God Knows Me!

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Psalm 139

Psalm 139 was written by David and that is all we really know about it.  It could have been written any time during his life.  As you read what he wrote, you cannot help but be impressed with how much David knew about God; this man had an intensely personal relationship with his Creator.  This psalm is part lament, part thanksgiving, part hymn, and all worthy of our attention.  Some scholars see this psalm not just as the personal reflections of a true believer, but also a theological treatise because within this psalm we read the most distinct  and clear statement of God’s omnipresence found anywhere in the Bible.

The idea that God is everywhere produces in the psalmist a sense of great comfort, as it should in us today.  We are never hidden from His view; God has known us from our time in the womb; He alone has fashioned and formed us; He makes us what we are and He therefore knows all that we need and God alone can supply those needs.

Whoever studies this psalm comes to the conclusion that there is something very special about it.  It has been called “The Crown of all the Psalms,” because it appeals to our spirits, our emotions, and our intellect.

1.  God’s discernment of individuals, verses 1—6

O LORD, you have searched me
and you know me.

You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.

You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.

Before a word is on my tongue
you know it completely, O LORD.

You hem me in—behind and before;
you have laid your hand upon me.

Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.

The very first verse speaks of God’s omniscience.  God knows you better than anybody ever can.  The word translated “searched” comes from a Hebrew word meaning to “dig” or “bore into the earth.”  The word is a work word; it suggests effort on God’s part.  As a result of God’s efforts, He knows His own.  This is a relational statement; God is able to discern His own because He is able to look into the hearts of man.

To “discern my going out and lying down” means far more than merely observing a person’s posture!  God sees not only what we do, but He sees why we do it.  Our motives are laid bare before Him.  Not only that, but God knows what are going to say before we say it!  Husbands have that experience all the time; it seems that is a talent most wives possess.  However, as it relates to God, Kirkpatrick makes this observation:

God knows not merely the spoken word which men can hear, but its true meaning, and the secret thoughts which prompt its utterance.

Depending on our motives, these verses can either give us great comfort or scare us to death!  Imagine the power God possesses:  He can read our thoughts and intents!  This is something only God can do; man cannot do this:

Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,  too lofty for me to attain. (verse 6)

Man can only observe what another man does; he cannot see into his heart.  Yet we make judgments all the time based on what we see another person doing or hear what they are saying.  How faulty are our judgments?  God’s can never be faulty because He sees us as we really are.

2.  God’s perception of individuals, verses 7—12

Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?

If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.

If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,

even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.

If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,”

even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.

These verses naturally flow from the thought the psalmist expressed in verse 5—

You hem me in—behind and before;  you have laid your hand upon me.

The all-knowing God is everywhere.  He is in front and behind.  There is no place a man can go where God is not.  Because He is everywhere, His perceives all things in all places.  God is at work everywhere; He is watching His people wherever they are.  Some Christians think God’s presence is greater in church than other places.  The psalmist debunks that foolish notion.  God is in “the heavens” and He is also in “the depths,” or sheol, the place of the dead.  Where you least expect to find God, you will discover that He is right there!  John Greenleaf Whittier, the Quaker poet who worked tirelessly for the abolition of slavery, wrote a long poem that some of us had to memorize in high school, and one stanza “The Eternal Goodness” expresses what the psalmist said:

I know not where His islands lift
Beyond His love and care.
Their fronded palms in air;
I only know I cannot drift

You can’t hide from God in the dark; darkness and light are the same to God.  We may fear the dark, we may fear what is done in the dark or what lurks in the dark, but that is of no consequence to Him.  What an amazing thought for a child of God!  In the darkest night, when all seems lost to us, God sees things in perfect perspective.

Not only that, as we have a relationship with God, His light dissipates our darkness; His clear perception may become ours if we trust Him.

These verses give us great comfort and confidence.  We are sinners by nature; we are embarrassed by our sins; our sins break our hearts.  Yet God was there when we committed them, and because of His grace and mercy, He did not leave us.  Because of that, we can come to God, freely confessing our sins, because He already knows what we did and He stayed with us.  We have nothing to fear in confessing to Him!

3.  God’s purpose for individuals, verses 13—18

For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.

My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place.
When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,

your eyes saw my unformed body.
All the days ordained for me
were written in your book
before one of them came to be.

How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!

Were I to count them,
they would outnumber the grains of sand.
When I awake,
I am still with you.

The all-knowing, all-present God is personally concerned with every detail of the Psalmist’s life.  God knows every aspect of his, and our, life.  The KJV renders verse 13 graphically—

For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my mother’s womb.

The word translated “possessed” in the KJV and “created” in the NIV means “to set upright” or “to be found” or “created.”  There are many shades of meaning here.  The word “reins” (KJV) or “inmost being” (NIV) really means “kidneys!”  In other words, God “makes right” or “creates” our deepest parts.  And if God made our deepest parts, then He can see our deepest parts.

How well does God know us?  He carefully watched us being formed in our mother’s womb!  If God can watch a fetus develop even from the earliest moments of conception, can there be any doubt about how much He cares for us now?   This is such an important message in our age where there are over 1.5 million abortions performed annually in America; the world largest provider of abortion.  David, writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, wrote that while his body was being formed, he was a person and that God had a blueprint of his members and his life before they came into existence.

Verse 14 is a statement that modern science cannot ever hope to grasp or surpass—

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,  I know that full well.

An exact translation of “fearfully and wonderfully made” is difficult.  “Fearfully” means properly “fitted things” or “things fitted together to produce fear or reverence.”  And “wonderfully made” suggests “distinguished” or “separated.”  Putting it all together, a literal reading might look like this:

I am distinguished by fearful things
Or
I am different from the rest of creation because there are fearful things in me.

Is it any wonder why God is attentive to our every need?  We are His personal creation; we are fabulously made!  There is nothing like a human being in the entire universe.  Scientists get all excited about DNA yet there are “fearful” things installed in the very depths of man by God that cannot be understood or quantified or replicated.   I believe that if a person could look into the deepest parts of another human being he would be driven insane by seeing those “fearful things”; the Divine image stamped on another person’s soul.  How special is every human life?

As David thinks about these things, he exclaims in wonder and amazement at the marvel of God’s “thoughts” for him; that is, God’s purpose for him.  God’s thoughts are just “too much” for a mere man to comprehend, but man’s thoughts are fully known by God.  It is literally impossible to man to fully comprehend God’s purposes established from all eternity.  Our president once remarked,

We are God’s partners in life and death.

The arrogance of any man claiming to be God’s partner in anything; our God needs no partner, so great is He.

4.  David’s prayer, verses 19—24

If only you would slay the wicked, O God!
Away from me, you bloodthirsty men!

They speak of you with evil intent;
your adversaries misuse your name.

Do I not hate those who hate you, O LORD,
and abhor those who rise up against you?

I have nothing but hatred for them;
I count them my enemies.

Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.

See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.

The tone of the psalm changes and becomes one the most beautiful and meaningful prayers in all the psalms.  Compared to the greatness of God, David wants nothing to do with evil men and he even sees no purpose in their continued existence.  Those who oppose the ways of God are evil; they are bloodthirsty people who have no respect for life.  They make plans that challenge God’s authority.  For these kinds of people, David says,

If only you would slay the wicked…I have nothing but hatred for them.

Because David loved His God so much, he could not be loyal to those in opposition to God.  David hated those who hate God.

Finally, David, perhaps aware of the danger that his hatred of the wicked might go too far, asks God to “search” his heart in order to ascertain his motives and reveal them.  Literally, the psalmist wants God to make sure that his perspective stays focused.   He never wants to grieve God in any way, even in his hatred of the wicked.

This is wonderful way to end a prayer:  Search me; Try me; and Lead me.

In 1936, while attending a revival meeting in New Zealand, Edwin Orr took a total of five minutes to write the lyrics to Search me, O God:

Search me, O God,
And know my heart today;
Try me, O Savior,
Know my thoughts, I pray.
See if there be
Some wicked way in me;
Cleanse me from every sin
And set me free.

I praise Thee, Lord,
For cleansing me from sin;
Fulfill Thy Word,
And make me pure within.
Fill me with fire
Where once I burned with shame;
Grant my desire
To magnify Thy Name.

Lord, take my life,
And make it wholly Thine;
Fill my poor heart
With Thy great love divine.
Take all my will,
My passion, self and pride;
I now surrender, Lord
In me abide.

O Holy Ghost,
Revival comes from Thee;
Send a revival,
Start the work in me.
Thy Word declares
Thou wilt supply our need;
For blessings now,
O Lord, I humbly plead.

May the Lord search our hearts; may He draw us closer to Himself with each passing day.  May each one of us see God for who He really is.

(c)  2009 WitzEnd
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