Recently I finished the book I was reading and went to my bookshelf to find something to replace it. I found a copy of A.W. Tozer’s classic book The Knowledge of the Holy. I had never read it, so I pulled it off of the shelf. It has been an enriching and challenging journey.
When I was in seminary, I had to write papers on the attributes of God. At that time, they were academic exercises. Over the years, I have returned to study those attributes from time to time. Whenever I have done that, it has been a challenging experience. Currently, as I work my way through Tozer’s book, I have been challenged again by the significance of understanding God’s attributes.
Of first importance in this study is to realize that we can never put God into a neat box. All of our attempts to understand and explain the attributes of God fall far short of reality. We are like children trying to explain abstract concepts to adults using concrete terms. God indulges our inadequacy, while encouraging us to dig deeper.
One thought that has been circling in my brain is the little amount of time I spend actually contemplating who God is. I tend to see God in big, general terms, without really exploring His character. As long as God remains abstract, He will remain distant. It is as we try to explore God’s attributes that we draw near to Him. He becomes real in our minds. He ceases to be out there somewhere and becomes a real presence in our lives. Come near to God and he will come near to you. James 4:8a
Today I read about God’s omnipresence. Of all of God’s attributes, this is the one that always grabs me. Omnipresence means everywhere, always, present. It is hard for me to get my mind around the truth that there is nowhere where God is not present. David expressed this truth masterfully in poetic terms in Psalm 139.
Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
If I say, "Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,"
even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you. Psalm 139:7-12
David’s words are both comforting and alarming. There is never a time when or a place where God is not with me, whether I acknowledge His presence or not. This is a great comfort in times of trouble. It can also be a great concern in times of rebellion.
It is hard to come to grips with the truth that our whole reality is enfolded in, permeated by the presence of God. Just like a fish is surrounded by and supported by water, we are surrounded by and supported by God. Our very existence is in His hands. If we were somehow able to remove ourselves from God’s presence, we would cease to exist. 'For in him we live and move and have our being.' (Acts 17:28a)
What does it mean for us to live in this reality? It begins by intentionally acknowledging God’s abiding presence every day. We do not live independent of God, but in total dependence upon God. He is actively engaged in every aspect of our lives.
O Lord, you have searched me
and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
you know it completely, O Lord.
You hem me in--behind and before;
you have laid your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.
Once we grasp the truth that God is always present with us, then we can intentionally include Him in the activities of our lives. We can make decisions with God in mind. We can seek to please Him by what we do. When a child knows that their parents are watching, they often act differently. They want to please their parents, so they do things to gain their attention and hopefully their approval. In a similar way, we should live our lives within the reality that Our Heavenly Father is watching. He is delighted when we intentionally do what pleases Him.
Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Ephesians 5:1-2