November 13, 2019

Where Can I Go from Your Spirit?

Psalm 139

Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?

—  Psalm 139:7

In this psalm, King David of Israel professes that God sees and knows everything (vv. 1-6) and that God is present every­where (vv. 7-12). For God, there is no “out of sight, out of mind.” Then the writer praises God as his creator from the time of conception (vv. 13-18). And in the end he bows before the God who searches each human heart and every thought (vv. 19-24). What a feast of poetic praise and prayer—both fearsome and faith-building.

David’s fundamental question is “Can I ever escape God’s gaze?” He uses a wonderful Hebrew parallelism: “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?” These questions evoke both the fear of knowing that God always has his eye on us and the comfort of enjoying God’s eternal presence. These questions may remind us of a another question, found in Romans 8:35: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?”

As we can see, the psalm writer fears God but is not scared off. The psalmist knows he can trust God, and we can sense his gratitude that God is always there to watch over, protect, correct, and lead.

Whatever the day brings, even when we stray from God’s way for us, let us take comfort in the reflections of Psalm 139. Our Lord and Savior is with us always (Matthew 28:20). We can also consider an ancient prayer attributed to St. Patrick:

“Christ be with me, Christ within me; Christ behind me, Christ before me; Christ beside me, Christ to win me; Christ to comfort and restore me.” Amen!​

About the author — Norman F. Brown

Chaplain Norman F. Brown graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis, in 1969. He served aboard destroyers during the Vietnam conflict and ashore in San Diego, Calif., as an instructor. By then God had made clear his call to work in pastoral ministry, and Norman entered Calvin Theological Seminary, graduating in 1980. Chaplain Brown pastored churches during his ministry career but spent most of his time as a navy chaplain. During one assignment he served three years at Holy Loch, Scotland, where he and his wife, Ruth, encountered the Iona Community and their emphasis on spiritual disciplines. Chaplain and Mrs. Brown have three married children and nine grandchildren.

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