If I ascend to heaven, you are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there. Psalm 139: 7 NRSV
I get the part about being in heaven and being in God's presence. For me, that is a given. God is present in heaven. No one can get away from God's presence when in heaven. But when it comes to Sheol or hell, I always thought that hell was a place that God was truly absent from. Hell for me is the total absence of God. So, what is going on here?
The word that has got me here is the word Sheol. My mind immediately associated it with my Christian concept of hell. However, I forgot for a moment that the Psalms are part of the Tanach, the Jewish Bible. The concept of Sheol is not hell but where all the dead go. In some churches when they recite the Apostle's Creed they talk about Jesus descending to the dead before being resurrected. He would have gone to Sheol – where all the dead went (the exceptions in scripture were Elijah and Enoch). So, what the psalm is saying is that even in death, God is with me.
So what do I do with the heaven statement? I think what that means is that you could go out into space and never be absent from God. Even when you die, you are not absent from God. In other words, God is not limited by your mortality or your orientation in space. God is never apart from you, no matter what happens in your life or even in death.
God, your presence is a comfort to me. May your presence give me courage and confidence to do as you will. Amen.