Reading – Psalm 139:1-16, 23-24
1 You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. 2 You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. 3 You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. 4 Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely. 5 You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me. 6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.
7 Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? 8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. 9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, 10 even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. 11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” 12 even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you. 13 For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. 14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. 15 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. 16 Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. 23 Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. 24 See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting
Whenever life’s trials come their way and the enemy reaches out to grip my heart, my first line of defence will forever be the psalms. Whenever I am in dire need of the assurance and promise of God’s faithfulness to those who love him, the psalms is to me like whenever I would do something stupid as a child and my grandmother would put arnica cream on a burn or a cut, she would rub it on and, almost instantly, the pain is soothed away and my heart rate lowers, and my mind clears up. I adore the psalms like nothing else, because what makes them unique is the most perfect intermarriage between the heart of man and the breath of God. The psalms are the prayerful, worshipping response of God’s faithfulness in the lives of his children. Psalm 139 is a psalm of David, so for us it is an insight into the heart of the man whose relationship with God, scholars claim, is second only to Jesus Christ himself. But not only is it an insight into the heart of man, but it, along with all of scripture, is perfectly inspired by God through his Holy Spirit, and therefore it is God’s own insight into his assurances and character. There is no naive optimism, or blind faith in the words of the psalter; Dietrich Bonehoffer refers to the psalms as the “prayer book of Jesus Christ”. The most perfect, spirit led, heartfelt prayer and worship of God, from the perspective of those who know his faithfulness. As we go into this psalm, its so important to remember that these declarations of God’s faithfulness are not a response to being told by others about who God is, these words, David’s words, are the response to his own personal, intimate relationship with God, the response to God’s working in his own life. God works, and David lifts his eyes to heaven and praises Him “Oh Lord, you have searched me and know me”.
And so when we look at the words of Psalm 139, we are given such fruitful insight into the assurance of God’s loving character and his faithfulness. There are three aspects of God’s character and promise that we are assured of in these words; Firstly that God knows you, more intimately than what is possible for another human being, secondly that God is always with you, his presence is always with you, even when when your heart tells you otherwise, and thirdly that God himself created you in your entirety, and that you are created with life-long purpose. And finally we can see what the response of our hearts is when we come to terms with these assurances of God’s character and promise.
Firstly, God knows you. “You have searched me, Lord, and you know me”. “You perceive my thoughts from afar”. “You are familiar with all my ways.”. Through the heart and words of David, God makes it known to us that He knows us in a way unattainable for another human. He does not know us as a friend would know us, nor even as a father or mother would know us; he has searched us and knows us. He has examined the innermost emotions, characteristics and desires of our hearts and is familiar, or acquainted, with all of our ways. The Lord is not a distant God, or a superficial God. At the beginning of the book of John, we see Jesus gathering his disciples, and one particular example that wonderfully demonstrates the intimate knowledge of God is the calling of Nathanael in chapter 1 – Phillip found Nathanael and said to him, “we have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” Nathanael said to him “can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Phillip said to him, come and see.” Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, “behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered him, “Before Phillip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.”
The great comfort of these words is that there is nothing in the entirety of our existence that we have to say or do for God to know us more. When we come to God with our hearts broken in pieces by the trials of life, we don’t need to say a single word for God to know. Romans 8:28 says “Likewise the Spirit (that is the Holy Spirit) helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words” God knows us so well that when our hearts are too broken to even comprehend how to put it into words God himself intercedes and interprets our hearts. And not only that, but as we see in verse 4 – “before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely.” Not only does God know us intimately, but he knows what is on our hearts even before we do. God’s eternal nature means that the 60, 70, 80 years of our lives are but a drop of water in the palm of his hand. Every heartbeat, every yearning, every need.
“Where can I go from your Spirit?, where can I flee from your presence? If I got to the heavens, you are there. If I make my bed in the depths, you are there.” The attributes and characteristics of God are as eternal as his existence. When the Lord tells us “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and end”, not only is this a declaration of his everlasting and eternal existence, but also an assurance of the eternal nature of his promises to us and his characteristics. And so we see here, that God is always present. There is no were we can go or nothing we can do that will separate us from God. God knows us and is with us at all times. Back in John, Jesus foretells of him having to return to the Father and of the coming of the Holy Spirit saying “if anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him”. David takes this even further in verse 10 when he says “even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.” So no matter what, God is not only present but he is leading us. For as long as we submit to him in all our ways by the power of the Holy Spirit and the teachings of his word, God will be actively directing and guiding our every step. And the real significance of this fact is made known in 11 and 12; “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.” The most powerful weapon of the enemy will always be fear. When David says the light will become night around me, he looks ahead to when fear will grip his heart. He knows of the inevitability of fear and acknowledges that it will come in its due season, but God tells us that darkness is as light to him. 1 John 4:18 says “Perfect love (that being Jesus) casts out fear”. The darkest days of our lives are all part of God’s ever present, ever working hand guiding us faithfully down the path of righteousness and fulfilment.
And so God is saying to you that he knows you, not only does he know you but he is with you, not only is he with you but he is guiding your every step, as part of his perfect plan for your life, not only this but God created every intimate detail of your existence himself, for a purpose. “You knit me together in my mother’s womb” “I was woven together in the depths of the earth”. Here we see the language of creation. Of a relationship between creator and created. The use of the word knit gives this image of great intimacy and delicate detail. God didn’t just create your general existence and leave the details up to chance. He knit every strand of DNA, every desire, every strength and every weakness. “all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be”. You were intimately created with a specific and unique purpose. This word ordained is quite commonly known in a ministry context, the idea of the minister being ordained, but here we see all of God’s church are ordained, or called, or set-apart. Even before our existence came to be, Our Father God anointed us for a life-long purpose of love. Matthew 22:37-40 “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” If nothing else, take this away from this message; Every intimate detail of your existence was created in perfect timing and circumstance for the purpose of love. You were created in love, by love, for love. For as long as you seek above all to fulfil this calling, you will know peace that surpasses all understanding.
And finally, verses 23 and 24. “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”. What we see here is the natural response to the revelation of God’s nature. By the wonderful power of the Holy Spirit, David has this powerful revelation of God’s character. By the grace of God, David is shown that God knows him, is with him and created him. And his immediate response? – Rid me of all unrighteousness. I want to know you more Lord, but in my sin I am separated. I believe there is a beautiful juxtaposition of emotions in David’s heart through this revelation – there is overwhelming joy and delight over how wonderful are God’s ways, but there will at the same time be the heartbreaking revelation of how far we have fallen from God, and how much our sin separates us from his perfect ways. And so David cries out in desperation – sanctify me Lord! Cleanse me from all unrighteousness that I may know you more.
This is my challenge for you all, and for myself. Over these next few days and weeks, meditate over these revelations. Really consider the consequence and weight of the revelation that God knows you, more intimately than you know yourself. That God is in fact with you wherever you go, and is leading you through every battle, every struggle, every temptation. And that God has knit you together in his perfect way, for a perfect and fulfilling purpose. This is the God who poured fire upon entire cities in their unrighteousness. The God who stopped the sun in the sky. The God who parted the red sea and caused the earth to swallow up his enemies. How is this the same God who loves us so intimately and unconditionally? How is this the father God who leads us through all life’s struggles and has called us for a higher purpose? The answer is the picture of the same God, beaten, bleeding, broken, hanging on a cross, with the weight on every sin in history upon his shoulders, giving up his life for you, so that when you cry “sanctify me Lord! Lead me in the way everlasting!” You need only look to Jesus Christ, give thanks for the grace by which you are saved and knows that we need only to seek the Lord, and he will grant us greater relationship with him by the power of his Holy Spirit.