I always go back to this verse — always find my fingers turning the pages in church, away from the verse displayed and to this verse. I whisper it in my head; I recite it at night; I pray with it; I mourn with it; it comforts me and shelters me. Psalm 139 is both intimate (revealing the relationship between the Father and myself) and vast (displaying God as Omniscient, Omnipresent, and Omnipotent). It’s a verse I first discovered in middle school when flipping through the pages of the Bible and confused where to start. Now, each time I read it, through each season of my life, it revives new meaning, new comfort, new insight, and further draws me into the Spirit. Here is only a glimmer of reflections — written more as a stream of consciousness than some scholarly analysis:
You have searched me, LORD, 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, LORD, know it completely.
Both terrifying and uplifting. God knows me so intimately well—even better than I know myself. He knows what truly motivates my actions, what lifts my spirit, what grieves me, and what I need to flourish. None of my ways are hidden to him. Intimacy develops from a relationship, and means that the Father loves me. He watches me, discerners my thoughts. He knows my thoughts from afar, even when I can’t express them—he knows. Within me, the Holy Spirit discerns my thoughts, probes my heart, cries out to God in a foreign language, a language that brought the world into being, that created Adam, the sun . . . life from dust.
You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.
The Creator, has laid his hand upon me. The Creator! And although he knows all my ways, knows all my thoughts, has scrutinized my path, knows my words…. I know only a small piece of him. I can only discern him (his love, his creative energies, his wisdom, his grace…) through small slivers of Heaven on Earth—through the Word, through my father’s love and patience, through my mom’s life and energy, through a preacher’s dedication, through my brother’s loyalty, through the sun’s warmth, through the emotional high of love, through the long-lasting covenant of marriage, through the fellowship of believers, through a baby’s first cry, through the majesty of the mountains, through the peace of a river, through the pure songs of birds, through the beauty of flowers… but he is infinitely greater than these. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty to attain.
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.
Not only does God intimately know me, but there is nothing I can do or that anyone can do to me to separate me from my Lord. There is nowhere I can hide in my shame, in my guilt, in my pain. God is not absent from me in suffering. No matter if I flee, rise, settle, or hide, he is there hearing my thoughts and calling to me speaking ancient poetry in ancient language to my heart. I find much comfort in this. Why hide? Why run? Instead, I fall face down before him, bringing my cares and worries, my pain and joy.
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.
YOU created me, Lord. Not man, not “chance.” Just as you spoke life into being with the first man, you spoke life into my body—giving me a moral compass, providing me with specific talents to serve your kingdom, certain passions in able to excel. You have placed me here on earth to continue your beautiful story, and placed me in the spot you chose to do your will, if I seek you. Before my parents planned me, before my parents were in love, before the creation of Adam, all my days were written in YOUR book!!! Wow. To think that although I hold only the Bible and only can read about a sliver of your story- YOU have the WHOLE book already written. At least we know the end and the end is “good” just like your creation. Your works are wonderful. And your works reflect your glory, your majesty. You, Lord, are the ultimate Poet, the most talented artist. Everything I see, you envisioned and effortlessly created.
How precious to me are your thoughts,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.
What an interesting juxtaposition. What does this mean? Was there any reference earlier to being asleep? Why does it come right after counting the grains of sand and reflecting on God’s thoughts? And not only this, but the speaker (David) implies that he is intimate with God’s own thoughts—he describes them as “precious” and “vast.” I do believe God speaks to people, and maybe people may describe it as a dream state—it’s like a voice from a sleepless dream coming into consciousness. For a moment, the world slows and you hear God’s voice, whether as a voice or a feeling… perhaps when we “awake” from this dream, during the periods God is not speaking, David wanted to remind us that God is still there, still listening, still guiding our lives and that his thoughts continue… his vast number of thoughts.
. . . Search me, 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.
Doesn’t this scare some of us? Asking God to search us? To test us? What does God see when he looks into my heart? But, there is humility in this desire, in the desire to be an open book. I know what I hope God sees when searching my heart, but do my actions reveal what I claim to believe? Romans 7:21-23 states, “So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members.” None of us are without evil thoughts, without bitterness, envy, wrath, deceit, and the like. We are human and we are fated to sin, but as Christians, we are perfected and deemed as righteous through Christ before the Father. When coming before the Father on judgment day, he does not see our sin! He does not place a heavy debt on us for our doings on earth – Christ paid our debt. He died so that we might have a relationship with the Father: thus, “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God” (Col 3:1). We are called, therefore, to be set apart, to strive to do good, to think on such worthy things: “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (Philippians 4:8).
– Kaley –