Tuesday, September 4, 2012

PSALM 139 :1-18 - “ How intimately does God know you?”

Galaxy M 109 - All these  are known by God !

Does God  know me sufficiently well   to really care about me? We often complain  to one another that we feel misunderstood by family or friends .  You don’t really know me…” ; “you haven’t been in my shoes“;  “You haven’t been through what I have been through…”
Is there anyone that does know you  thoroughly?  Most likely not – not even those who are closest to us , but  there  is  the One who has made you!
Psalm 139 has been  said  by some  to be one of  the sublimest compositions in the world[1]. Rabbi  Ibn Ezra (1089 — 1164)  born  in Andalusia , Spain was one of the most distinguished Jewish men of letters and writers of the  Middle Ages.  He was called The Wise, The Great and The Admirable Doctor. He  wrote  commentaries on most  of the OT , including the Psalms , and he had this to say about Psalm 139 : “This Psalm is the most glorious of the  theme of the ways of God  and is unequalled in the 5 books of the Psalter and in accordance with one’s understanding in the ways of God and in the disposition of the soul will he be able to see into its profundity.”  It is not difficult to endorse this point. 
This  is a wonderful Psalm  for it brings God very near to us  in a comforting and perhaps even in a disturbing way. May God be pleased to use  the study  of the Psalm  in your soul in the most appropriate way !

We are not certain on what occasion David  was inspired  to  compose this Psalm. A. Anderson thinks  that  this is an individual thanksgiving offered to God after he had been acquitted by God.[2]  Whatever the case may be, this Psalm  covers some profound  thoughts. The Psalm is made up of 2 parts :

(i)                  Vv. 1-18 which may be subdivided into  three main themes :
·         God’s  intimate knowledge of David  (1-6)
·         God’s omnipresence (7-12)
·         God’s wonderful creation (13-18)
(ii)               Vv. 19-24 consists of :
·         An imprecatory prayer (19-22)
·          A prayer to God (23-24)

God’s Intimate knowledge of David : The Omniscience of God (1-6)

[V1.] O LORD, you have searched me and known me! In the very first verse David  lays  down the doctrine  of  God’s perfect knowledge (omniscience)  of us. He is probably trying to defend himself against  enemies or false  accusers, (like Jeremiah in  Jer 11:20  & 12:3; also 17:10) and he needs an  advocate  to defend his integrity. He says:  You have searched me. The Hebrew word  for search  means to dig deep, and is usually applied to the search for precious metals (see Job 28:3) .
You (lit you alone) have searched me and known me! Note David’s awareness  of the fact that he knows that God knows him  deeply and personally. God has dug into  David’s heart  and  has bared it   down to its very deepest  being. The verdict is  God declares me  not guilty! “.  Notice that  in the first verse  he speaks  of this searching  in the past  tense ”…you have  searched me.”  At the end of the Psalm (v.23) he prays  in the present: “Search me oh God and know my heart.” God is the continuous searcher of our hearts, and we must be thankful  that He is, and we should always pray that He would do this work always, so that we may not sin against Him.
“And known“ (me). In the Hebrew translation there is no ‘me’ after known  i.e. you have searched me and known!

The knowledge of God extends ,according to David,to  at least four areas:
1. To all our  movements, [v.2a] “You know when I sit down and when I rise up”;
2. To all our thoughts: [v.2b] "you discern my thoughts from afar." God knows more than our actions. He knows our inner life; our secret thoughts. He  knows  what  our thoughts have been, what they now are, what they will be.  He who has made  your mind knows what  your  thoughts will be at all times.  Because this is so , God knows  what will  happen in the  future, since  He knows the thoughts of  all men.  He can know our thoughts without being the Author of them.
3. To all our actions: [v.3] You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Every step  you  take; every  private  or public action – for my entire life!
4. To all our words: [V.4] Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O LORD, you know it altogether.  God knows what we are going to say , even before we say it .

Nothing may be concealed before God – either good or bad. That is why we must  always  have this thought in mind: God knows all my movements, all my thoughts  all my actions . He even knows my words ahead of time. A sobering thought! No wonder that  David now  makes the next  statement:
The DNA molecule
v.5. You hem me in, behind and before ,and lay your hand upon me.  David is boxed in! David knows that he is in the hand of an  omniscient God – one who knows everything. He can get away with nothing! One may fool one’s friends and family, but one never  fools God, and no-one can get away from Him. Now,  such knowledge may be very intimidating, but not for David! The fact that this is a comforting thought  to David is now seen in v.6:
v.6.  Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it. David marvels at the depth of God’s  intimate knowledge of him. Of course when we think of it, we hardly  would  think  that  David knew the  intricacies of the DNA molecule – utterly  hidden from our eyes , and yet containing every single detail or information  of what we are. Every DNA molecule is  an entire  program of what we are (individually) , describing  every part of our being into every detail . This is the God who has made you , and who knows you .

How much information does DNA carry?  Dr. Werner Gitt, professor of information science gives us some insight into this question in his thought-provoking book , “In the Beginning was Information.”  Dr. Gitt points out that the DNA molecule has the highest density (storage capacity) of information of any system known to man.  As an illustration, he shows a small 32mm x 33mm slide on which the entire Bible is printed.  That is amazing enough.  But Dr. Gitt points out that the DNA molecule is 7.7 million MILLION times more density of information than his 32mm slide. He goes on to point out that if you took just one pinhead of genetic material and converted all of its information into text, it would fill so many books that if you were to stack them up, the stack of books would be 500 times the distance from the earth to the moon!
The storage capability of DNA is nothing short of mind-boggling.  But as it turns out, the most crucial thing of all about DNA isn’t the molecule itself, it’s the information that it carries.  Without that information, DNA is a dead molecule.  Again, it’s important to keep in mind that the information carried by DNA does not reside in the molecule itself.  That information exists independently and separately from the physical medium of DNA.  In many ways, it’s similar to the ink on your newspaper.  Ink does not posses any information in and of itself.  Ink that is simply spilled onto a sheet of paper cannot arrange itself into information.  In order to get an intelligible message, information must be imposed upon the ink by an intelligent source outside of it, who already has that information in his or her mind.

This shows us that God  has  minutely intimate knowledge of us! Therefore you can trust Him  with His analysis of you in His word !

God’s Omnipresence  ( 7-12)

v.7 Where shall I go from your Spirit?   Or where shall I flee from your presence (lit. your face) ?[8] If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! [9] If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,[10] even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me.[11] If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night,”[12] even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day,  for darkness is as light with you.

Apparently,  when people in Israel  thought of ways of escape they looked first  to the height and then to the depths (see Amos 9:2). David knows that neither heaven ( the highest heights) nor hell ( the lowest depths) provide an escape from God. The Universe is one big “ YOU ARE THERE!”
What about travel  in a horizontal direction? If I take the wings of the morning… can you  fly  as far east  or west as you can , hoping to escape?  No place  on the earth  can hide you. The Marianna  trench, in the Pacific Ocean  at 11 km  below the sea,  the deepest  part of our ocean, cannot hide you.  Darkness is no obstacle to God. God is light in Himself and light by nature  always  displaces darkness.

This God ,wrote  Francis Thompson (1859-1907) is the hound of heaven. Here are the first few lines from that poem  which had a profound influence upon  J.R.  Tolkien ( Lord of the Ring)
I fled Him, down the nights and down the days;
 I fled Him, down the arches of the years;
I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways
 Of my own mind; and in the mist of tears
I hid from Him, and under running laughter.
Up vistaed hopes I sped; And shot, precipitated,
Adown Titanic glooms of chasmed fears,
From those strong Feet that followed, followed after.
But with unhurrying chase,
And unperturbèd pace,
Deliberate speed, majestic instancy,
They beat--and a Voice beat
More instant than the Feet--
 "All things betray thee, who betrayest Me."

God  cannot be escaped from. And those that think that  they will  escape at the end, when Christ comes, had better think again. The mountains which they call upon to fall upon them in that day, will not be able to hide them.  For them this  attribute of God must be a very frightening thought! For the Christian this is very comforting “…. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me !”(v.6)

God’s wonderful creation ( 13-18)

God’s omniscience  and God’s omnipresence  are  non-communicable attributes  of God . He does not share  them with  mankind . They belong to  the infinite Creator alone . As Creator ,He is responsible  for  his creation. David says “ [13] For you formed (created) my inward parts (lit. my kidneys[3]) ; you knitted me together in my mother's womb. [14] I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.[15] My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth.[16] Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.
David now takes a different line of thought in the  exposition  of the knowledge of God’s intimacy  of him. Not only does God know Him as he is in the present .He says that God knew him  before birth. Before  birth  he was already under the control and guardianship of God. No wonder that  David marvels :
 [17] How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! [18] If I would count them, they are more than the sand. I awake, and I am still with you.

The fact that he is so intimately known by God , comforts David.These are precious thoughts – too overwhelming to count – overwhelming like the information  contained in a DNA molecule. And to think that God has taken care to make each of  us  different – no two people  on the earth are the same .  Spurgeon writes : “Imagine the world without a thinking , personal God! Conceive of a grim providence  of machinery!- a fatherhood of law…”
May God be please to  put you to bed tonight with this meditation, and then  to awake tomorrow morning ,  saying:  I awake , and I am still with you!” 
With Him ,in Him and for Him- intimately united  with,  and known by our Father ! Amen .

[1] Spurgeon: Treasury of David ,  Vol 3 p.266
[2] A.A. Anderson : New Century Bible commentary Vol 2 : p. 904
[3] Kidneys  or bowels  normally  refer to the seat of emotions .  Here it might  refer to  to the  most hidden and vital portions of man  ( Spurgeon, p. 262 vol 3)

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