A REFLECTION ON PSALM 139:1-12
1 O Lord, you have searched me and known me!
2 You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from afar.
3 You search out my path and my lying down
and are acquainted with all my ways.
4 Even before a word is on my tongue,
behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.
5 You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is high; I cannot attain it.
7 Where shall I go from your Spirit?
Or where shall I flee from your presence?
8 If I ascend to heaven, you are there!
If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
9 If I take the wings of the morning
and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
10 even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
and the light about me be night,”
12 even the darkness is not dark to you;
the night is bright as the day,
for darkness is as light with you
As a little boy I attended a small Methodist church in my hometown of Kings Mountain, NC. It was there I learned the song “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands”- with all of its motions might I add. But as a little boy singing this repetitive, catchy chorus that I am sure many adults and children know well, the image of a BIG, magnificent, and awesome God was impressed upon my young mind. Indeed, this is the teaching of Scripture that God is BIG, that He is the creator of this world, and sits on His throne as the sovereign king of the entire universe and He’s so big that He has all of the galaxies and planets in His hand, and He knows everything about these galaxies and planets. Nothing of the universe is unknown to God.
But as the song goes onto say not only does God have the whole world in His hands, He also has you and me brother, and you and me sister in His hands. Scripture teaches us that not only is God powerful and transcendent, but Scripture also teaches that God is a personal God, He’s immanent, He’s near. He is not a remote and removed God, but He is a deeply personal God who has us, as it were, in the palm of His hands. God not only has perfect knowledge of the universe, but also has perfect, personal knowledge of His children. The question we must answer at all times, but especially during the COVID-19 crisis is: to what extent does God know us and to what extent does God care for us? One my favorite and most wonderful Psalms of David is Psalm 139 that drives home the point that God has perfect knowledge of you and of me.
God knows everything about me (omniscience) (vv. 1-6)
In verses 1-6 David has come face to face with the extent of God’s knowledge, namely God’s perfect knowledge. When we say that God’s knowledge is perfect it is to say nothing could be added to His knowledge as if to give Him more, and nothing could be subtracted as if to take away.
In theological terms this is what is referred to as God’s omniscience, meaning God knows everything. There is nothing that God does not know – make it personal this morning – God knows everything about me. Given this, there is nothing in your life that God is not aware of, because says David (v.1), “O LORD you have searched me and known me!”
He Has Searched me & known me (v.1)
David addresses his meditation to Yahweh, the covenantal name of God, signifying the personal connection God has to His people and His people have to Him. And Yahweh has searched and known David. These two imperatives – searched and known – convey the Lord knows absolutely everything about David’s being. This word “Search” means to spy out, just like Caleb spied (Numbers 13-14). Therefore, God knows everything there is to know about who you are. This search and know is not just a one-time act, but as David continues he reminds us God has a continual connection with us.
God knows what I do (v.2a)
Says, David, “You know when I sit down and when I rise up”. The idea here is to communicate that from beginning to end God knows everything you do. From the start of your day to the end of your day. From the moment of your first cry, to the moment of your last breath. When I meet people one of the first things I ask someone is, “What do you do?” Most often people reply telling me of what their profession is. Sometimes people will reply, “well I don’t really know what I do.” What we do communicates our activities. If someone says they are a teacher, I know most have summers off, they go to work very early, etc. Often as we go about our jobs or activities we may feel unnoticed or no one cares. But from beginning to end God knows everything we do.
God knows what I think (v.2b)
“you discern my thoughts from afar” This is incredible! God knows what you think. Everyone else may see your actions, but God sees your thoughts. Those things unknown to others are known to God. Our plans, ambitions, dreams, goals, fears, they are all known to the eternal God.
God knows what I plan (v.3)
“you search out my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all of my ways” God is never surprised. He has searched, scrutinized and sifted through our life. He knows everything about your life. It should change our prayer life, because we are not updating God on what our plans are. He already knows what they are. He doesn’t need a status update. God doesn’t need to wake up first thing in the morning and check our Facebook status to know you have a job interview for a job you desperately need because you have been out of work since the COVID-19 began.
God knows what I am going to say (v.4)
“Even before a word is on my tongue, behold O Lord you know it altogether.” God knows what I am going to say. God knows what I am going to say before I say it. I will even take it beyond that: not only does God know what I am going to say before I say it, but He knows everything I am going to say even before I know I am going to say it! How? Because He knows your heart, says Jesus, “out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matthew 12:34). If you have been married for a while you most likely have developed the skill of finishing your spouse’s sentences, or in a given situation you know how they will respond because you have a glimpse of their heart and who they are.
God knows what I need (v.5)
“You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me.” Because God knows what you need His hand is around you and on you to guide and direct you. He knows where you need to go and what you need. You may think you know what direction your life should take or what you need. I believe it is safe to say that many of us have made decisions based on what we think that we need at the time only to find out that it really wasn’t what we needed after all. But God has placed His hand on you, and He will lead you because He knows what you need. Nothing is ever unknown to God, because nothing is unforeseen to Him as he knows the future equally well.
This perfect knowledge is beyond our ability to comprehend (v.6)
After meditating on this David says, (v.6) “such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high: I cannot attain it.” David’s response to this magnificent truth is a humble recognition that he cannot possibly grasp the greatness of God’s knowledge. Indeed, how is the finite to grasp the infinite? This infinite God’s perfect knowledge is beyond our finite ability to comprehend.
The LORD knows everything about me, therefore, I cannot escape Him (omnipresence) (vv. 7-12)
In verse 7 David asks two questions: “Where shall I go from your Spirit? Where shall I flee from your presence?” These questions are hypothetical in nature because David recognizes that there is nowhere He can run to escape the presence of God. Why? Because God is everywhere. This is what is referred to as God’s omnipresence. His presence is with you right now.
David says that even if we make our bed in Sheol, meaning that even if we face death or are in the darkest and most difficult times God is there: Psalm 23; “Yea, even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.”
He is with me and I am never out of his reach, even if you try to run away from God, you can’t! (v.10). Even when we turn our backs on Him He doesn’t turn His back on us. He never leaves us or forsakes us. When we are far he remains near. This should be encouraging to us. When we do feel alone, when we are in the dark night of the soul, we can rest assure that God is here.
J.I. Packer says in his incredible book, Knowing God, “What matters supremely, therefore is not, the fact that I know God, but the larger fact which underlies it – the fact that He knows me.” Everything we know of Him flows from His initiative in knowing us. I know him, because He first knew me, and continues to know me. God knows us personally, and if you are a child of God you can rest assured: God knows everything about you.
In Part II we will see how David responds to this wonderful truth of God’s perfect knowledge.
Authored by Justin Roper, Pastor at Charlotte Awake