To be known by the people who profess to love us creates a sense of peace and belonging that satisfies our hungry and thirsty souls. That is the theme of the second psalm in the Psalm Wednesday series: Psalm 139. In this psalm, David demonstrates his adoration and admiration for his God, the One who knew him so well. David examined the omniscience, omnipresence, and omnipotence of God, reminding everyone who reads this beautiful psalm that there is something amazing in a Creator that is aware of us every moment of our lives. Now, that may make some people uncomfortable, according to how they are living their lives, but, for David, there is no greater feeling than being watched us and held accountable for every thought and action.
David presented the psalm in basically three different sections. First, in verses 1-6, we learn that God knows all about us, meaning the omniscience of God. Second, in verses, 7-18, we learn that there is no place we can go that God is not present there, meaning the omnipresence of God. Indeed, verses, 13-18 remind us that God was with us even before we entered this world and that He is still with us. Third, in verses, 19-24, we learn that David saw the world in two categories: those who love God and those who do not love Him, and in asking God to hold him accountable for his thoughts and words, David acknowledged that only God has the power to change us, or the omnipotence of God.
Psalm 139: 1-6 O Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about me.
You know when I sit down or stand up. You know my thoughts even when I’m far away.
You see me when I travel and when I rest at home. You know everything I do. You know what I am going to say even before I say it, Lord. You go before me and follow me. You place your hand of blessing on my head. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too great for me to understand!
David’s adoration for God can be seen in his amazement that God knew everything about him, including every move he made and all of his thoughts. He reminded us that God knows all that we do, and that we fool ourselves if we think that we can hide anything from Him.
David told us that God goes before us and follows us, just as He went ahead of the children of Israel when they left Egypt, guiding them “during the day with a pillar of cloud, and he provided light at night with a pillar of fire. This allowed them to travel by day or by night. And the Lord did not remove the pillar of cloud or pillar of fire from its place in front of the people” (Exodus 13:21-22). The knowledge that God goes ahead of us means that He already knows the obstacles that we may face on this life journey, and is prepared to help us overcome them.
David also exclaimed that God knows when we get up and when we sit down, and that He is watching us whether we are at home or in the street. Indeed, God knows the type of people we are, because He knows our thoughts even when we are far from Him.
In John 1: 47-49 is the story of Jesus’s encounter with Nathanael and Philip. After hearing from Philip that the Messiah had been found and that He was from Nazareth, Nathanael doubted if anything good could come from Nazareth. So Philip took him to meet Jesus. As Philip and Nathanael approached him, Jesus described Nathanael as a man of complete integrity. Nathanael asked Jesus, “How do you know about me?” Jesus told him that He had seen him under the fig tree even before Philip called him. Astonished at the ability of Jesus to know him before even meeting him, Nathanael realized that he was in the presence of the Messiah, for he said, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God—the King of Israel!”
God’s ability to see us when we travel is still powerful today. I was in Madrid, Spain alone for six days in 1998, and I went to buy food at a local grocery store. As I left the store, a beggar woman stopped me and asked for pesos, or money. I said no because my money and passport were in a pouch around me waist and to give her money would expose my important papers. She grabbed my arms and would not let go. I was terrified, and when I saw a whole group of them coming to help her, I started to pray.
God spoke in my spirit to look her in the eye. I did as He said, and then I said to her, “Let go of me! You ain’t never saw a black woman acting a fool like I am about to!” She did not understand the words, but she understood the body language and the anger in my eyes, and she let me go, just before the others got to us. Then, I heard a voice say, “Don’t look down! Keep your head up and walk through them, and just keep on walking.” That’s what I did until I reached my hotel. I was so scared that I could not put the bags down for a long time. But I praised God that He was with me and saw it all. Even today, I never walk with my head down when I am out in public, so people do not see me as vulnerable. Thank you. God!
Like David, I am fascinated by God’s knowledge of us, and it is truly knowledge too wonderful and spectacular to even fathom! That the One who created the French Alps, all the oceans in the world, all the continents and the beauty of each one of them, and the billions of people sharing this planet could know me and love me so much is too amazing for me to think on! God’s omniscience is awe-inspiring!
In verses 7-18, David explained that, first, God is everywhere, and second, that it made sense that God knows everything about us, because He made us. Beginning with verses 7-12, we learn that there is no place to hide from God, and then in verses 13-18, we are reminded that it is God who made us; we did not make ourselves (Psalm 100:3).
Psalm 139:7-12 I can never escape from your Spirit! I can never get away from your presence! If I go up to heaven, you are there; if I go down to the grave, you are there.
If I ride the wings of the morning, if I dwell by the farthest oceans, even there your hand will guide me, and your strength will support me. I could ask the darkness to hide me and the light around me to become night—but even in darkness I cannot hide from you. To you the night shines as bright as day. Darkness and light are the same to you.
David reminded us that God is omnipresent, meaning everywhere at the same time. He does not try to explain how God can be everywhere at the same time, and neither will I. Our minds aren’t nearly enough to explain God, for His thoughts are higher than ours and His ways are higher than ours. That’s why faith is so important, for it allows us to trust in that which we cannot possibly understand. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 1: 18 that what we believe about God and Jesus is foolishness to unbelievers, but for those being saved, it is the power of God.
Although it appears that David is complaining that he can’t go anywhere to hide from God, he was stating these facts in awe, knowing that he was never alone. He was not trying to hide from God, for David understood that running from God was futile, because even in the darkness God sees us.
David had learned of this futility when God sent the prophet Nathan to rebuke David for his shameful behavior in stealing Uriah’s wife and having the man killed so he could keep her. David admitted that he had sinned against God. David learned the lesson that we all need to remember from Luke 8:17, “For all that is secret will eventually be brought into the open, and everything that is concealed will be brought to light and made known to all.” We should not be surprised that God knows us and that He is everywhere we are, for, as David noted in verses 13-18, it was God who made us.
Psalm 139: 13-18 You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it. You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb. You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed. How precious are your thoughts about me, O God. They cannot be numbered! I can’t even count them; they outnumber the grains of sand! And when I wake up, you are still with me!
I once saw a documentary on the heart, and when I saw how small it is for the huge job it must do, I thought of David’s words about how marvelously and wonderfully we are made. As much as physicians know about the human body, billions of dollars are spent every year trying to discover more, to cure diseases and make life better for those who suffer from rare ailments. David spoke in such glowing terms, completely gobsmacked at the wonder of God’s construction of our bodies, even making the delicate inner parts that we taken so for granted.
David reminded us that God knew us before our mothers even felt our first stirrings in their wombs, and that He recorded every day of our lives before we were born. That is why we must always ask God what is His will for our lives. Jeremiah 29:11, states, “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” And in Jeremiah 1:5, God told the young Jeremiah, “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you. And before you were born, I consecrated you; I have appointed you a prophet to the nations.”
Also, Paul in Galatians 1:15 states, “But even before I was born, God chose me and called me by his marvelous grace. Then it pleased him to reveal his Son to me so that I would proclaim the Good News about Jesus to the Gentiles.” So, David’s words continue to echo down the centuries to today, for God also has a calling on all of our lives. He wants us to fulfill the lives that He planned for us, so it is no wonder that His thoughts about us are greater than the numbers of the grains of sand. Like David, I am amazed at God’s ability to be everywhere and always thinking of us. His Omnipresence is awesome!
Lastly, David teaches us that because of God’s wonderful presence in our lives and knowledge of us, we should love Him. David uses harsh words in describing his feelings about people who did not love God, and I believe it is because David could not understand how anyone could not love God, knowing all that God was and is.
Psalm 139:19-24 O God, if only you would destroy the wicked! Get out of my life, you murderers! They blaspheme you; your enemies misuse your name. O Lord, shouldn’t I hate those who hate you? Shouldn’t I despise those who oppose you? Yes, I hate them with total hatred, for your enemies are my enemies. Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.
It would seem that this section of the psalm is incongruous to the other sections, but I believe that it fits right in, becoming a bookend to the first section, where Davis is in awe of God’s knowledge of him. So, in this section, he asks God to continue to know his thoughts and actions, so that he could change them if they offended God. David understood that no matter how we try to live holy lives, we have a sin nature that can tempt us to say and do the wrong things, leading to actions we regret doing and words we regret saying.
What is astonishing is that not only does God know David, but because of his close relationship with God, David knows God, as much as we can know God. I believe that, because David understood the immensity of God’s love and care for us, that he could not understand people who hated God or who refused to acknowledge Him in their lives or to obey His word. From the first psalm in the Book of Psalms, we learn that David categorized people as righteous before God or wicked, and that he believed that blessings came to those who loved God and His words, and that destruction awaited the wicked. David said that he hated the wicked with total hatred, and that is a lot of hate! While I understand David’s enmity toward sinners, it is not God’s way for us.
God does not call us to hate sinners, mainly because we have all sinned and fallen short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23). Jesus in Luke 6: 27-28 tells us, “But to you who are willing to listen, I say, love your enemies! Do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you.” And remember what Paul said in Romans 5:8, “But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” So, we must extend God’s love to unbelievers, in hopes that they will allow Jesus to be Lord of their lives, even being willing to share how God cleansed us from sin and allowed even us to be His children.
In the last two verses, David prayed that God who knew him, created him, and saw everything he did would continue to examine him, by searching his thoughts and pointing out any of his actions that offended God, so that he could one day “dwell in the house of the Lord forever” (Psalm 23:6). Certainly, David understood that only God had the power to search us, for Jeremiah 17:10 reminds us, “But I, the LORD, search all hearts and examine secret motives. I give all people their due rewards, according to what their actions deserve.” And Job tells God in Job 7:18,” For you examine us every morning and test us every moment.”
This is one of the psalms that I constantly come back to in times of trials and tribulations. When I was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2008, I read this psalm to remind me that God created my body, he knew it better than the doctors, and that, while I loved my oncologist, it was God who had the power to heal my body. So, I put my trust and confident hope in Him. Today, I am a nine-year survivor, and I thank God. The omnipotence of God is wonderful!
David’s amazing relationship with God can be seen in this beautiful psalm of adoration and prayer. It is my hope that all who read it will remember that God loves you dearly and He knows you, so whatever you may be going through, you are not alone in it. God is with you! And I hope it will also encourage you, knowing that there is nothing you or I can do that can separate us from the love of God, and that if you think you are unworthy of His love, well, too late, He already knows you and wants to have a relationship with you.
Next week, we will examine Psalm 1, looking at the contrasting lives of the righteous and the wicked. Hope you will join me.
Dear Father in Heaven, Maker of the Heavens and the Earth,
We praise You today for Your presence, protection, and provision. Thank you for knowing us fully. We acknowledge your omniscience, omnipresence, and omnipotence, O God of creation, and we are in awe of You. Let everything that breathes, O Lord, praise You every day for all Your mighty acts toward us flawed humans. In Jesus’s Name, Amen.