Today: Monday, December 09, 2019

Favourite psalms: Psalm 139    (12/28/2014)

Psalm 139 stands out, to me: it seems to read in a very contemporary and punchy way, with short lines and great clarity of meaning. In other words, it doesn’t beat about the bush.

Essentially, this psalm addresses God’s intimacy with us:

  • He made us—“you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb"
  • He knows everything about us—“You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.”
  • He is everywhere—“If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there”
  • There’s no escape from God: “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?”

Depending on where we’re coming from, this psalm offers different things to different people at different times. For example:

  • He made us—many Christians interpret this as an important passage about the sanctity of unborn life. Also, I once heard someone say that this section means that no one, but no one, is a mistake: after all, it goes on to say, “All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be”. And what God has planned can never be in error. So however terrible we may feel about ourselves; however badly wrong our lives may go; we are not a mistake. God knew about our every moment in advance, and loves us during every single one.
  • He knows everything about us—For some, this is good news: while we may try to fudge things and may even lie and pretend to other people, there is one person with whom we can experience the freedom of honesty. So while some people might find it difficult to be comfortable with this idea; others might find it an incredible relief and release.
  • He is everywhere—Personally, I love the idea that I can’t ever be separated from God. When I’m celebrating at a party, he’s there. When I’m crying in my room, he is there. When I travel to the other end of the world—there he is. I can never be lonely. Of course, this means…
  • There’s no escape from God: I once wrote an article for this website about what Anselm, a former Archbishop of Canterbury, said about 1,000 years ago: “I fled from God, and he came with me.” Surely there can be only 2 reasons for trying to escape from God: because we know we’re going to do something we shouldn’t, or because we know we’ve already done something we shouldn’t! And in each case, as we plot or as we hang our heads in shame, we need God’s presence to put us back on the right track and to provide us with the comfort we need.

Perhaps more than any other passage in the Bible, this psalm expresses just how intimately involved God is with our lives—from long before we were born to our every moment and every place, every thought and every action. While this can something feel a little overwhelming, let’s celebrate that God is not a distant or disinterested god!

Pray: Let’s take a passage from Psalm 139 as our prayer this week: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” Amen.

Think about: How do you feel about knowing that God sees everything you do, and hears everything you say? Do you find it threatening or encouraging? How might it change you?

Challenge: This week, try to be constantly aware that God is right next to you in everything (absolutely everything) that you do. When does this feel uncomfortable, and when does it feel good? Were those uncomfortable moments indicative of times when you might have thought twice about what you were doing? Were the good times when you appreciated God’s company and care?

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