Psalms 139 is a real gem! It tells us fundamental things about who God is and what He’s like. It also tells us what we should be like in the face of those characteristics and actions of God. This Psalm needs to be read repeatedly in our Christian life but it needs to be understood by every person in this world because there are implications for all.
Do you realize how often you are on camera? Some studies suggest that the average American is caught on camera 75 times per day. What? Whether it’s at the bank, an elevator, coffee shop, public transportation, traffic cams, security cameras at businesses or church, whatever you’re doing is captured by a camera. We tend to not like to think about that, but it’s true.
I’ll let you in on my routine here on Sunday morning. I usually get here after praying and reading at home, at about 9:15am for the 10 am service. I go up to my office, get out what I need for the service. I did that this morning. After praying some more, I gather my stuff and head on down to the Sanctuary. Along the way there’s security cameras. I’m very conscious of my behavior when I pass them. I don’t pick my nose. I don’t dance my way down the hall. I don’t check to see if my clothes are together. I usually smile and when I get close to the camera I give a salute. Because I know somebody is watching. I’m on camera.
To everyone in the nursery right now, we’re watching you! So stop teaching the kids the chicken dance, okay?
The Psalm we’re going to cover today is a real gem. It is thought of as the most sublime compositions in the world by at least one commentator. It’s something that Christians have found treasure in for a very long time and it bears regular reading. There’s so much here.
But there are two ways to read this Psalm.
We’re going to look at this Psalm from the second perspective, that this is primarily about God with implications for man.
What do we learn about God?
O Lord, You have searched me and known me.
2 You know my sitting down and my rising up;
You understand my thought afar off.
3 You comprehend my path and my lying down,
And are acquainted with all my ways.
4 For there is not a word on my tongue,
But behold, O Lord, You know it altogether.
God searches every human heart and knows every detail, past, present and future.
He’s Omniscient. That means that God knows everything there is to know. Searching here means “to dig into”, like on purpose look into details that are only found by a thorough examination. God, on purpose, searches.
He knows the in’s and out’s of your life, from the normals of life to the extraordinary, to our manner, our way of doing things, our habits.
And He knows everything we communicate, before we even know. In other words, you’re on camera. 24/7, no exceptions no holidays, it’s that thorough.
If you’re going to be on camera throughout your day, does it matter who is behind the camera and watching? Absolutely.
I remodeled our main bathroom a couple of years ago at Robin and the girl’s request. It’s pretty much their bathroom and so there were some girly accommodations that needed to be made. Like the mirror and the lights above the mirror. They wanted the brightest lights and a new mirror, you know, for makeup, things like that. Oh, it’s bright. I stand up close to that mirror and I can see every pore on my face, every little crease and old scar. Whoa, too much of me! But if there’s going to be that kind of clarity, it’s just going to be me looking. Because I want to know that the one seeing that kind of detail cares about what’s seen, good or bad, and is looking for a way to improve it. That’s me. Or in the girl’s cases, them, with the makeup, etc. so that they are their beautiful best.
God is the One searching us out completely, and His intentions are good.
You have hedged me behind and before,
And laid Your hand upon me.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
It is high, I cannot attain it.
God hedges his people. Sees their vulnerabilities and instead of condemning, protects or hedges them. It’s because it’s God behind the lens, David here says that the knowledge that it’s Him is “too wonderful”. It’s more than good because He’s not looking to destroy but to change and improve.
We learn that God is omnipresent.
Where can I go from Your Spirit?
Or where can I flee from Your presence?
8 If I ascend into heaven, You are there;
If I make my bed in hell, behold, 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 fall on me,”
Even the night shall be light about me;
12 Indeed, the darkness shall not hide from You,
But the night shines as the day;
The darkness and the light are both alike to You.
It doesn’t matter where I am, there is simply no barrier to His Presence no matter how extreme physically and spiritually. As high or low, as bright or totally dark it may be, as distant and different as you may think you’ve become, you cannot escape His searching. God is everywhere, all at the same time.
We learn that God is involved in your life directly. He’s a careful observer, but not just an observer. He’s actively involved.
For You formed my inward parts;
You covered me in my mother’s womb.
14 I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Marvelous are Your works,
And that my soul knows very well.
15 My frame was not hidden from You,
When I was made in secret,
And skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed.
And in Your book they all were written,
The days fashioned for me,
When as yet there were none of them.
Who made you? Well, Mom and Dad. No, Who formed you after having initiated you? It was God Himself, personally. And because of it, I am made fearfully and wonderfully for His unique purposes in my life.
Well, I don’t like how I am made. I have a birth defect or whatever the modern term might be for something amiss in a child’s formation. Tragedy, problems, diseases are all the result of the rebellion and fall of man. But God looks into every single life and chooses how that life is finally formed. Did He fail when someone is born without limbs? No, He gave grace by design for that life to fulfill a grand purpose, no matter how long. Freedom and purpose comes from us “praising Him” for how we are made and then being good stewards of the gift.
He planned out my days. The number of them and the situation of them. My life is not random, even if it seems to be.
His thoughts of you are limitless and continual.
How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God!
How great is the sum of them!
18 If I should count them, they would be more in number than the sand;
When I awake, I am still with You.
Thoughts here is a word that has a root in the word for “companion or friend”. It’s plural and means that God has plans that are for you, not against you. And those thoughts are so numerous, so continual, that I can assure you that God is thinking of you right now. And He’s not out to ruin your life but to make it all that He designed it to be, while you are relating to Him closely. I am still with you.
These attributes of God give me and mankind a choice: follow Him and His plans or reject Him.
.19 – .22
Oh, that You would slay the wicked, O God!
Depart from me, therefore, you bloodthirsty men.
20 For they speak against You wickedly;
Your enemies take Your name in vain.
21 Do I not hate them, O Lord, who hate You?
And do I not loathe those who rise up against You?
22 I hate them with perfect hatred;
I count them my enemies.
The rejection of God is only trouble. And for me to draw a line between right and wrong, and to hate the wrong and rebellious is actually godly. We tolerate so much that is in rebellion against God when we should be standing up to it or at least steering clear of it with a passion.
God is in our business to change us for the better. That should be a comfort that we comply with and not an opportunity for fear in an ungodly way.
Search me, O God, and know my heart;
Try me, and know my anxieties;
24 And see if there is any wicked way in me,
And lead me in the way everlasting.
So Lord, I know that You see everything. You’re the One behind the camera. Even and especially when it comes to me, when you see something that’s not right, from my troubled thoughts (anxieties) to the ways in my life that I can’t see, point them out to me. And lead me in the way everlasting. Continue to clean me up. Continue to ferret out wickedness in me. Because I know that as I repent and seek your forgiveness that I’ll experience improvement from my discomfort in being so exposed to you.
This Psalm is primarily about God. But we get much that applies to us here too. We can live a different life, knowing that God’s good intentions make this kind of scrutiny good.