This week we began a new series entitled, “The Voyage.” It is the story of the prophet Jonah and his encounter with God on a voyage across the Mediterranean Sea. God said, “go to Nineveh,” but Jonah chose instead to head in the opposite direction on a ship bound for the city of Tarshish. Jonah thought he could run from God. Jonah thought God would not follow him out to sea. Jonah’s problem was a disobedience problem, but it was also a theological problem. He misunderstood the nature of God. Let’s look at three words that help to define the nature of God, but get ready they are huge words with huge impact.
The longest of the three words at thirteen letters is the theological term “transcendence.” Our God, the God of the Bible, is the transcendent God. This word means that God is completely and eternally self-sufficient. God is, was and always will be. There never was a time when God did not exist. It also means that God is holy–set apart from all of creation in his perfection. Isaiah 6:1 describes God “as high and lifted up.” God is wholly other than us.
This leads to the second lengthy term that theologians use to describe God. At nine letters it is the word “immanence.” This word is the counterpoint to transcendence. Immanence is the reality that God is continually, actively present with us. It means that God knows. God sees. God cares. God is with us.
The final huge weighty word is “omnipresence.” At 12 letters it speaks to God’s ability to be present everywhere simultaneously. This is a spatial term. There is no place we can go that is beyond the reach of God. On the flip side it means that in God’s continuous activity managing the universe he is still just an arm’s length away.
You put these three words together and you get a lot of letters–34 to be precise. But you also get a profound picture of God. God is the perfect, uncorrupted, exalted God who is lovingly attentive to every detail of our life no matter where life takes us. That is the kind of God I want at work in my life–an accessible God who offers that which I cannot obtain through my own strength.
Though Jonah thinks he is running from God, what he discovers is that God was at work with him the whole time.