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Saturday, December 13, 2014

Something New in Psalm 139

“O Lord, You have searched me and known me.
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
You understand my thought from afar.
You scrutinize my path and my lying down,
And are intimately acquainted with all my ways.
Even before there is a word on my tongue,
Behold, O Lord, You know it all.”
Psalm 139:1–4

As I was reading this psalm this morning, I saw something new. I love how that works: You can read and read and read (and even memorize) a particular passage in Scripture, and then you look at it again, and you see something there you hadn’t noticed before. Living. Active. Sharper than a two-edged sword.

This psalm is a prayer to the Lord. In it, the psalmist speaks to God of His sovereignty and omniscience, and in particular, His sovereign, thorough, and intimate understanding of every aspect of the psalmist’s life and, by extension, the lives of all people. For the first eighteen verses, a description of the scope of that understanding is breathtakingly laid out. It is not possible for us to think, say, or do anything that the Lord not only sees, but knew we would think, say, or do them long before we did. Those verses show that God cares deeply for people, from conception to death, and beyond.

In verses 19–22, the psalmist responds to the ubiquitous nature of the Lord’s superintendence of him by declaring his loyalty and willingness to serve his King, pronouncing the Lord’s lawless and wicked enemies to be his enemies. But this isn’t the part I wanted to tell you about; the new thing that I saw has to do with the closing verses:

“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).

These words are so familiar. I have sung them many, many times, especially during communion services, and I love them. But to ask the Lord to search and know the heart is risky—because our hearts are deceitful (Jeremiah 17:9). We are prone to wander (Isaiah 53:6). We don’t keep our minds set upon things above because the things of earth are forever before our eyes (Colossians 3:1–2). Uggh…and this is what the Lord will see?

(If all He were to see was me, it would be a terrible thing, but how grateful I am that when He looks, He will see the righteousness of Jesus Christ; it is through His blood, that I am made righteous [2 Corinthians 5:20–21], which is the best news ever [Romans 10:8-10]. But this isn’t the new thing I noticed.)

So what I did notice today is that the psalmist started out acknowledging to the Lord that He searches and knows him, and he ends by asking Him to search and know him. First he meditates on the wonders of God’s sovereign presence in his life, and then he willingly submits, indeed invites, that awesome Presence. I just hadn’t put that together before.

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