Psalm 139 To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David.
O LORD, you have searched me and known me!
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from afar.
You search out my path and my lying down
and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
behold, O LORD, you know it altogether.
You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is high; I cannot attain it.
Where shall I go from your Spirit?
Or where shall I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there!
If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
If I take the wings of the morning
and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me.
If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
and the light about me be night,”
even the darkness is not dark to you;
the night is bright as the day,
for darkness is as light with you.
For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you,
for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them.
How precious to me are your thoughts, O God
How vast is the sum of them!
If I would count them, they are more than the sand.
I awake, and I am still with you.
Oh that you would slay the wicked, O God!
O men of blood, depart from me!
They speak against you with malicious intent;
your enemies take your name in vain.
Do I not hate those who hate you, O LORD?
And do I not loathe those who rise up against you?
I hate them with complete hatred;
I count them my enemies.
Search me, O God, and know my heart!Psalm 139 (ESV)
Try me and know my thoughts!
And see if there be any grievous way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting!
Psalm 139 is another all-time favourite Psalm of many a believer. It is a grand testimony to our God Who is unreachably beyond human limitation and yet intimately engaged with us. It begins and ends with God’s knowledge of us. Our God has known us (v. 1), and we delightedly pray that He will continue to know us (vv. 23-24).
In four stanzas David elaborates on his knowledge of God’s knowledge of him. God’s knowledge of us is comprehensive, unavoidable, personal, and spiritual. God knows everything about us, there is no escaping Him, and it means that He cares for us in this life and the next.
God’s knowledge of us is comprehensive (vv. 2-6). He knows everything about us. He knows everything from us sitting to us standing (v. 2), from us living out lives to us sleeping (v. 3), from us thinking to us speaking (v. 4), and from what is behind us to what is in front of us (v. 6). The point of these sets of opposites is to emphasise that there is nothing God does not know about us and our lives. Rightly do believers explode with worship, admitting that God’s knowledge of us far surpasses our abilities (v. 6).
God’s knowledge of us is also unavoidable (vv. 7-12). Again, employing sets of opposites, David forces us to conclude that there is no place where we can go where God is not actively, and knowingly, present (v. 7). From the highest of heavens to the lowest parts of the earth (v. 8), from the eastern horizon of the sunrise to the western expanse of the sea (remember David was located in Israel) (v. 9), from the darkest night, to the brightest day (vv. 11-12), there God is leading and protecting us by His almighty hand (v. 10). God’s knowledge of us in unavoidable.
God’s knowledge of us is also very personal (vv. 13-18). God knows how I was formed in my mother’s womb (v. 13). God knows every little intricate detail of my make-up (v. 15). God knows the make-up of each of my days better than I do (v. 16). God thinks about the details of my life more than I possibly can (v. 17-18). Rightly can we all exclaim “I praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.” (v. 14). God’s knowledge of us is more personal than even our own knowledge of ourselves.
God’s knowledge of us is also spiritual (vv. 19-22). God knows my plea for justice and separation from evil and godless men (vv. 19-20). God knows how we hate those who do not worship God but set themselves against Him (vv. 21-22). God’s knowledge of us includes the spiritual realities that we can often only express in spirit when we pray.
With such a wonderful knowledge of God’s knowledge of us, we rightfully bare all before Him, asking Him to use His perfect knowledge of us to test our hearts, expose all ungodliness, and guide us to that which will last for all eternity (vv. 23-24).
It is fitting to end this reflection of Psalm 139 with the exclamations scattered throughout this Psalm.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me (v. 6)!
I praise you (v. 14)!
How precious to me are your thoughts, O God (v. 17)!
Lead me in the way everlasting (v. 24)!