The short answer to this question is God is everywhere wooing each individual from every country and every culture into a deeper relationship with Him.[i] The more I study the Bible and live the Christian life, the more I see God’s pervading love and sustaining grace infusing all of life and all of reality.
From a biblical perspective, God’s omnipresence is more than an impersonal Force sustaining far, far, away galaxies and life on planet earth. God’s presence is intimate, up close, and personal. For example, God comes to Moses in a burning bush that is not consumed and asks Moses to take off his shoes for the ground he is standing on is holy ground (Exodus 3).
Moses gets personal and asks God His name, for to know one’s name in the ancient world was to be in special relationship with that person, to have a hold on that person.
God replies (knowing He will never have another moment of peace) to Moses, I AM WHO I AM.[ii] The phrase I AM comes from the Hebrew verb HAYAH which translates as “to be” or “to exist.” Moses, go tell Pharaoh that “being itself” that “existence itself” that “reality itself” has personally come to set my people free. YHWH, rendered LORD in the Bible, is derived from the verb HAYAH, to be.
If God (YHWH) is “being itself” or “existence itself” or “reality itself” then all ground is holy ground; there is no secular space: everything, everywhere, and everyone has Spiritual underpinnings.
However, humans are born blind to God’s intimate sustaining presence. Like Adam and Eve, all humans have metaphorically eaten of the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Humans have inherited Adam and Eve’s sin or propensity for self-autonomy and self-deification. Humans have bought into the Serpent’s lie that we can go it alone, that we possess the power and wisdom of God, that we can obtain fame, wealth, and immortality in and of ourselves.
God honoring humanities’ free will and desiring non-coerced love has allowed “the human predicament” to proceed. The human predicament of pain, suffering, pandemics, and death intertwined with the beauty, joy, and wonders of life and nature.
Surprisingly, God has not abandoned us in our hubris and alienation. Biblical book after biblical book and biblical passage after biblical passage tells us of God’s wooing love and sustaining Spirit who desires entrance into the deepest sanctuaries of our beings to have fellowship with us. “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me” (Revelation 3:20 NIV).
God’s creative omnipotence is echoed by Nehemiah, "You are the LORD, you alone; You made the heavens, the highest heavens and all their host, The earth and all that is upon it, the seas and all that is in them. To all of them you give life, the heavenly hosts bow down before you” (Nehemiah 9:6 NAB).
King David acknowledged God’s omnipotence, omnipresence, and love permeating the cosmos.
“When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him? For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour” (Psalm 8:3-5 KJV).
“Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me. If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me; even the night shall be light about me” (Psalm 139:7-11 KJV).
The Apostle Paul similarly writes that “in Him, we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28 KJV).
In Ancient Near Eastern creation accounts, creation was the outcome of wars or other procreative interactions between the gods.[iii] In contrast, in the Genesis creation account, “the Spirit of God” stands undivided, uncreated, and uncontested in total control of “the darkness,” “the deep,” and the chaos of “the waters.” God’s creative Word orders, infuses, and now moment by moment sustains the cosmos and life.
How fitting that the Son of God, with a word, would still a raging storm on the sea of Galilee. The disciples were terrified, “What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” (Mark 4:41 KJV).
The cosmos and life exist because of God’s omnipotence and omnipresence. In modern scientific terms, dark matter, dark energy, all visible known matter, light, space, and time are God’s self-sacrificial gifts of a portion of His power and energy reconfigured and ordered for reality, nature, and existence “to be.”[iv] A created cosmic temple for humanity and God to dwell together.
“For behold, He who forms mountains and creates the wind And declares to man what are His thoughts, He who makes dawn into darkness And treads on the high places of the earth, The LORD God of hosts is His name” (Amos 4:13 NAS).
If God is “being itself” or “existence itself” or “reality itself” then all world events are under God’s purview and influence. Even the COVID-19 virus cannot exist without God’s consent.
Nebuchadnezzar has a disturbing dream about a statue representing the world’s future. The prophet Daniel is not surprised for “God revealeth the deep and secret things; he knoweth what is in the darkness, and the light dwelleth with Him” (Daniel 2:22 KJV).
“Jonah is cast into the deep, in the midst of the seas; and the floods” (Jonah 2:3). God is there in presence of a great fish bringing salvation both to Jonah and later to the repentant Assyrian city of Nineveh, considered Israel’s arch enemy.
Like Jonah, maybe now is the time for the world to reach across national borders in peace, repentance, and mutual wellbeing? Will we be hoarders or will we compassionately look after our neighbors in human solidarity regardless of race, religion, color or nationality? Hard choices when lives are being lost, medical resources are being strained, economic chaos abounds, and isolation and suspicion are part of the cure.
God does not stand outside humanities’ suffering and pain. If God is “being itself” in some mysterious way God literally shares our suffering and pain. This could not be more evident than in the incarnation of His Son Jesus Christ. “The Word becomes flesh (human flesh susceptible to suffering, pain, and death) and dwelt among us” (John 1:14 KJV).
Although, the Essence of God is independent from our reality and transcends nature, God willingly condescends to be a literal part of our reality and nature through creation and the incarnation of His Son. This self-sacrificial love and unity with humanity is the “good news” of the gospel, at the heart of the Kingdom of God, now at hand (Mark 1:15).
The Lord’s supper should remind us that the Spirit of God can be as intimate within us as the molecules of bread and wine are to the cellular metabolism of our bodies.
In the midst of trials, tribulation, and pandemics, humans can even share in the righteousness and mind of God. A mind of humility and service.
“For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him” (2 Corinthians 5:21 KJV). Also,
“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name” (Philippians 2:5-11 KJV).
Even death is under God’s control. By the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ; Jesus now holds the keys to life and death. “I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death” (Revelation 1:18 KJV).
In this coronavirus pandemic, the Bible reminds us we live in a wonderful but broken world where death and pandemics and suffering will be part of our existence until the Second Coming of Jesus Christ (Luke 21:11) — but do not panic or as the Bible counsels “be not afraid.”
In this pandemic God is fully and completely here, “Behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20 ESV).
In C.S. Lewis’ The Problem of Pain he writes, “Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts to us in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”[v]
Could “Shelter in Place” also be an appeal to “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10)? Is God in His mercy calling a global timeout?
Different answers and emotions will be generated depending upon whether God exists in your world view or not. And if one believes in God, what attributes form His character? The biblical evidence, taken as a whole, points toward a merciful, loving, and redemptive God leading to the healing of people and the nations.[vi] A vengeful wrathful God does not align with my personal experience or understanding of scripture.
“These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33 KJV).
Notes & References:
[i] I write “Him” for God for practical literary purposes understanding that both males and females are necessary to reveal a complete picture of God. “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27 NIV).
[ii] Jesus aligns Himself with the “I AM” God of the Old Testament. "Whom do you seek?" And they said, "Jesus the Nazarene." Jesus answered, "I told you that I AM He; … When therefore He said to them, "I AM He," they drew back, and fell to the ground (John 18:4-6 NAS).
‘And they (Pharisees) all said, "Are You the Son of God, then?" And He said to them, "Yes, I AM." And they said, "What further need do we have of testimony? For we have heard it ourselves from His own mouth" (Luke 22:70, 71 NAS).
[iv] Thomas Aquinas writes of God’s intimate role in creation: “we must consider not only the emanation of a particular being from a particular agent, but also the emanation of all being from the universal cause, which is God; and this emanation we designate by the name of creation.” The Summa Theologica, I Question 45 (Benziger Bros. edition, 1947) Translated by Fathers of the English Dominican Province.
[vi] “And on either side of the river was the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations” (Revelation 22:2 NAS).
Ron Reece is a physician and fourth generation Adventist, who completed a Graduate Diploma of Christian Studies at Regent College, British Columbia in 2010.
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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/10309