not limited to any point in time, the attribute of omnipresence means that God is not limited to any point in space but exists in all places at the same time. With time, man considers things in relation to past, present, and future. Similarly, man with his finite mind tends to think in terms relative to location, but God is not limited to one place as we are. We could think of omnipresence as immutability with respect to position or place.
B. Negative Definition
There are two areas where we must be careful not to misunderstand the omnipresence of God:
1. Everything is not God
We must be very careful not to mistake the omnipresence of God with saying that everything is God, which is pantheism. Though God is everywhere and in everything at once, this does not mean that everything is God. Acts 17:28 says, " in him we live, and move, and have our being". A fish is not the sea or part of the sea just because it moves in the sea. Likewise, everything is not God just because we live and move in God. Sunlight fills the air, yet air is not sunlight.
2. Every where God is not the Same
The omnipresence does not mean that the presence of God is the same in every place. His essence is equally near to all persons and things, but this does not preclude special manifestations of His presence. For example, He fills hell with his severity, Heaven with his glory, and his people with His grace (Charnock). This is how we are to understand passages where God is said to "hide his face" from someone (Psalm 10:1, 27:9) and passages such as 1 Samuel 16:14, " the Spirit of the LORD departed from Saul."
II. Applying Omnipresence
If God is omnipresent, then Jesus must be God. In John 3:13, Jesus (while on earth) said, " And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven". If Jesus was on earth and in heaven at the same time, He must be omnipresent. Likewise in Matthew 18:20, Jesus said, " For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them". Since only God can be omnipresent, Jesus must be God.
2. A Testimony of Providence
The agnostic believes that God is not concerned or involved with the affairs of the world. Is God everywhere but unconcerned about every thing? How often do we attribute effects in the world to natural causes? If God is the cause for frost upon the ground (Job 37:10), why should we believe that He is not involved in every thing? As eternity renders God to be King always, omnipresence renders Him to be King everywhere. An earthly king must send out representatives to help him govern, but the omnipresent God can directly govern all of the affairs in heaven and earth Himself. He governs by His presence what He made by His power, and is present as an agent with all His works (Charnock).
3. A Terror for Sinners
The omnipresence of God ought to fill the sinner with terror. There is no where that a man can hide from God. The Psalmist asks, "Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence?" (Psalm 139:7). A thief can hide from the law, but not from God who is in all places. This is not the only aspect that the sinner should fear. There are no actions that can be hid from the omnipresent God. Man may think that he is concealing that secret sin from other men, but nothing can be hidden from God. As Proverbs 15:3 says, " The eyes of the LORD are in every place, beholding the evil and the good".
Whatever terror the omnipresence of God presents to the sinner, it should provide a measure of comfort in equal magnitude for the righteous.
1. Present when Silent
As God being everywhere is able to see every sin, likewise He sees every act of good (Proverbs 15:3). This should be a comfort for those whose acts of kindness seem to go unnoticed by man. We do not have to proclaim our good deeds before man for God has seen every one of them.
2. Present when Suffering
The thoughts of God's omnipresence should be a comfort to us when we are suffering affliction. The presence of God was able to keep the bush from being consumed even though it was engulfed in flames. Since God is everywhere, He can be our very present help in trouble (Psalm 46:1-2).
3. Present when Serving
The omnipresence of God should be a comfort to us in our service for Him. When God sent Moses to face Pharaoh, he comforted him with the promise " I will be with thy mouth" (Exodus 4:12). There is the precious promise to the soul winner in Matthew 28:20, " lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world". There is no task, no matter how difficult, that God assigns to us that He is not also present and able to assist us.
We should often meditate on the omnipresence of God. The constant thoughts of God being every where present will keep us from temptation. What sins would we be willing to commit if we were to consider that God was there with us? The thought that God can see exactly what we do should keep us honest before Him.
2. Something in which to Marvel
The omnipresence of God should cause us to praise Him for His greatness. It should further cause a deep sense of our own smallness. In comparison to God we are but a grain of sand upon an infinite beach. He is in the world, yet not confined to it; He is out of the world, yet not debarred from it; He is above the world, yet not elevated by it; He is below the world, yet not depressed by it; He is above all, equalled by none; He is in all, not because He needs them, but they stand in need of Him; this, as well as eternity, makes a vast disproportion between God and the creature (Austin).
The omnipresence of God is so commonly forgotten or disbelieved. The greatest evidence of this can be seen in the first statement by Adam after He sinned, "I hid myself" (Genesis 3:10). In fact, a root of unbelief can be seen in the fact that Adam sinned to begin with. Did Adam not believe that God was watching the whole time? Let us therefore keep God's omnipresence all the more in our hearts and minds, and let the thought of it change the way we live.