Tag Archives: Psalm 139

Who Knows You Best?

Open Bible  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.
                   –Psalm 139:16 ESV

The psalmist firmly believed the story of creation in which God himself formed Adam with his own hands. In fact, it was clear to him that the miracle of life was God’s work from start to finish, and he saw in his relationship with God that human life was on a different level from all other life. He recognized God’s creative work in each human being from before the moment of conception. The psalmist could never have considered carving up the body of an unborn child to sell the pieces, because he saw how sacred was the relationship between God and each human throughout his life.

He did not think that a human was born by accident. He knew that a human was created and born for relationship with God. Elsewhere in this psalm, the writer declares that God never lets human beings escape his attention:

   Where shall I go from your Spirit?
        Or where shall I flee from your presence?
     If I ascend to heaven, you are there!
If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
                                    –Psalm 139:7-8 ESV

He might as well have said that we can run, but we cannot hide from God.

When Jesus humbled himself and came to earth in human flesh, he did not cease being the God who seeks out human companionship and knows humans inside out. In the gospel of John, we read:

47 Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” 48 Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.”

                                                —John 1:47-48 ESV

Nathanael’s response, “Rabbi, You are the Son of God,” is not a knee-jerk reaction to the statement of a fortune-teller. It is the recognition that knowing human beings is part of God’s character. Nathanael knew the psalms, and he knew about the creation of human beings. He recognized that the “knowing” of Jesus was far beyond the mere knowledge of sacred writings. Jesus knew who Nathanael was far beneath his skin.

By the time John wrote his gospel, he had had a lot of time to think about what he saw during the time he walked Galilee with Jesus. John affirmed what he saw in Jesus. He said, “[Jesus] needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man.” John 2:25 ESV

When we read that a state has declared that people may end their own lives whenever they wish, or that a government somewhere in the world has authorized doctors to practice euthanasia, or when we read that the UN has declared it a universal human right for a woman to destroy her own unborn child if she likes, we shake our heads. Why do people treat human life so casually? God himself has acted in the creation and development of every human life. He knows each of us even before we are formed, certainly long before we are born. Each of us clearly has a place in God’s infinite and eternal plan. How can anyone presume to end a life before God takes it?

We Christians are accused of utter disregard for the woman whose body has been invaded by an alien being we call a baby. The culture calls it the “products of conception,” or “a blob of cells.” We recoil in horror at the idea that doctors will be motivated to encourage patients to sign “Do Not Resuscitate” orders. We are accused of expecting a family, or a patient’s estate, or even the government to keep paying and paying to keep someone alive long after he or she has ceased to contribute anything to the community. It is not easy to stand up when a cultural steamroller threatens.

How do we stay calm and stand strong in the midst of this chaos and destruction?

  • We must put our hope in God, not in government.
  • We must remember that God is still sovereign and that he has never surrendered any item of his purpose for humankind. The suffering and death of Christ tell us how much God loves the people he creates and knows so well. The resurrection of Christ promises us that the time/space continuum is not the end.
  • We nurture our relationship with God through prayer and Bible study, and we nurture the fellowship of family, church, and friends.
  • Most of all, we refuse to succumb to the temptation to feel like victims. Because Christ lives, we are never victims no matter how things look. We can trust the God who already knows us, the God who has already poured the blood of Jesus over us to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. We can pray with the psalmist:

23    Search me, O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my thoughts!
24    And see if there be any grievous way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting!
–Psalm 139:23-24

By Katherine Harms, author of Oceans of Love available for Kindle at Amazon.com.

Image: Open Bible
Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AOpen_Bible.jpg
By Wnorbutas (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0

Stop and Think About the Bible

Torah ScrollHow precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! If I would count them, they are more than the sand. Psalm 139:17-18a ESV

  • These words fall near the end of a long psalm praising God for who he is and what he does. Secular thinkers deny God’s very existence, yet the psalmist claimed a relationship with God that was vivid and intimate. How do you express yourself when people around you reject the existence of God and scorn the ideas of faith and worship?
  • The word here translated as precious can also be translated as weighty or costly or highly esteemed. If this is the way you view God’s thoughts, how do you view his guidance and instruction?
  • The psalmist testifies in the first words of the psalm, “O Lord, you have searched me and known me!” When you consider all the things God sees if he searches and knows you, how do you feel?
  • The psalmist says that there is no escaping God—God is in the highest place, the lowest place, the most hidden place. Why is it good to know that God is everywhere?
  • The psalmist asserts that distance cannot separate you from God nor can darkness hide you from God. Even if you live in a fog of secular obfuscation of truth, God can still find you. How would you explain your confidence to someone who accuses you of praying to an imaginary friend?
  • The psalmist felt that people who rejected God did so from malicious intent. He called them enemies. How do you feel about secular thinkers among your acquaintances? What does Jesus teach us to do about our enemies?
  • When Jesus was dying on the cross, for whom did he pray “Father, forgive them?”

Could You Stand Strong as a Christian in Pakistan?

You should hear some Pakistani Christian women sing Psalm 139. It only takes 4 minutes. Don’t stop listening until you hear the second song – in English! As you listen, read the Psalm below and check out the news.

Torah ScrollPsalm 139 To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David.

    O Lord, you have searched me and known me!
    You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from afar.
    You search out my path and my lying down
and are acquainted with all my ways.

News from Pakistan

    Even before a word is on my tongue,
behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.
    You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me.
    Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is high; I cannot attain it.

News from Pakistan

    Where shall I go from your Spirit?
Or where shall I flee from your presence?
    If I ascend to heaven, you are there!

If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
    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.

News from Pakistan

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.
13    For you formed my inward parts;
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.

News From Pakistan

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.

News From Pakistan

19    Oh that you would slay the wicked, O God!
O men of blood, depart from me!
20    They speak against you with malicious intent;
your enemies take your name in vain.
21    Do I not hate those who hate you, O Lord?
And do I not loathe those who rise up against you?
22    I hate them with complete hatred;
I count them my enemies.
23    Search me, O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my thoughts!
24    And see if there be any grievous way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting!

Psalm 139 ESV

News From Pakistan

In the USA we grieve that morality is declining along with church attendance. We grieve that the culture is losing its moral compass and we grieve that cultural pressure is leading to the enactment of unjust laws. When the choices on election day are not to our liking, we grieve and refuse to vote for anyone.

Christians in Pakistan, where the moral, legal, and political pressures are much more severely skewed against Christians than in the US, nevertheless find the grace and courage to sing Psalm 139. We must find the same courage, and what’s more, because our Constitution gives every citizen much more power than Pakistani citizens have, we must live our prayers into the culture by acting and speaking and voting and donating to candidates and causes that will expand the religious liberty of all citizens. It is not useful to grieve. It is only useful to pray and act. God does not call Christians to be marshmallows; he calls us to live our faith, and Christians in the US are privileged to live in a country where our civic duty and our Christian desire to be a force for good are in sync. Because of our Constitution, we have the freedom to speak and act and vote.

The founders of the USA did not establish a state church, which is a blessing to us, their posterity. They expected, however, that the absence of a state church would allow more churches to thrive. They expected that the moral energy of the churches would translate into active, outspoken participation in the cultural discussions of ethics and morals, and they expected that the influence of religious moral perspective would permeate the government through the power of the vote, electing people of good moral character and personal integrity to office. They never thought that people would believe their influence would be felt if they pouted silently because of their distaste for the content of the conversation. They never intended for citizens to demonstrate their outrage by refusing to vote. People who do not speak and do not vote have zero influence on the outcome of things. ZERO.

Today, find a quiet place where you can sing Psalm 139 yourself – or simply pray it silently if singing is not your thing. Pay attention to the words. Ask yourself what God is saying to you about the state of affairs in the US. Ask yourself if you have the courage to sing and pray your praise as confidently as the Christians in Pakistan who risk life and limb and property by simply claiming the name of Christ.

What do you think? Could you stand strong as a Christian in Pakistan? Is anything preventing you from standing strong as a Christian in the USA?