Thursday, September 17, 2015

You are There

I'm a big fan of most of John Wayne's westerns---El Dorado, The Searchers, The Undefeated, The Sons of Katie Elder,  to name a few. One---Chisum---was loosely based on the true story of a New Mexico cattle baron in Lincoln County, John Chisum.

The movie closes with an interesting and refreshing dialogue between Chisum (John Wayne) and his foreman Pepper (Ben Johnson). Addressing Chisum's niece, Pepper says, "There's an old saying, Miss Sallie: There's no law west of Dodge; and no God west of the Pecos. Right, Mr. Chisum?"

"Wrong, Mr. Pepper," Chisum replies. "Cause no matter where people go, sooner or later, there's the law. And sooner or later, they find that God's already been there." (Scene 38)

Not a bad message in a secular movie even though made many years ago (1970): "God's already been there." We Bible students can revise Chisum's observation slightly. God's not just already been there, but He's still there. In fact, a basic tenet of Biblical doctrine declares God is essentially everywhere. We call this doctrine the omnipresence of God. Okay, it's a technical term, but it means essentially that God is present everywhere in some way we can't understand. But it is nevertheless true because He is God.

The gentle psalmist David expressed it this way:
            Where can I go from Thy Spirit?
            Or where can I flee from Thy presence?
                                                Psalm 139:7
David is not necessarily trying to hide from God. He's merely asking a rhetorical question, such that, if I tried to hide from You, where could I possibly go that You're not there?

In the next three verses, David stresses this idea of God's omnipresence:
            If I ascend to heaven, You are there;
             If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there.
            If I take the wings of the dawn,
            If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea,
            Even there Your hand will lead me,
            And Your right hand will lay hold of me.
                                                Psalm 139:8-10
Bottom line: Wherever you may go, seeking the Lord or running from Him, you will run into Him because He is already there!

Elijah discovered this in a very remarkable, interesting way. He stood firm on Mount Carmel against at least 450 prophets of Baal. Possibly another 400 prophets who ate at Jezebel's table were also there. In any event, Elijah showed them and all the people of Israel who was the true God. Then he led them in the execution of all the prophets of Baal. But... then he ran from one treacherous woman, Jezebel.

Elijah ran all the way to a cave at Mount Horeb. It apparently took him forty days and forty nights to get there; but when he arrived, he took up residence. And he discovered the Lord was already there!

The Scripture states,
            Then he came there to a cave and lodged there; and behold, the word of the Lord
            came to him, and He said to him, "What are you doing here, Elijah?"
                                                                                                                        1 Kings 19:9
Note, God does not say, "What are you doing there?" instead, He says, "What are you doing here?" God was already there! He was already waiting for the prophet to arrive. Why? Because He is omnipresent. Although the contexts of both of these passages (Psalm & Kings) seem a little negative, they actually offer positive encouragement. God is there wherever we may go. God is with us wherever we may go. God will never leave us nor forsake us wherever we may go. (cp. Hebrews 13:5) He is there for His hand to lead us. He is there for His right hand to hold onto us. What a loving Father He is! Thank you, Lord, that wherever I may go,
                                                            You are there!

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