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Psalm 139 - God Knows You Very Well!

David the shepherd

By Dennis Pollock

Of the 150 psalms in the Bible, the 23rd Psalm is hands down the most popular. After that the 91st Psalm, what we know as the “Protection Psalm,” would rank pretty high, as would the 119th Psalm, which speaks of the beauty of the laws and precepts of God. But one Psalm which probably doesn’t get as much fame as it rightly deserves is the 139th Psalm. This is a psalm written by King David, and for beauty, insight, and eloquence, I think it ranks as high as any of them.

David was in a reflective mood when he wrote this. This is not his typical, “Lord save me, my enemies are about to swallow me up,” or his praise-for-answered-prayer type psalm. I could imagine David sitting under a shade tree on a calm and quiet day in his later years, thinking about all God’s blessings in his life, and all His dealings with him. David’s conclusion as he meditates on God and the relationship he has had with God since his youth is that no aspect of his life is hidden from Him. And recognizing this amazing truth, David gets out his pen and paper and begins to write.

He states at the beginning of this beautiful psalm:

O LORD, You have searched me and known me.
You know my sitting down and my rising up;
You understand my thought afar off (Psalm 139:1-2).

God Knows Our Thoughts

By now, after years of walking with God, being promoted by God, being rebuked and chastened by God, and having sweet fellowship with God, David realizes that there is nothing in his life that is hidden from his Creator. It is as though David’s life and actions were under a microscope (not that there was such a thing in those days), and God saw it all – David’s praises and prayers, his blunders and sins, his activities, and everything else. When the king sat down, God knew it, and when he rose from his chair or couch, God saw that too.

Even his thoughts were known to God. As far away as God’s throne in heaven was from Jerusalem, where David’s throne was, there wasn’t a thought that ran across his mind that God didn’t see and know it.

David continues:

You comprehend my path and my lying down,
And are acquainted with all my ways (Ps 139:3)

Previously he wrote that God knew him sitting and rising, which covers essentially all one’s daytime activity. But now he states that God also sees him while he is lying down at night. So essentially God sees it all, whether we are sitting, standing, or lying down, we never move out of His vision. Not only does God observe our posture; he is acquainted with all our “ways.” Our ways are our habits, our routines, the normal activities and patterns that we engage in day after day.

Our “Ways”

Men and women are creatures of routine. Sometimes we go through a shift in our lives, such as when we get married, or change jobs, or move from one state to another, but it doesn’t take us long to develop a new set of routines and daily patterns. This is true for kings and presidents, and for janitors and computer technicians. We all have our patterns and habits. And David declares here that God sees it all. Our rising at 6:30 am, our breakfasts, our drives to work, our friendships, our church attendance (or lack thereof), and the shows we like to watch on television. We all have ways, and God sees and knows every single one of them.

But God’s knowledge of us goes deeper still. David continues:

For there is not a word on my tongue,
But behold, O LORD, You know it altogether (Ps 139:4).

Even the words we speak are all known to God. Our Creator has excellent hearing. He never has to ask, “What did you say?” the way we do. He hears it all perfectly the first time. Every complaint we make, every expression of our love for God, every encouraging word we share with someone who is hurting, every time we tell our spouses of our love for them, or every time we tell our spouses their faults – God hears it all!

God is no Deist!

By now we are starting to get the tenor of this Psalm. The God David speaks of is far from the God the deists declare. Deism suggests that, yes, there is a God, but He only involves Himself with the big affairs of the earth. He has no time or interest in our little day-to day business. He has created the world, established various laws by which it will run, and removed Himself from it. Almost like one might wind up a toy and then leave it to whatever it is supposed to do – play cymbals, walk across the floor, or whatever. He has no time for you, little man or little woman!

But the God of David is the very opposite of this. He knows us intimately and is keenly aware of every aspect of who we are, what we say, and all our habits. Jesus Christ would come along many centuries after King David and confirm that this is indeed the nature of our Creator. Jesus tells us:

Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows (Mat 10:29-31).

Nothing happens on this earth without God’s involvement and awareness in some way or another. We can have theological discussions on whether God is “causing” things to happen, or in some cases “allowing” things to happen, but whether causing or allowing, whether powerfully directing or simply permitting, God is never either ignorant or uninvolved in any single thing happening in our world and in our lives. Not even sparrows can fall to the ground and die without the Father’s permission and involvement. And certainly, this must apply to people as well – not just prime ministers and celebrities, but school teachers and Wal Mart employees.

No Escape

David goes on to declare that there is no escape from this all-powerful, all-knowing, all-seeing God. He states:

If I take the wings of the morning,
And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
Even there Your hand shall lead me,
And Your right hand shall hold me (Ps 139:9-10).

Morning comes with the speed of light, yet David declares that even if he could attain such blazing speed he could never outrun God. The farthest place any person of David’s age could imagine going was far out into the ocean, but still even if he could find a way to head out to sea and go many days at the speed of light, at the end of his journey, God would be right there, directing him, holding him, and keenly aware of all he was doing and thinking.

In fact the prophet Jonah did try to escape God’s plan for his life by going out to sea, although not at lightspeed, and found that God followed him in his journey, and directed a storm his way that would force Jonah to repent and obey His Creator’s command to go and preach to the people of Nineveh.

Comfort for the Child of God

This is not exactly good news for the rebellious and the wicked, but for the children of God this is a wonderful thought. Regardless of where we move, what season of our lives we are in, and what difficult circumstances we experience, our loving, protecting, encouraging, comforting, prayer-answering Heavenly Father, our Lord Jesus Christ, and our Comforter, the Holy Spirit are always with us. One of Satan’s ploys to distress and discourage the children of God is to whisper to them that God has forgotten us; He doesn’t see or notice us. We have somehow moved out of His radar, and we have been left on our own. This Psalm tells us this is never the case. It is impossible for the son or daughter of God to ever be truly alone. Jesus says, “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Mat 28:20).

In this brief study I cannot share every verse and every thought, but there is one major theme which cannot be ignored. David not only recognizes God as seeing Him perfectly and knowing him totally; he also declares that God was involved in his life even before his birth. He writes:

For You formed my inward parts;
You covered me in my mother’s womb.
I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made… (Ps 139:13-14).

David is speaking not just for himself but for all of us. We are fearfully and wonderfully made by our Creator during our eight or nine months inside our mothers after conception. Regardless of whether our parents were married at our birth, regardless of whether we grew up in a loving Christian family or a dysfunctional ungodly family, we are a masterpiece of our Creator. Attributes were built within us, gifts given to us, innate tendencies placed inside us before we ever had the ability to ask God for this gift or that. You may say, “I don’t think God did too great with me – I am so ordinary and mediocre!” But in truth God did a beautiful job in creating you. You are precisely who you were made to be, and you possess within you all the personality attributes, all the intelligence, all the talents you need to glorify God, once you are born again and receive the Holy Spirit.

Destroying God’s Masterpiece

This concept speaks powerfully against the practice of abortion. If God is the Master-designer of human beings, if every pregnant woman is experiencing the creative hand of God at work in her womb, putting her baby together in a unique fashion, with the potential to bring great honor to His name and bring about awesome benefits to people everywhere, who are we to interrupt God’s great work through abortion.

Imagine going to the studio of a master artist who has been working on a painting for seven months. The colors are beautiful, the composition is a masterpiece, the lighting is perfect, and every brush stroke is perfectly placed. You knock the artist out of the way, and before he can react, you pull out a large knife and cut the painting to shreds. Can you imagine the anger of that artist? Do you suppose God is so very different when women today allow a doctor to burn their babies to death in a saline solution or slice them to pieces with surgical instruments?

Search Me!

David concludes this magnificent Psalm with these words:

Search me, O God, and know my heart;
Try me, and know my anxieties;
And see if there is any wicked way in me,
And lead me in the way everlasting (Ps 139:23-24).

Having established the omniscience of God, David opens his life and his heart to his loving Creator and says essentially, “Have at it, Lord! Search me from top to bottom, from my thoughts to my words to my deeds. Cleanse me from wickedness and lead me in the way that pleases You.”

There is one important subject, however, upon which David is silent. And that is Jesus Christ. This is perfectly understandable, given that Jesus would not arrive on the scene for many generations. But today, we know that it is not enough for God to know all about us. He does, of course, but apart from Jesus Christ in our lives, God would find things like sin, selfishness, greed, insecurity, impatience, and lots of other ugly things. And He would find such things in us all. It is only by putting our faith in Jesus, and embracing His death of the cross and resurrection, that we can take comfort in the knowledge that God knows everything there is to know about us.

When God does search us, He finds good and bad, strengths and weaknesses, mistakes and sins, and virtues and acts of kindness. Even the best of us are a mixed bag for God’s probing eyes. But when we receive Jesus as our Savior, the righteousness of Christ is mysteriously and miraculously applied to our lives and our hearts, and God can be truly pleased. And by possessing the life and virtue of our Savior, the only Man who ever lived a totally pure life, we are forgiven, we are accepted, and we are embraced by God as His beloved children. And just as David prayed, we can be sure that Jesus, our Good Shepherd, will “lead us in the way everlasting.”


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