For quite some time, I’ve considered teaching/preaching from this majestic text of Psalm 139 (and have). The intimacy with which the psalmist experiences God in his omnipotence, omniscience, omnisapience and omnibenevolence is baffling. The psalmists’ awareness that he can’t hide from the LORD is daunting and soothing. The former obtains if I’m His enemy, the latter if I’m His child.
As I meditate on this passage what jumps out is the subject/object dynamic between the Creator and the creature. While obvious from the text, this Creator/creature distinction seems to be increasingly being lost in many of our Christian churches that are vastly man centered when considering reality, rather than God obsessed.
It’s the Biblical worldview alone that demonstrates an intimate relationship between the creator and the creature. Atheists don’t believe that any such God exists; Monists in any such distinctions; Polytheists don’t believe in any such monotheism; Islam doesn’t believe such intimacy is possible with the Creator but the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is unlike the rest.
Many in Christendom often live like the Atheist to the detriment of God’s gospel in Christ. This injures the soul because it detaches us from the Designer who alone always knows what’s best for us.
Back to the subject/object distinction where the psalmist uses terms like; you, your, me, my and I, which according to my count these pronouns are used 49 times. This type of accentuation can’t be overstated for monkeys, crows, lions nor rats, can boast of such a relationship. Because contra naturalistic notions that we are here by chance accident in time, humans alone have been created in God’s image and said communication is unique to their interaction. This interplay between the Creator and the creature has been around since Adam and Eve, is awesome in scope and has far reaching ramifications. Let’s consider the following observations.
First, this is a declaration of humility and praise between the rescued Israelite and His God—the LORD—the covenant name of God where; “I will be their God and they shall be my people” is fleshed out. This comes from David, the man after God’s own heart who often was a man seeking only his desires (E.g., seen in his interaction with Goliath/Uriah and Abigail/Bathsheba). Regardless, whatever was good in David’s heart was the result of God’s work in his life which this psalm reveals.
Second, the LORD has qualities that absolutely stupefy the writer. The LORD does the following: (v.1) searched…known me; (v.2) know when (time) I sit…I rise up, understand my thought from afar; (v.3) scrutinize my path…when I lie down…intimately acquainted…all my ways; (v.4) before a word is on my tongue…Behold…you know it all; (v.5) enclose me behind/before…laid Your hand is upon me; (v.6) such knowledge is too wonderful for me…too high, I cannot attain to it. Without getting into the minute details of these verses, what is clear is that the LORD knows the psalmist (and me) more intimately than I know myself. As a result, the writer is utterly humbled, baffled and elated.
Verses 7-18 seem to further explain the wonderment of the psalmist and the gratitude that springs from his soul as he meditates on these wondrous truths of the Creator with whom he is in covenant. This covenant God of David is committed to assuring his child makes it safely home (v.24)
Third, in light of God’s magnificence the psalmist adores the LORD and thus hates God’s enemies. He wants them destroyed because the psalmist is God’s friend, he has chosen a side…something everyone does (Vv.19-22). Did David have a beatific vision? Did he “see” the God of the covenant such that he grasped the awesomeness of Yahweh? I think so. But David does not end his contemplations here with “wipe out Your enemies”, but with, “have mercy on me a sinner…” (Vv.23-24)
Scripture instructs us that in His light we see light. Once we were aliens and strangers to the covenant and promises of Israel but now as Gentiles have been grafted into the vine who is Christ Jesus the Lord. David begins the psalm by stating what God has already done, “searched me and known me…(v.1) and now he’s petitioning God to do the same as in past times:
“Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my anxious thoughts. And see if there be any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way.” (Vv.23-24)
This seems to be illustrative of Mathew 7:5 where Jesus instructs disciples in the proper way to make judgments: “first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” First things first…but we tend to neglect this principle.
God knows full well (as the psalmist indicates) that we are too easily inclined to look outward in making judgments rather than inward first, while ignoring the inward maladies of our souls. David, after asking God to deal with His enemies, asks God to deal with his own sins. What a model of humility and courage, of insight and resolve, of soberness and action.
The man of God understands that he stands naked before the LORD only by mercy. He understands that but for God’s mercy, he’d be one of God’s enemies. This supreme magnificent stupendous author of life desires to be intimate with His people. As David said, so I state, “such knowledge is too wonderful for me!”