“God is bigger than big, but that’s a little intimidating if left by its lonesome. The good news? There is a theological counterbalance to that bigness. It’s called the immanence of God. God is closer than close.”- Mark Batterson, Whisper
This is what the Sovereign LORD, the Holy One of Israel, says: “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength.”- Isaiah 30:15 (NIV)
Vocatus atque non vocatus, Deus aderit. (Translation: “Bidden or not, God is here.”)- Desiderius Erasmus
I never knew my maternal grandfather, Hugo Dahlke. His untimely death from a stroke on 3 December 1937 came only two days after his fifty-fifth birthday. But after reading my mother Elinor’s written family history, I’m certain I would’ve loved him. Born in the northern German province of Schleswig-Holstein, Hugo emigrated to America at the age of nine. After sailing to Baltimore, Hugo and his parents proceeded to Milwaukee.
Upon completing eighth grade at Zion Lutheran School, Hugo learned the painting and decorating trade. For his first job, he put the finish on chairs at a furniture factory. Later, Hugo supported his family as a small-time contractor. Because he did high-quality painting and decorating, satisfied customers often recommended him to others. Above all, my mother remembers Hugo as a quiet and gentle person. Yet, he expected obedience from his children.
Writing in Whisper: How to Hear the Voice of God, Mark Batterson observes that we find it hard to think of God in anything other than four dimensions. Because that’s all we’ve ever known. As a result, we try to created God in our image, rather than allowing God to create us in His. Consequently, we end up with god, lowercase g. Furthermore, that god walks and talks an awful lot like us.
However, Pastor Batterson underscores, God’s greatness consists of the fact that nothing is too big or too small for Him. Thus, God not only knows your given name, He also gives you a unique name. And, He speaks a language unique to you. Most significantly, Mark asserts, God custom fits His voice to each and every person’s unique strength. In fact, one translation of Psalm 29:4 reads as follows: “The voice of the Lord is fitted to the strength.”
Perhaps, Mark suggests, our understanding of God’s voice is too small. For God’s big enough to speak through doors, dreams, and people. In addition, He’s close enough to speak through desires, promptings, and pain. Before God created light, in Genesis 1:2 we find the Spirit of God hovering over the surface of the deep. And today the Holy Spirit still hovers over our lives. Paniym represents the Hebrew word used to describe God’s proximity in regard to time and space:
- the split second before and the split second after – a parenthesis in time
- the place right in front and in back – a parenthesis in space
Certainly, God is with us in every sense of the word. A. W. Tozer paints this picture of the immanence of God in his book The Attributes of God:
“God is above, but He’s not pushed up. . . . beneath, but He’s not pressed down. He’s outside, but He’s not excluded. He’s inside, but He’s not confined. God is above all things embracing and inside of all things filling.”
Finally, Pastor Batterson notes, some Hebrew scholars equate the word Yahweh with the sound of a breath. Using this understanding, then, we whisper God’s name with each and every breath we take. In that case, God’s our first and last word – and every word in between. The immanence of God – as close as the breath we breathe!