For the director of music. Of David. A psalm.
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.
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.
Where can I go from your Spirit?(Ps. 139:1-12 NIV)
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.
It is a great blessing to be known by God, to be one of His children and to be loved and cared for. The personal relationship that the Psalmist had with the Lord is the same as the relationship we have. It is good to meditate upon this Psalm to make ourselves aware of the way our relationship is with God. The Lord searches us, He knows, He knows completely, He discerns and He knows our hearts and minds. Sometimes we don’t even know our own minds. We are masters at equivocation and prevarication. Admittedly we don’t always deliberately behave like that, it is just that we feel we have lost our way and our own thoughts are not clear to ourselves. But our desires and thoughts are all clear to God. In one sense it can be frightening to think that our every thought is known, but if we think about it clearly we would realise that God will never misunderstand us, He will not attribute a meaning to our words or thoughts that we never intended. When we are in trouble or concerned about something, we have to think carefully about how we explain things to others, but we don’t want to always talk about it. When we bring the matter to God we are reassured that He knows exactly the issue and we don’t have to worry whether or not we are using the precise words to articulate ourselves.
The Lord knows our every move, when we sit down or when we get up. The Lord is the only one who can discern our thoughts, words and actions because He is the judge and He judges justly. The Lord is familiar with all our ways and even before a word is on our tongue the Lord knows it precisely and completely. This is encouraging and the Psalmist is encouraged because he knows that the Lord has hemmed him in. God is in front of us and behind us, He has been there in our past, with us in our present and ahead of us for our future. Part of St Patrick’s prayer is apropos:
Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks of me,
Christ in the eye that sees me,
Christ in the ear that hears me.
The Psalmist can only marvel at this; he says that it is all too wonderful for him too lofty for him to grasp. To think that God has every single event to deal with simultaneously but He still takes care to know all our thoughts and words. This is only possible because God is God. How many times we have slipped up in a moment’s lack of concentration. Many tasks that we have to accomplish require our entire focus and concentration. God does not have to strain to pay attention or ever suffer a lapse of memory. He knows the thoughts of everyone.
We can never run away from God or escape His presence. He is always there, perhaps not always perceived by us. If we go up to the heavens God is there, if we sink to the depths God is there. God is the all-seeing God. It is not that the Psalmist is trying to evade God he is coming to terms with what omnipresence means to him personally. The Lord’s presence is not limited to any territory.
‘The wings of the dawn’ is an interesting phrase. It has been suggested that this refers to the East and ‘the far side of the sea’ refers to the West. So travelling East or West God is still there.
Vs11-12 have been a great comfort to some who are frightened of the dark. I think it was John Piper who was putting his child to bed and the child wanted his dad to stay with him because he was afraid of the dark. John reassured his child that God was with him. The child replied ‘I know, but I would like somebody with skin’. We can understand how the child felt. Some people cope with loneliness better than others, it is nice to have human companionship. But here is something closer – God is there wherever we go and He understands us completely.
The darkness may frighten us because we don’t know whether there is something hiding in the darkness, but God is with us and even the darkest night is like light to God.
Far too wonderful for me:
Lord God before this prayer is prayed it is known already to You, yet You still bid us to come and lift up our voice to You. You are all knowing but You call us to come and tell You. Lord help us to understand the significance of omnipresence, of omnipotence and omniscience to our lives. We have thought of these words and merely tried to understand their theological meaning, but we thank You that in this Psalm You help us to see how this impacts the relationship that we have with You. Lord we are so loved, so cared for, so completely known by You it is indeed too wonderful for us. Lord help us to enjoy this truth in greater measure as we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.