|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
139:7-16 We cannot see God, but he can see us. The psalmist did not desire to go from the Lord. Whither can I go? In the most distant corners of the world, in heaven, or in hell, I cannot go out of thy reach. No veil can hide us from God; not the thickest darkness. No disguise can save any person or action from being seen in the true light by him. Secret haunts of sin are as open before God as the most open villanies. On the other hand, the believer cannot be removed from the supporting, comforting presence of his Almighty Friend. Should the persecutor take his life, his soul will the sooner ascend to heaven. The grave cannot separate his body from the love of his Saviour, who will raise it a glorious body. No outward circumstances can separate him from his Lord. While in the path of duty, he may be happy in any situation, by the exercise of faith, hope, and prayer.
Verse 7. - Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence? The transition is now made from God's omniscience to God's omnipresence, ver. 5 having paved the way for it. God's presence is not to be escaped; his spirit is everywhere. "In him we live, and move, and have our being" (Acts 17:28). When Jonah sought to flee from his presence, he only found himself brought more absolutely and more perceptibly into his presence (comp. Jeremiah 23:24).
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
Whither shall I go from thy spirit?.... Or, "from thy wind?" which some interpret literally, the wind being God's creature; which he brings out of his treasures, and holds in his fists, and disposes of as he pleases; this takes its circuit through all the points of the heavens, and blows everywhere, more or less. Rather God himself is meant, who is a Spirit, John 4:24 not a body, or consisting of corporeal parts, which are only ascribed to him in a figurative sense; and who has something analogous to spirit, being simple and uncompounded, invisible, incorruptible, immaterial, and immortal; but is different from all other spirits, being uncreated, eternal, infinite, and immense; so that there is no going from him, as to be out of his sight; nor to any place out of his reach, nor from his wrath and justice, nor so as to escape his righteous judgment. It may signify his all-conscious mind, his all-comprehending understanding and knowledge, which reaches to all persons, places, and things; compare Isaiah 40:13; with Romans 11:34; though it seems best of all to understand it of the third Person, the blessed Spirit, which proceeds from the Father and the Son; and who is possessed of the same perfections, of omniscience, omnipresence, and immensity, as they are; who is the Creator of the heavens and the earth, and pervades them all; and is the Maker of all men, and is present with them to uphold their souls in life, and there is no going from him; particularly he is in all believers, and dwells with them; nor do they desire to go from him, but deprecate his departure from them;
or whither shall I flee from thy presence? which is everywhere, for God's presence is omnipresence; his powerful presence and providence are with all his creatures, to support and uphold them in being; he is not far from, but near to them; in him they live, move, and have their being: and so there is no fleeing from him or that; and as to his gracious presence, which is with all his people, in all places at the same time; they do not desire to flee from it, but always to have it; and are concerned for it, if at any time it is removed from them, as to their apprehension of it. Or, "from thy face" (e); that is, from Christ, who is the face of Jehovah; the image of the invisible God, the express image of his person, in whom all the perfections of God are displayed; and such a likeness, that he that has seen the one has seen the other; he is the Angel of his face or presence, and who always appears before him, and in whom he is seen. Now there is no fleeing from him, for he is everywhere; where God is, his face is: and a sensible sinner desires to flee to him, and not from him; for there is no other refuge to flee unto for life and salvation but to him; and gracious souls desire to be always with him now, and hope to be for ever with him hereafter; they seek him, the face of God, now, and expect to see it more clearly in the world to come.
(e) "a facie tua", Pagninus, Junius & Tremellius, Piscator.
The Treasury of David
7 Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence?
8 If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there, if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there.
9 If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea;
10 Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me.
11 If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me; even the night shall be light about me.
12 Yea, the darkness hideth not from thee; but the night shineth as the day: the darkness and the light are both alike to thee.
Here omnipresence is the theme, - a truth to which omniscience naturally leads up. "Whither shall I go from thy spirit?" Not that the Psalmist wished to go from God, or to avoid the power of the divine life; but he asks this question to set forth the fact that no one can escape from the all-pervading being and observation of the Great Invisible Spirit. Observe how the writer makes the matter personal to himself - "Whither shall I go?" It were well if we all thus applied truth to our own cases. It were wise for each one to say - The spirit of the Lord is ever around me: Jehovah is omnipresent to me. "Or whither shall I flee from thy presence?" If, full of dread, I hastened to escape from that nearness of God which had become my terror, which way could I turn? "Whither?.... Whither?" He repeats his cry. No answer comes back to him. The reply to his first "Whither?" is its echo, - a second "Whither?" From the sight of God he cannot be hidden, but that is not all, m from the immediate, actual, constant presence of God he cannot be withdrawn. We must be, whether we will it or not, as near to God as our soul is to our body. This makes it dreadful work to sin; for we offend the Almighty to his face, and commit acts of treason at the very foot of his throne. Go from him, or flee from him we cannot: neither by patient travel nor by hasty flight can we withdraw from the all-surrounding Deity. His mind is in our mind; himself within ourselves. His spirit is over our spirit; our presence is ever in his presence.
"If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there." Filling the loftiest region with his yet loftier presence, Jehovah is in the heavenly place, at home, upon his throne. The ascent, if it were possible, would be unavailing for purposes of escape; it would, in fact, be a flying into the centre of the fire to avoid the heat. There would he be immediately confronted by the terrible personality of God. Note the abrupt words - "Thou, there." "If I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there." Descending into the lowest imaginable depths among the dead, there should we find the Lord. Thou! says the Psalmist, as if he felt that God was the one great Existence in all places. Whatever Hades may be, or whoever may be there, one thing is certain, Thou, O Jehovah, art there. Two regions, the one of glory and the other of darkness, are set in contrast, and this one fact is asserted of both - "thou art there." Whether we rise up or lie down, take our wing or make our bed, we shall find God near us. A "behold" is added to the second clause, since it seems more a wonder to meet with God in hell than in heaven, in Hades than in Paradise. Of course the presence of God produces very different effects in these places, but it is unquestionably in each; the bliss of one, the terror of the other. What an awful thought, that some men seem resolved to take up their night's abode In hell, a night which shall know no morning.
"If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea." - If I could fly with all swiftness, and find a habitation where the mariner has not yet ploughed the deep, yet I could not reach the boundaries of the divine presence. Light flies with inconceivable rapidity, and it flashes far afield beyond all human ken; it illuminates the great and wide sea, and sets its waves gleaming afar; but its speed would utterly fail if employed in flying from the Lord. Were we to speed on the wings of the morning breeze, and break into oceans unknown to chart and map, yet there we should find the Lord already present. He who saves to the uttermost would be with us in the uttermost parts of the sea.
"Even there shall thy hand lead me." We could only fly from God by his own power. The Lord would be leading, covering, preserving, sustaining us even when we were fugitives from him. "And thy right hand shall hold me." In the uttermost parts of the sea my arrest would be as certain as at home, God's right hand would there seize and detain the runaway. Should we be commanded on the most distant errand, we may assuredly depend upon the upholding right hand of God as with us in all mercy, wisdom, and power. The exploring missionary in his lonely wanderings is led, in his solitary feebleness he is held. Both the hands of God are with his own servants to sustain them, and against rebels to overthrow them; and in this respect it matters not to what realms they resort, the active energy of God is around them still.
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