Psalm 139

Psalm 139
as a video song

There are times that seem so hard, so disappointing, so lonely, even abandoned. Where is God when you need him? Does he have any idea of what’s going on in my life? Does he care? Is he even real?

Then you read a psalm like this one, Psalm 139.

Is it true? Is it telling the truth?  Could it really be like this? Is this reality? Because, if it is, then this is psalm brings comfort, encouragement, peace. and a wonderful opportunity. 

Now I want to tell you that is most certainly true, and very real, every word of it.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.  The heavens and the earth exist and proclaim the glory of God.  God most certainly exists and he knows you personally.  

Read this psalm, relish it, find comfort in it, find encouragement and strength in it. God wants each of us to enjoy it.

How well does God know you?

13For you created my inmost being;

you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

14I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;

your works are wonderful,

I know that full well.

15My 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.

16Your eyes saw my unformed body;

all the days ordained for me were written in your book

before one of them came to be.

God has known you for longer than you have known yourself.  Even before you were born he knew all about you.  He knew far more about you than even your mother knew or more than your mother ever came to know about you, and God knew it even before you were born.

Our incredibly complex bodies are a challenge to the most intelligent of scientists. Doctors are continually trying to work out what to do with you. We are fearfully and wonderfully made and God created us in our mother’s womb. It was he who wove our wonderful bodies together. Even before we were born we were not hidden from God. He knew all about us and how we came into being. Each of us is one of God’s wonderful works.

Really? Surely God has too much to do to be bothered by me.  With all the other people in the world I am pretty insignificant.  If I make it to 100 I might get a card from the King but that doesn’t make me that noticeable by God.

Think that and you have it all wrong.

You know that God gave the word and the universe came into being, and what a universe it is! If Almighty God can throw a universe together how much trouble would it be to see that you were conceived, were born and have lived through to today? That was no trouble to God, just as the  creation of the universe was no trouble to him.

Indeed, your conception and the fearful and wonderful process that is the weaving together of the precious and intricate formation of your frame in that secret place, that hidden place, is exactly where God wanted to be.  Nothing in that process was hidden from God. He knit you together.  He saw everything and God himself wove it all together.

We sing the song and rejoice in the experience,

How sweet to hold a newborn baby,

And feel the pride and joy he gives;

And it is an awesome experience, the birth of a small child. For God, this sense of wonder and exultation is so precious to him that his love for the newly forming child starts long before its birth. God loved you before you were born and he hasn’t stopped loving you.

We find it sweet to hold a newborn baby but are awed and moved by the wonderful thing that before its birth God himself was holding the unborn baby. God himself felt the pride and joy it gives.  The pride he could so reasonably feel because this baby was so fearfully and wonderfully made by its heavenly Father, creator God.

We know very well that not everything goes the way we would want it.  In our spoiled world some babies suffer with difficulties, deformities or do not live to be born at all. While we wish it were otherwise we still know that each baby is born in the love and the arms of God.

How sweet to hold a newborn baby,

And feel the pride and joy he gives;

But greater still the calm assurance:

This child can face uncertain days because He Lives!

We weren’t thrust into the world purposeless, helpless, and certainly not hopeless. All of the days of our life were known and recorded in God’s book.  Before we were conceived, while we were still unformed, before our bodies took shape, God knew all about each of us.

Sometimes the conception of a child takes us by surprise.  We might call it an unplanned pregnancy. But this psalm tells us that no conception, no child, no one takes God by surprise.  Each of us is part of God’s plan.

Part of God’s plan was that you should live long enough to see this day.  Part of God’s plan was that you should be here this morning.  All the days of each our lives were so clearly determined by God that he put it down in writing well before each day started.

But that was only the beginning.

1You have searched me, Lord, and you know me.

2You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar.

3You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.

4Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely.

5You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me.

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

There hasn’t been a moment throughout your whole life when God hasn’t known what you were doing. He knows when you got out of bed on each and every day.  He knows when you sat down and when you went shopping and how long you watched TV.

There was that evening when the sunset made you stand in awe and just soak it all in while never really understanding why it moved you as it did.  God saw your thoughts and relished the emotion and the pleasure with you. Perhaps, without giving it conscious thought you were worshiping the Almighty God who was sharing all this with you and loving you for it.

God perceives your thoughts - every one. He even perceived your thoughts as you kicked your toe on the way to bed. He knows it all. And loves you for it. 

I’m no mind reader.  I don’t know what you are thinking. God does.  What are you thinking about right now?  

God knows what you’re thinking.  And whatever it is doesn’t shock God. It doesn’t even take him by surprise.  He knows what you are like. He knows your habits!

Thoughts are important if only that the thinking leads to what you are going to say or do.   Before a word is on your tongue the Lord knows exactly what it is and what the thought behind it is.

Jesus gave us an example of how this works when he met Nathanael.  Nathanael was a friend and neighbour of Philip who brought Nathanael to meet Jesus. “When Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him, he said of him, “Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!” 

Nathanael must have been surprised by this and asked, 

“Where did you get to know me?” Jesus answered, “I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.” Nathanael replied, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!”

When Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him, he said of him, “Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit”. How does Jesus greet you?

As wonderful as it is that Jesus knows us so well we know that, more often than not, such good news often comes with a but.  You have probably already realised that and have figured out what it is. Each of us can remember times when we rather Jesus knew nothing about it.

Nathanael received a wonderful, so very positive reception from Jesus but this wasn’t the case for everyone.

When Jesus healed a crippled man he also announced that his sins were forgiven. Matthew 9:3At this, some of the teachers of the law said to themselves, ‘This fellow is blaspheming!’4Knowing their thoughts, Jesus said, ‘Why do you entertain evil thoughts in your hearts? 

Jesus knew their thoughts.  He also knew their attitudes, their motives and their errors and he didn’t hold back when he pointed out to them how wrong they were.

Matthew 23:27 ‘Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. 28In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness. …33 ‘You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell? 

We know that God is not interested in our religious performance. God knows our hearts. 

And God knows as well as we know that that aspect of our lives is not always what it should be, and then we suspect Jesus would talk to us in much the same way he talked to the hypocrites.  

So when this happens what do we do about it?

The standard reaction we have when we know we have been caught out is to be too embarrassed to be anywhere near God.  The standard behaviour when we feel guilty about something is to hide from God, to avoid him. The example was set for us by Adam and Eve in Genesis 3:8-10

8Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. 9But the Lord God called to the man, ‘Where are you?’10He answered, ‘I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.’ 

Now when God called to the man, ‘Where are you?’ Do you imagine for one moment that God was playing hide and seek? Does the ludicrous thought cross your mind that God didn’t know where they were?

They hid from the Lord among the trees of the garden.  The silliness of their behaviour only makes them look more foolish. Psalm 139 makes that quite obvious.

7Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?

8If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.

9If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea,

10even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.

11If I say, ‘Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,’

12even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day,

for darkness is as light to you.

We know how foolish it is to try to avoid God when we have let him down, offended him.  When we have sinned.  It is so uncomfortable to confront God honestly at those times but it is foolishness to try to avoid him.  We let our pride overpower our conscience, confuse our logic, suppress our yearning to put things right, even to repent, to confess, to accept forgiveness.

The reality is clear. You know the answer to the questions, “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?” What options can we try? Go to heaven? Die? Get up early? Go to a far country? 

Try hiding in the dark. How does the dark limit God? Obviously, not at all: the night will shine like the day for God.

Romans 8:37-39 tells us

37No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

There is no point at all in trying to hide from God.  Rather than try to hide anything from God take up the offer he makes to you. Be real, be honest with God. Take his hand which he holds out to you, ready to guide you.  His right hand will hold you fast.

When Jesus met Nathanael he said, “I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.”

We don’t really know which fig tree it was but Jesus and Nathanael seemed to know which one it was and where it was, but we do know Nathanael was under it.  One suggestion is that it was a tree in Nathanael’s garden under which Nathanael sat to pray. Nathanael was a man in whom was no deceit.  In other words, to Jesus he was an open book. No hiding, no hypocrisy just up-front honesty. 

Where is God right now? We have just read that he is right here because you are right here. And we also know that to Jesus you, too, are an open book. So don’t bother hiding. Find your own version of a fig tree and talk with Father God who loves you so much. Just be honest with him. 

Having made it clear that God knows absolutely everything about us how should we respond?

The psalm writer’s response hardly seems necessary yet here it is:

23Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.

24See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting

As we have been seeing, God knows all about us.  He has done from before we were conceived up to this very moment. Yet now the psalm leads us to this prayer, asking God to have yet another, even closer, updated look at me.

This makes it very personal. These are words you use to say to God directly, personally, prayerfully. Here we are saying, I know you know all about me, God, but please have another, closer, thorough, more intimate look at me. 

23Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.

24See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting

Know my heart. Test me. Know my thoughts.

See if there is anything about me that in any way offends you, O God.

This is a prayer in which we deliberately ask God to point out our failings to us. And when he has done this we confess our sins and ask for forgiveness.  It’s a prayer where we ask God to lead us in the way everlasting.  

In other words, Lord, tell me what I should do about my thoughts, my offences, my heart, so I can honestly confess my failings and then rejoice in the forgiveness you offer then, with your help, I can go on living the way you want me to, being the person you want me to be.

Sometimes it’s easier to sing a prayer than to say it. Let’s sing this prayer first then take some quiet time to pray it personally.

Search Me O God

1514 Modified: 14-01-2024
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