God’s Presence


By Heath Jarrett


Having paid his fare for the voyage, Jonah settled in for the journey. Tarshish, on the opposite end of the Mediterranean Sea was at the edge of the world, in the land of the setting sun and, most importantly, as far away from God as Jonah could imagine. Three times, we are told that he was fleeing from the presence of the LORD (1:3, twice; 1:10).

Jonah ignored a song he grew up singing.

“Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me”  (Ps 139:7–10).

Even if Jonah could have saddled the sun and flown across the skies beyond Tarshish, he wouldn’t have been able to flee from God. No distant land is far enough. Nowhere above or below earth is a suitable hideout. God is everywhere. God’s presence is above and beyond any location in the universe.

Okay, so there’s nowhere physically to hide, but that leaves us with the privacy of our thoughts, right? No. God is also unlimited in knowledge. Nothing escapes his attention.

“O LORD, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O LORD, you know it altogether” (Ps 139:1–4).

God knows everything that happens. He knows our thoughts, he knows the future. All we say, do and think is known by him, even before it happens. His knowledge is infinite. Knowing this brought David comfort even in the midst of his sin (Ps 139:23–24) and, ignoring it caused Jonah to act irrationally.

At the heart of Jonah’s flight wasn’t bad theology or ignorance of who God was. In fact, it was precisely because he knew God’s character that he fled (Jonah 4:2–3, see Ex 34:6–7). He didn’t want God who is gracious to save his bitter enemies.

May God’s infinite knowledge give us the sensitivity of David, calling on him to search our hearts and expose our sin (Ps 139:23–24). May His universal presence ever comfort us.