By Jeannette Haley
“Thou God seest me” – Genesis 16:13b
Years ago an evangelist friend said, “God is closer than your next breath.” Her statement has always reminded me of when I was a little girl staying with my Great-Grandmother for a few hours at her house. She always talked about God and Jesus and I could ask her anything that popped into my childish mind, so when she told me that God could always see me no matter where I was I quickly ducked behind her big overstuffed chair and asked her if He could see me now. I figured if she couldn’t see me, then possibly God couldn’t either. Of course she assured me that He could. As a young teen I memorized many Scriptures, including Proverbs 15:3, “The eyes of the LORD are in every place, beholding the evil and the good” which shadowed me wherever I went like an invisible “chaperone.”
Not too long ago on a quiet, chilly winter morning as I sat alone, snuggled in the corner of the couch, warming my hands around a cup of hot tea, the words, “I see you” whispered through my soul. How can a person ever hope to describe those sudden and unexpected heavenly visitations? How utterly and completely comforting it is, in those times when you feel all alone, small, and insignificant, to be quickened in your spirit by the God who sees. It was such a short, sweet, and deeply satisfying experience, for when God’s truth is personalized by the Holy Spirit to our spirits, we will feel His quickening power. I began to meditate on how true it is that God sees us, He is watching us, He is listening to us, He knows our thoughts, and He knows our hearts. No matter where we are on this troubled planet with 7 billion other souls, El Roi knows each of us intimately.
El Roi means “the God who sees me” which is what Hagar, Sarah’s handmaid called Him in Genesis 16:13, “And she called the name of the LORD that spake unto her, Thou God seest me: for she said, Have I also here looked after him that seeth me?” The Bible is clear that one of God’s attributes is His omnipresence. 1 Kings 8:27 declares, “But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, the heaven and heaven of heavens cannot contain thee; how much less this house that I have builded?” In Jeremiah 23:23 God says, “Am I a God at hand, saith the LORD, and not a God afar off?” We are reassured by this Scripture in the Book of Acts 17:27-28, “That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us: For in him we live, and move, and have our being.” King David sang, “Whither shall I go from thy spirit? Or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me” Psalm 139:7-10.
It’s such a comfort for the saved person to remember that no matter where we are in this life, no matter how we feel, no matter what others think of us, and no matter what happens to us, our LORD sees us. While this fact brings joy to the saved, it brings terror and grief to the unrepentant sinner who is bent on doing things his or her own way. Such was the case with Adam and Eve who, after they disobeyed the Lord, hid from Him. “And they heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God amongst the trees of the garden. And the LORD God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou” Genesis 3:8, 9? Of course God knew where he was, but he wanted Adam to realize how lost he was, and how his relationship with the Lord would never be as it once was because of sin. Isaiah 59:2 says, “But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear.”
Adam is a representation of all sinners who try to “hide among the trees” of this world, remaining lost to God until they come to, and embrace, “The Tree” upon which Christ gave up His life to save those who believe. And, who was closer to Jesus as He hung on the cross than the repentant thief who was hanged alongside Him? How can we even begin to imagine how this dying man felt when he recognized Jesus for Who He is (God incarnate) and declared to others who were mocking Christ, “Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss. And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise” Luke 23:40-43.
I appreciate what A. W. Tozer wrote about the “distance” we often feel between us and God. He said, “The reason we sense that God is remote is because there is a dissimilarity between moral characters. God and man are dissimilar now. God made man in His image, but man sinned and became unlike God in his moral nature. And because he is unlike God, communion is broken….God is not far away in distance, but He seems to be because He is far away in character. He is unlike man because man has sinned and God is holy. The Bible has a word for this moral incompatibility, this spiritual unlikeness between man and God—alienation.” (The Attributes of God, Volume 1, pg. 123). He then quoted Ephesians 2:1-3 which states, “And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience; Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind: and were by nature the children of wrath as others.” Then in the fourth chapter we read about this alienation: “This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind, Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart: Who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness” verses 17-19.
No doubt Cain was surprised and terrified after he slew his righteous brother, Abel, to know that God saw him. He thought he had gotten away with murder until the LORD asked him, “Where is Abel thy brother? Genesis 4:9a. He lied and said, “I know not” and then he got defiant and sassy with God and retorted, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” We have no record in Scripture that either Adam or Cain took accountability for their disobedience and repented. Neither Cain nor Adam believed the warnings the LORD had given them and their unbelief led to a flippant attitude, and self-serving actions that were quickly followed by judgment from God. Let this be both a lesson and a warning to the “professing Christians” of the institutional church in these latter days to examine themselves to see if they are truly in “the faith which was once delivered unto the saints” Jude 3b.
We know that God saw everything done on the earth before the Flood. He saw righteous Enoch who walked with Him for three hundred years. He walked with God because of his moral character for no immoral person, no matter who they are, or what they say about their religious life, can truly walk in agreement with God, or please Him for God is holy. “Can two walk together, except they be agreed,” Amos 3:3? How many people today who call themselves “Christians” walk with God in complete agreement, sweet communion, righteousness, and holiness? Only God knows, and He does know! He is El Roi. “This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh” Galatians 5:16.
If the population of the entire world from Adam to Noah was in the billions (anywhere from 3 to 17 billion, more or less as advanced mathematicians calculate) then Noah is another “glaring” proof of the fact that nothing is hidden from the sight of El Roi. Aren’t you glad that “Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord” Genesis 6:8? (If you want to tie your brain in knots, just do some on-line research about the pre-flood population of the world. As for me, I will settle for all the amazing archaeological discoveries made on land and sea that prove the entire world was populated.) It is mind-blowing to meditate on how, out of all those people, only one man found grace in God’s eyes! Other than the eight human souls in the ark, all others perished under the waters of judgment. “For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him” 2 Chronicles 16:9. God is still looking for those with perfect hearts through whom He can show Himself strong.
When Jacob went out from Beersheba toward Haran he came to a certain place, and stayed there all night because the sun had gone down. We don’t know what his thoughts were as he gathered stones for a pillow (I sure know what mine would’ve been), but he somehow managed to fall asleep. Then came the dream of the ladder, the angels, and the LORD standing above it who said, “I am the LORD God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac: the land whereon thou liest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed; And thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed. And, behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land; for I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of” Genesis 28:13-15. Jacob’s response gives us a clue as to how unfamiliar he was with the Omnipresent LORD, and how unprepared he was to have a personal encounter with Him, for he said, “Surely the LORD is in this place: and I knew it not. And he was afraid, and said, How dreadful is this place! This is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven” vs. 16b, 17. What a lesson this is for those of us who are called by His name! I don’t want to be so spiritually dull, so engrossed in my own thoughts, or so caught up with the “cares of this world” that when the LORD manifests Himself through the presence of the Holy Spirit I end up like Jacob and say, “I knew it not”.
How many organized churches are missing the presence of the LORD in their midst because all their man-centered attention and focus is on the affairs, programs, traditions, duties and agendas of the church because, after all, “the show must go on” and nobody, including God must interrupt! Where would we be today if God had not interrupted the assembly on the Day of Pentecost? “And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance” Acts 2:1-4?
Concerning God’s omnipresence, the late Pastor Richard L. Strauss said in his series The Joy of Knowing God, “Yet the Bible will not let us suppose that God is present in exactly the same sense everywhere. For example, He does not dwell on earth in the same sense that He dwells in Heaven (Matthew 6:9). He did not dwell in Gentile nations in the same sense He dwelled with His ancient people Israel (Exodus 25:8; 40:34). He did not dwell with the Old Testament Jew in the same sense that He dwells with the New Testament Christian (John 14:17). He does not dwell with the unbeliever in the same sense He dwells with the believer (John 14:23). And He does not dwell with the believer now in the same sense He will dwell with him in eternity (Revelation 21:3)”
When you think about Moses spending forty years, day in and day out, herding sheep on the backside of the desert you can only begin to guess at what he thought about as he went about his mundane routine. Was he aware that El Roi saw him wherever he was, or did his encounter with the angel of the LORD in the burning bush give him a startling reminder of the omnipresent God? Of course, the LORD knew how to get his attention, as He does with every one of us. “Moses said, I will now turn aside, and see this great sight, why the bush is not burnt. And when the LORD saw that he turned aside to see, God called unto him out of the midst of the bush, and said, Moses, Moses. And he said, Here am I” Exodus 3:3, 4. The Lord always knows where we are, and He definitely knows how to get our attention. Jeremiah 23:23, 24 says, “Am I a God at hand, saith the LORD, and not a God afar off? Can any hide himself in secret places that I shall not see him? Saith the LORD. Do not I fill heaven, and earth? Saith the LORD.”
The Prophet Jonah is such an interesting little book to study. So many lessons can be gleaned from it. Jonah was about as clever with God as our little Chihuahuas, Bell and Tucker, are with us. They act as if we can’t see them if they turn their backs to us, or hide their faces under a blanket. It would be just as funny if it wasn’t so pathetic when Jonah thought he was well hidden from the sight of the LORD in the sides of the ship, where he was fast asleep. As the Bible tells us, there is no place we can go to hide from the eyes of our Creator. But, there is a difference between God seeing us and God being with us, for He can have no communion or agreement with us as long as we are clothed in the filthy rags of sin and unrighteousness. The idea that God is our pal no matter what we think, do or say that is dishonoring to Him or is contrary to His Word is simply not true. King David implored the LORD to not leave him as we read in Psalm 51:11, 12, “Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit.”
Regarding Jonah, A. W. Tozer wrote, “When Jonah refused to obey God and broke off and alienated his heart, he got in a ship to get away from the presence of God. He thought he could get away from God. How foolish of him to think he could get away from God! Then there was Peter, who knelt down and said, ‘Depart from me: for I am a sinful man, O Lord’ (Luke 5:8).
“It is the heart that puts distance between us and God. We must not think of God as being far away for the reason that God does not dwell in space and ‘the heaven of heavens cannot contain Him’ (2 Chronicles 2:6), but He contains the heaven of heavens. And therefore God is near to you now—nearer to you than you are to yourself.
“And yet the sinner is far from God. He isn’t far from God—and yet he is. God is not far away like a Roman god up on a holy mountain. God is far away in His holy unlikeness to everything sinful. He’s far away in the sense of alienation and enmity. The natural man cannot please God (see Romans 8:8), for God and man are alienated. This is the terrible law of the world: alienation.” (The Attributes of God, Volume 1, pg. 126, 127.)
The touching and beautiful record of Nathanael meeting Jesus (John 1:43-51) reveals how intimately the LORD knows us. From John Gill’s Exposition of the Bible we gain this insight: . . . before that Philip called thee, when thou wast under the fig tree, I saw thee; in which words Christ gives two instances of his omniscience; the one is, that he knew Philip had called him; he was privy to all that passed between them, though they were alone, and the conversation was had in the most private manner. Christ knew what an account Philip had given of him, and what objection Nathanael had made; and what an invitation Philip had given him to go along with him to Christ, and judge for himself; which is here meant by calling him, and with which he complied: and the other is, that he saw him under the fig tree before that: he was sitting under it, as men in those countries used to do; see ( Micah 4:4 ), where he might be reading the Scriptures, and meditating upon them; and if, as some observe, he was reading, and thinking upon Jacob’s dream, concerning the ladder which reached from earth to heaven, and on which he saw the angels of God ascending and descending, the words of Christ in ( John 1:51 ) must strike him with fresh surprise, and give him another convincing proof of his omniscience: or he might be praying here in secret, and so acted a different part from the generality, of religious men of that nation, who chose to pray in synagogues, and corners of the streets, that they might be seen; and likewise proved him to be what Christ had said of him, a true and rare Israelite, without guile and hypocrisy, which were so visible and prevailing among others. It was usual with the doctors to read, and study in the law, under fig trees, and sometimes, though rarely, to pray there.”
Are there times when a committed Christian feels all alone, lost in a sea of humanity, helplessly buried under a load of care, and/or weary with endless physical challenges? Of course there are such times! We are human beings, not angels. We may be citizens of heaven, but we are still physically living in this present world. Jesus did not come to save us and then immediately whisk us to heaven, but He came to reconcile us back to God so we could go forth, bearing the precious seed of the Gospel to a lost and dying world. He calls us to be the salt and the light of the world no matter who we are, where we are, or what trials and tribulations we are going through. He said, “Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee” Hebrews 13:5.
Did Jesus include you and me when He said, “But the very hairs of your head are all numbered” Matthew 10:30? And, did not God comfort His people by saying to them, “And it shall come to pass, that before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear” Isaiah 65:24? Has He not reassured us in Psalm 11:15, “The eyes of the LORD are upon the righteous, and his ears are open unto their cry”? What or who is more intimate than this: “Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned when as yet there was none of them. How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God! How great is the sum of them! If I should count them, they are more in number than the sand: when I awake, I am still with thee” Psalm 139:16-18.
Even though there may be times when we feel like King David when he prayed, “I watch, and am as a sparrow alone upon the house top” Psalm 102:7, yet he looked up and rejoiced because the day is coming when “the heathen shall fear the name of the LORD, and all the kings of the earth [His] glory, When the LORD shall build up Zion, he shall appear in his glory. He will regard the prayer of the destitute, and not despise their prayer” verses 15-17. He is El Roi, the God who sees.
O Christians! Keep oil in your lamps: keep them burning. With the Apostle Paul let us “reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” Romans 8:18, for the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God….2 Thessalonians 4:16.
Oh Lord, may it be soon! Come quickly, Lord Jesus!