First Mennonite Church
May 5, 2019
Living in the Presence of God
Psalm 139:1-12; Proverbs 15: 3
The eyes of the Lord are everywhere,
keeping watch on the wicked and the good. (Proverbs 15: 3)
Among the pillars of the Christian confession is that God never changes, that he is almighty, and that he is present everywhere. This last one is often referred to as the omnipresence or the immanence of God. There is no place on earth where God is not present, but there is neither a place where he is closer or more distant to than he would be other places. Upon me saying that God is everywhere, someone might say, “Aha, why then come to church on Sunday, when I can be in the presence of God by the beach in Morro Bay on Sunday morning? Is there in any difference in being the presence of God by the ocean than being in his presence in church on Sunday?” So what makes the difference between being here and being at the beach, or at the shopping center, or any other place, on Sunday morning? Of course, God is everywhere, but there is a difference between God’s immanence and his self-revelation. There is a difference between the presence of God everywhere and his personal revelation to us. Therefore, there is a difference between being in the presence of God and experiencing the manifestation of the presence of God? Besides this, coming to church to worship on Sunday also is a witness to the lordship of Christ in your life.
Let me refer you to the story of Jacob. In Genesis 28, Jacob was fleeing Esau, his angry and death-threatening brother, because Jacob had cheated Isaac, their father, into blessing him. When evening came, Jacob had to find a place where to spend the night. He put his head on a rock, he chose for a pillow, and slept. Jacob began to dream of angels going up and down heaven and earth on a ladder. When Jacob awoke, he said, “Surely the LORD is in this place, and I did not know it” (Genesis 28:16). The truth is that God had been present at home with Jacob and his troubled family. God had been present with Jacob throughout his journey that day. Yet, Jacob’s realization of God’s presence was only after God manifested himself to Jacob.
The psalmist, of our passage for today, expresses his amazement at the impossibility of fleeing from or avoiding the presence of God. “God is everywhere,” he exclaims. God is present in the farthest corner of the earth according to the imagination of the psalmist. God is present in the highest heaven and in the lowest hell. Before the presence of God, nothing is hidden and nothing can hide from his eyes of light. But the psalmist realization of the impossibility of fleeing the presence of God is because he had been living in the presence of the all-knowing God. Based on the psalmist relationship with God, he has come to the conclusion that God knows him through and through, even his thoughts and the words he is yet to speak.
You have searched me, Lord,
and you know me.
2 You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
3 You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
4 Before a word is on my tongue
you, Lord, know it completely.
5 You hem me in behind and before,
and you lay your hand upon me.
The psalmist realizes that his whole life has been enveloped by God. The psalmist lives his life before God and God has invaded his whole life. God knows his actions, words, thoughts, habits. God has wrapped himself around the psalmist to the point that if the psalmist would go the heavens or to hell, God would be bound to be with him as well.
Psalm 139 describes the feeling there is when God has invaded, overwhelmed, and saturated the life of the believer. God becomes our God and we become God’s possession. God is mine/yours and we are God’s. The presence of God becomes real when we allow God to invade our daily lives. That is, we acknowledge that God is by our side, watching us carefully, as we do our grocery-shopping, as we write an email, as we tend our garden, or as we feed our pets. God is with us as we go out to work or when we go to rest. God listens to our conversation and even knows what is in our mind before we even speak the word.
The other day I was out in the front of my house watering some plants and there were some kids riding their bicycles on the street. I did not hear what the boy (about 7) said to a girl about the same age. But I did hear what the girl said to the boy. “You know, I want to call you a name, but I will not. I know the word, but I will not say it because it is a bad word,” she said. There might be time when as we say, “We bite our tongue.” According to this psalm, even when we might have not spoken the words we suppress, God knows what is in our heart. When we live in the presence of God, we are mindful that every thought that comes to our mind is known to God. When we are mindful of the presence of God, we commune with him, not only when we pray for our meals or are in church. In Psalm 139 the psalmist says to God, “You go with me wherever I go, and I am yours, now and forever.”
The psalmist’s words: Where can I flee from your presence, literally means where can I flee from your face? The Hebrew word pany or paniym (pl), means face or presence.
Therefore, living in the presence of God literally means living in the face of God. And by living in the face of God, we are also transformed to become the face of God to the world. In other words, some qualities of God should be visible in us. Mark DeMoss who was known as a public relations guru for Christian organizations writes, “My ultimate client was Jesus and his gospel.” DeMoss says that being the face of Christ to the world is a daunting assignment we all have. “Every Christian has the important task of introducing, promoting, representing and advocating for the Lord.” That is what Jesus meant when he said to his disciples, “You are the salt and light of the world.”
Dear friends, our confession about the immanence or omnipresence of God is more than just a doctrinally sound proposition. For us followers of Christ, our confession that God is present everywhere involves the daily challenge of becoming, albeit a dull reflection, of the face of God in the world. It is a confession that invites us to reflect God’s love, holiness, compassion, and righteousness in our dealings with everyone we meet. And we do so by being humble, by speaking words of empathy to those who are hurting, by visiting a sick friend, by advocating for the voiceless, and as James would say, by keeping oneself unstained by the world (James 1:27). In the words of DeMoss, you and I are in the PR business for Jesus Christ. Or as Jesus says, we are like the city on the mountaintop, visible to everyone, beckoning the world to walk in the light of the Lord. Let us walk before the presence of God and let us be the face of God to those around us. Amen.
 DeMoss, Mark. “Lessons From Evangelicalism’s PR Guru” Christianity Today, April 2019. p. 57