Why do the nations say,
“Where is their God?”
This verse reminds me of a title of Philip Yancey’s – Where is God when it hurts? Have you ever read that? We’re not talking about Yancey or the topic of Suffering today; but the entire notion of why that title was formed is the basis to our study today. There are essentially three questions in the verse today – the question quoted by the Psalmist, the question asked by the Psalmist – these are clearly given through the verse itself, but there is one final question that we’ll be looking into – how does these apply and relate to us?
Take 1: on sight
Where is their God? – let’s answer the inner-most questions first, as that will prove most telling for us. The Psalmist answered this question for us in the next verse – Our God is in heaven; he does whatever pleases him [Psalm 115:3].
Why do the nations say – Why ask that question, though? The answer is given by the Psalmist as well – because we can see the idols, made of silver and gold, with an image that feeds our very visual needs [Psalm 115:4] – these idols which are the gods of the very nations that ask, where is your God? To them, a god can be seen. So when they cannot see our God, it is natural for them to question.
How does this apply to us – Between a man-made idol and our unseeable God, who would you rather believe? It is one thing to not believe in God whom you cannot see. It is yet another thing altogether to believe in an idol formed by men. What is the point of having a mouth if they cannot move it or speak? What is the point of them having eyes when they cannot see? Or ears that cannot hear and noses that cannot smell? Or hands that cannot feel and feet that cannot walk? Essentially, when asking a question like, ‘where is God’ – we’re really not questioning the location of God, but the existence of God.
Take 2: beyond sight
Where is their God? – Even if you cannot see, you are still able to gauge the location of somebody if he or she is near you. Through voice, through touch, through heightened senses. The most apparent reason for asking this question is clearly for the inability to see God with our naked eyes, but on top of that, they cannot hear God and they cannot feel God’s presence. We are creatures who rely much on our sight. If we cannot see, we tend to disbelieve. Even if they see miracles happening to the people, they cannot see God, and that becomes not only a point of contention, it also becomes a taunt.
Why do the nations say – The Psalmist perhaps ask this question in bafflement, because he feels God’s presence so strongly personally. Why do they ask where God is? Haven’t they seen how God has blessed and protected his people all this while? Haven’t they seen or heard of the miracles of God?
How does this apply to us – Presence of God. Is it something that can be seen? Is it something that should be felt? Or is it something that is known? Perhaps the more appropriate term would be to believe. Is it something that is believed? Unlike the idols of silver and gold as stated by the Psalmist, God certainly cannot be seen by our eyes. Most Christians profess to feel God’s presence – but certainly something as intangible as feelings vary from people to people. There are also times when we simply cannot feel God’s presence – when God seems to be sleeping, and waves and waves of tragedy and sin and pain continue to hit us. Yet we have the Bible, and we are told that God never sleeps [Psalm 121:4|Article]. Through our past relationship with him, we also have the foundation of trust in him. In other words, we determine the presence of God with a mix of feeling, knowing and believing.
Perhaps the other nations asked ‘Where is their God?’ to taunt, or perhaps they ask because they do not understand how a god that cannot be seen can be so powerful. Yet there is a very fundamental error in that question, because it assumes that God needs to stay at a single place to exert his power. Our God is omnipresent. On top of that, he is omniscient and omnipotent. Hence, he does whatever he pleases – according to the Psalmist. He is not limited to his location, he does not have an area of effect within a certain radius. Because God is omnipresent, we cannot hide from him. Because God is omnipresent, we don’t need to find him. Because God is omnipresent, we don’t need to worry about him leaving us or forsaking us. Even if we cannot see him, we believe. After all, we live by faith, not by sight [2 Cor 5:7|Article].