Psalms 139 Part 1 Fully Known By God

Rebekyah Brewer
This entry is part 20 of 21 in the series Psalms
creation-of-adam-hands-detail

“I looked at God and He looked at me, and we were one forever.” – Charles Spurgeon”

This is a Psalm of David looking to God and worshiping in wonder the greatness of God. David meditates on the attributes of God, God’s omniscience, omnipresence and omnipotence as God relates to man. It is beyond his comprehension but that doesn’t stop David from trying to comprehend Him. Trying to wrap his small finite mine around an infinite God. Remember the old saying:

“If you reach for the stars, you might not quite get one, but you won’t end up with a handful of mud, either.

 

In the end David, may not have grasped God, but he received a clear picture of how God grasps him. God grasps not only his hand but also his thoughts. What a grasp God has on him! There is no fleeing from it, not that he would try. David is not trying to flee from God like Jonah fled, he is simply marveling at God’s glory.

Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is high; I cannot attain it.

This is a Psalm full of not only comfort for our heart but a lot of core theology and strength for our mind, regarding the character and attributes of God so that we can know God.

God has both communicable and incommunicable attributes. Communicable attributes are those attributes of God that He has also given to us. A few of the communicable attributes that man shares with God are:

attributes 1

Incommunicable attributes are those attributes of God which He alone possesses. Man does not share them and because of this we may have more of a difficult time comprehending them. Some of the non-communicable attributes of God are:

attributes2

What is wonderful about Psalms 139 is that it is about the omniscience, the omnipresence and the omnipotence of God in his relationship to man. It is deep in theological truth and in love. It is one of those Psalms that a child can safely swim in and an elephant can wade in its depths. Tonight

Psalms 139 speaks of God’s perfect and complete knowledge of man. He knows us inside and out. He knows our ways, our actions and our heart. It also speaks of God’s continual presence around man, He hems us in, there is no height or depth we can go where He is not present. Omnipresence. Finally it speaks of God’s Omnipotence in that he knit man together in the womb. He declared every day before one of them came to be.

The first part of Psalms 139 starts out praising God’s omniscience.

O Lord, you have searched me

Yahweh searches us. The word search means to examine intimately, to penetrate, it has the idea of digging into the depths, passing into and through all obstacles of resistance. There is no resisting or blocking the eye of God on our hearts as He searches us. Job asks in Job 13:9:

Will it be well with you when He searches you out?
Or can you deceive Him, as one deceives a man?

There is no deceiving God when he searches us out. We can deceive ourselves when we search ourselves but we can never deceive God.

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? Jer. 17:9

Our hearts will lie to us. It is important to spend time in self-examination as we search our hearts for known sin and to confess it when found. A godly life is attained through regular self-examinations and exercise, much the same a physical healthy life is gained by going to the doctor regularly, getting your annual examinations and regular disciplined exercise.

It’s sad that today, there is such a great emphasize on physical health and vitality that you see people going to great lengths to exercise, to discipline there physical body, to eat healthy and to have regular checkups and examinations for known illnesses but they neglect their spiritual health, which is to be prepared for eternal living by how we live our lives now. People are not willing to spend the same time in effort in feeding their mind regular doses of God’s word of wisdom, to exercise their spirits in the practice of prayer, to go through routine and regular self-examinations for sin and to avoid junk food that fills their mind with garbage and weighs them down worldly mindedness, lust, sensuality, self-indulgence, selfishness, discontentment, disbelief etc..

For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. 1 Tim. 4:8

The early church fathers would encourage one to examine his/her heart every night before bed and laying down to sleep as one would examine his heart if he knew that he was laying down to sleep, the sleep of death. Every night was an opportunity for accountability and an opportunity to keep a short account before God by appearing before him in prayer and examination for that day’s judgments so that days sins and shortcomings could be dealt with immediately.

William Lord Russels advice to his son:

“Fail not what employments so wherever you have every night as in the presence of God and His holy angels to pass an inquisition upon your soul; what ill it hath done, what good it hath left undone, what slips, what falls it has had that day. What temptations have prevailed upon it and by what means or after what manner. Ransack every corner of thy dark heart and let not the least peccadillo or kindness to a sin lurk there. But bring it forth, bewale it, protest against it, detest it, scourge it by a severe sorrow. Thus each days breach between you and God and your soul being made up with more quiet and sweet hope thou mayest dispose thyself to rest. Certainly at last this inquisition if steadily pursued will vanquish all customary sins whatever they may be. I speak it upon this reason because I presume thou wilt not have the face to appear before God every night confessing the same offenses and thou wilt forbear it, less thou seemest to mock God or despise Him; which is dreadful but to imagine. – Alexander White, The Duty of Prayer

John Wesley was part of a Holy Club, basically a men’s accountability group in which they consistently asked themselves 22 questions in their private devotional life. Questions such as:

  1. Am I consciously or unconsciously creating the impression that I am better then I really am? Am I a hyprocrite?
  2. Am I honest in all my acts & words, or do I exaggerate?
  3. Do I confidentially pass to another what was told to me in confidence?
  4. Can I be trusted?
  5. Am I a slave to dress, friends, works or habits?
  6. Am I self-conscious, self-pitying, or self-justifying?
  7. Did the bible live in me today?
  8. Do I give it time to speak to me every day?
  9. Am I enjoying prayer?
  10. When did I last speak to someone else about my faith?

These are the first 10 of the 22 questions. He and the other men would use these questions as a searchlight in their heart to seek sin where it commonly likes to hide. We all have those specific weaknesses, those specific corners that we personally are more apt to sin in. John Wesley and the other great church leaders sought to be familiar with their own heart to know what it’s bends were, it’s weaknesses were, it’s temptations were, it’s fears were so that to the best of their ability they would not sin, and if they did sin, they could immediately confess it and then fight against it again the next day. They were not content to allow sin to have its way in their heart.

Are we not under grace? Yes, but the grace we are under is an opportunity for us to deal with our sins now in our temporary life, so that they do not follow us into eternal judgment. Grace is not an opportunity for us to be negligent of our sins. Grace is the strength and time we need to deal with our sins. If we are negligent of our dealing with our sins now while God has offered us grace though Jesus to deal with them, we waste this opportunity and period of grace that God has so graciously provided us. As long as we are alive, we should be slaying sin in our lives as God brings it to light.

“Do you mortify? Do you make it your daily work? Be always at it whilst you live; cease not a day from this work; be killing sin or it will be killing you.”- John Owen

But once again, our hearts will lie to us. We lie to ourselves. We will justify and rationalize our sins at times. And sometimes we are just blind or ignorant of sins. Not only do we have to deal with our known sins but we also have to deal with our unknown sins.

That is why it is so important to pray and ask God to search us after we have searched ourselves because we cannot see into the dark depths of our own hearts like God can. Psalms 139:12 says

“even the darkness is not dark to you;
the night is bright as the day,
for darkness is as light with you”

Our hearts may be dark to us, but they are not dark to God. The Word of God acts as a great search light penetrating to the very depths of our heart.

“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” – Heb. 4:12

God continually examines us. He examines our motives.

  You have scrutinized my inner motives;
you have examined me during the night.
You have carefully evaluated me, but you find no sin.
I am determined I will say nothing sinful. – Psa. 17:3

Do you see the resolution in this Psalm?. Once again David makes a holy vow before God to keep his ways as He did in Psalms 116 that we studied previously.

How do you feel about praying this prayer from Psa. 26:2 as David did?

Examine me, O LORD, and test me!
Evaluate my inner thoughts and motives!
– Psa. 26:2

Are you ready for your annual examination before God? Does that thought feel you with joy or with fear? Does it feel you with relief and peace or anxiety?

“There is nothing one has so worthy of abhorrence as the human heart. God spares from all eyes but his own that awful sight, a human heart. And could you and I but see our heart we should be driven mad so horrible would be the sight.” – Charles Spurgeon

Our hearts are a frightful sight and it is a blessing to us that only God can truly behold them. Their true condition and deformation from sin is hidden even from our own eyes. It is only when we see the heart of God, in all His glory and beauty and perfect love, that we begin to see the deformity of our own heart.

Our deceitful heart does not wish to have its motives found out, and anxiety fills our flesh at the thought of being examined by our Holy God. It knows it is guilty. It knows it is in poor shape. It knows it is hideous. However, it fills our spirits with peace and joy because there is a sense of wholeness, cleanness and peace to be found in confession to God through his examination.

There are no gentler eyes that can fall on our hearts then God’s. There are no more loving and compassionate eyes then His towards us. There are not more capable hands to remove sin and apply balm then his healing hands. There is no one fuller of understanding of our struggles, our attachments, our weaknesses, our desires then Him. He is for us. There is no condemnation to be found in His examinations only encouragement and strength to help us in our time of need if we would but come to him and ask him to examine us, to be our Life Coach.

This world has gotten really big on Life Coaches. It’s those who are to help you in your life path, your career path and your skills development. Being objective and experienced they can be helpful to encourage you to pursue your goals. Many people even seek such Coaches in their physical training as Trainers. You can go further with a Trainer then you can go by yourself in your own wisdom and effort. It’s the accountability.

God knows us and through Jesus, he is our training, the Holy Spirit is our Helper, but how little we come to him regularly and on our knees asking him to help us, to strengthen our spirit, to strengthen our core, to strengthen our faith, to guide us, to examine us, to search us. God in his grace has provided all this to us so on that Great Day we will not be ashamed to stand before Christ but have we taken full advantage of the riches of his resources to get our spirits spiritually fit?

For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.” – 2 Chron. 16:9

and known me.

There is no one who knows us as God knows us. Who knows you? Really knows you? How well does anyone have the ability to know you or anyone else?

This Psalm is all about how intimately God knows you. David mediates on this truth personally. Can we know God? God is Spirit. This is one of his incommunicable attributes that He has no physical form so there can be no physical images of Him. God cannot be contained in His infiniteness to have physical boundaries. The edges of God, if He had any, would necessarily mean that He has come to the end of Himself, there would be a place in space and time where He is not, but since He is omnipresent, this is not possible. There is no place where He is not. There is no space, He does not fill. The edges of God would mean His light would encounter darkness at some point but darkness is as light to Him.

To have a limit you have to have an end or a beginning and God has neither. He always was, always is and always will be. He is the Alpha and the Omega. The Beginning and the End. God is not growing or getting larger, He is fully formed and infinite and immutable, never changing.

We have to jump down a bit and cover verse 6 a bit early.

Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is high; I cannot attain it.

Amen! We can’t get our finite minds wrapped around God to know him as He knows us.

“As well might a gnat seek to drink in the ocean, as a finite creature to comprehend the eternal God.” – Charles Spurgeon

“As you go on with God, He will give you thoughts that are a bit too big for you. God will never leave a servant of His with ideas he can easily express; He will always express through Him more than He can grasp.” – Oswald Chambers

Yet, our infinite God reveals Himself to us so that we can know Him… in part. If He did not reveal himself to us through His Word and Jesus which are one, we would have no hope ever knowing Him because He is Spirit.

“What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us…” – A.W. Tozer

We really don’t come to know a person through physical appearance. Physical appearance really has little to say about the actual character of a man or a woman. To know a person, you have to know their thoughts and little we share our thoughts with others, our real thoughts.

However with man, appearances can be quite deceiving. You can think you know someone but a few months later or years they are not the person you thought them to be. Our heart as we studied before, are not only deceitful to ourselves, they can be quite deceitful to others. People can and often do portray a false image to others because of sin. People try to appear more “good” then they actually are; more intelligent; more caring; more honest, etc…

Truly knowing someone can prove to be quite difficult not only because of hiding their thoughts, projecting false appearances and distortions of sin but also because unlike God we are constantly changing. Our moods change, our opinions change, our tastes change, our likes change, our interests change, our minds change. We are fickle.

How does anyone come to know us especially when we don’t really even know ourselves? We surprise and confuse ourselves often times. We don’t understand our own actions. We don’t know our own thoughts. Our own feelings and emotions are mixed up most of the time. We don’t know what we really think or why we think the way we do, or what we should think. The depths of our hearts are unsearchable to ourselves and for the most part we really don’t want to go digging down inside of them because it’s like digging inside a basement and there is nothing but spiders and rats down there. We would prefer not to know what is there because we know enough that it isn’t good. We have a generally idea of what we once stored or buried in our hearts and it’s not something we want to dig up. Out of sight, out of mind.

            “But the way of the wicked is like deep darkness: they do not know what makes them stumble.” – Pro.4:19

We are a mess. We can have the perfect outside appearance but inside we are all a mess.

However, God is all knowing, even when it comes to us. He has searched and examined our hearts already. There is not one dark corner in our heart, not one item, not one thought, not one memory, not one action recorded in its dark depths that He isn’t already familiar with. He knows exactly what is down there and where everything is. He knows the places we would prefer no body would touch in our lives and often He goes after those first to clean them up. He knows us better then we know ourselves and He often reveals us to ourselves. Apart from His light, there really would be no self-knowledge. As we will see, he is our designer. He knit us together. He knew our days before one of them came to be. He is familiar with all our ways, all our habits.

God knows the smallest and even the most seemingly most insignificant details about our lives.

“Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows” – Luke 12:7

??Does he not see my ways and count all my steps? Job 31:4 NET

 You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book? – Psalms 56:8

 You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
People post a lot of insignificant activity on Facebook, what they are doing at the moment, watching tv, eating, exercising, thinking and most of the time it is just too much information and gets downright annoying because we just don’t care about the tiny details of another’s life in this manner. We don’t want to know what they scored in bejeweled.  It’s just too much info. We want to know people but we don’t want to know that!

However God takes an interest in what no one else takes an interest in about us. God knows the most insignificant things about us individually. When we sit down and when we rise up. There is nothing significant in our sitting and rising from bed or from a dinner table, or just to go get a cup of coffee, to go to the bathroom. God knows even the most insignificant details of our life.  His examining eye never moves away from us. We are continually in his presence, we are continually walking before the Lord whether we are conscious of Him or not.  Not only are all our actions done before him but all our thoughts are before him. Inside and out, we are before God.

This is the truth of this Psalm. We touched on this truth a few weeks ago when we spoke about how we are in God as Christians, we abide in Jesus. We are surrounded and encompassed by his presence continually and walk in Him.

you discern my thoughts from afar.

There are at least 7 Billion people in the world and God knows the thoughts of them all. God’s penetrating eyes can see into the depths of them all. It’s mind boggling. It’s what revealed Jesus Christ as God.

 “But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts?” -Matt. 9:4

An argument started among them as to which of them might be the greatest. But Jesus, knowing what they were thinking in their heart, took a child and stood him by His side, – Luke 9:46-47

Sometimes if you know a person well, you can look at them in a specific situation and know what they are thinking. Often I can look at my husband when someone else says something and I know what he is thinking. Or I can see Carolyn looking at me and I know that she knows what I am thinking. She is pretty good at reading me like a book and surprises me sometimes.

However, God doesn’t have to see your outward expressions to know what you or I are thinking at any given moment. He always knows our thoughts. He always hears them. It’s not like someone not listening or paying attention to us when we speak aloud when we try to share our thoughts. God discerns every single one of our thoughts. Every one of them. Emphasize on every. Not one of them is missed. He doesn’t miss anything about us.

May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer. – Psa. 19:14

God knows when we are thinking of Him and when we are not. How sweet it must be to him as He examines our heart to find us thinking about Him. Isn’t it wonderful to be thought of? God thinks of us. We are seeing that there is not a moment in time when God’s thoughts are not resting upon us. Not one single moment are we ever outside His mind. You could say, His mind is infinitely full of thoughts of us. There is not a moment in time when we are not before Him, when He is not thinking of us. God surrounds us.

“For in him we live and move and have our being.’ – Acts 17:18

God’s omniscience is as difficult to grasp as much as His omnipresence is that He is everywhere at once.

 

Even before a word is on my tongue,
behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.

God knows our thoughts before they even make it to our tongue. That is how well he knows us. He knows what we are going to say even before we do. He knows it altogether.

You search out my path and my lying down
and are acquainted with all my ways

The KJV translates “Thou compasses my path” and the NIV translates this as “you discern my going out and my lying down.” The idea is that God knows our paths. Not only does he know our words before they are on our tongue, he also knows our direction before there are footsteps. God is acquainted with all our ways. He knows our routines, our habits, our interest. God knows our paths. The idea that God compasses our path is like God draws a great compass around us and encircles us and hems us in behind and before as verse 5 develops the idea further.

“To humans belong the plans of the heart, but from the LORD comes the proper answer of the tongue.” – Prov. 16:1

            “In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.” Prov. 16:9

            “A person’s steps are directed by the Lord. How then can anyone understand his own way?” – Pro. 20:24

 

You hem me in, behind and before,
    and lay your hand upon me.

Verse 5 goes nicely with last weeks Psalm 121. Our God is a God who keeps us. A God who watches over us continually. He has us surrounded. Not to confine us as some who would push His boundaries to go outside his presence and will but to protect us from the enemy. However, often it is we ourselves who are our own enemy anytime we try to escape from the position and place that God has put us in.

Satan may try to get us to sneak outside the will of God or our own sinful heart will attempt to tempt us to escape his presence or to flee from it. Sometimes it may seem that we just wander from the presence of God, we are like sheep grazing on his pasture, not paying attention to the dangers around us and we just wander off and have no idea what temptations led us there.

But God knows where we are at even when we do not. His hand upon us speaks of his close proximity. I picture my young 7 moth old grandson and 10 month old granddaughter. They love to explore and wander and I hem them in the living room to keep them out of harms way. I give them the freedom to roam as they will within the predetermined boundaries that I set. Sometimes I let them go a little further out just to test them and see what they will do, but my eye is always on them and they are never outside of my sight. They are always hemmed in, behind and before me and my hand is often upon them, lifting them up and placing them back in their play area when they wander too far. They will try to escape my presence again and I will repeat.

It’s the same with God and us in many ways. His eye is on us. He has placed us in positions where He would have us and set our boundaries. They are wide and we are free to wander within them. God has dealt bountifully with us in our boundaries. We are richly provided for. But we tend to wander and to try and escape thinking there is something out there that he is keeping from us as we spoke of a couple of weeks ago in Psalms 116. God lets us wander sometimes to test us, but his eye is always upon us. He has us surrounded and there really is no escaping his presence.

O wondrous knowledge, deep and high!

Where can a creature hide?

Within thy circling arms I lie,

Beset on every side. – Isaac Watts

Where shall I go from your Spirit?
Or where shall I flee from your presence?

In the next few verses we see an emphasize on the omnipresence of God. He is present in all places and in all dimensions at one time. There is not one place in this universe where He is not. There is no escaping his presence as Jona tried to hide from God and find out.

Who can hide in secret places so that I cannot see them?” declares the LORD. “Do not I fill heaven and earth?” declares the LORD. – Jer. 23:24

If I ascend to heaven, you are there!
If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!

What about hell? Is not hell the absence of God. Jesus holds the keys to hell and Hades. God’s justice and sovereignty are there. It is His mercy and grace that are absent. Jesus is the warden over the inmates of hell, not Satan as many would see this dominion belonging to Satan. Satan when he is cast into hell, will also be merely an inmate along with all those who have no desire to seek and to live in the will of God in this life. It is for those who wish to have no relationship with God, they will be granted their wish and live an eternity without God, without light, without mercy, without fellowship, without grace, without love, without joy, without abundant life and every other good gift that is of God because they wanted no part of Him when He offered Himself to them.

They will see God at a distance and be unable to enter into His presence, His joy, His love, His benefits but will be stuck in eternity in outer darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth. God’s presence is in hell but they cannot taste of it. They will see what they have rejected and mourn without hope of ever being able to partake of such pleasure that is to be found only in Him.

It was their belief in life that there was no pleasure to be found in God or in His ways, but in death they will only see too clearly that there is no pleasure to be found outside of God and His ways but in eternity there will be no further grace or mercy granted, only fearful judgment.

If I take the wings of the morning
and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,

The rays of the morning light, the wings of the sun. This is like taking the 4 am flight to the other side of the world to the East as the sun rises in the morning or running the other direction to the Western world and attempting to settle down on the other side of the sea on a remote isle someplace. No matter what direction you go, no matter how far you go….

10 even there your hand shall lead me,

    and your right hand shall hold me.

 Sometimes we think that we are leading ourselves, going our own way, by own method only discover it was God’s leading us all the time. He provided the wings that we rode upon, the funds, he opened the door and placed the desire in our hearts.

Samson has a desire for one of the daughters of the Philistines as a wife and his father and mother was against it saying, “Is there not a woman among the daughters of your relatives, or among all our people, that you must go to take a wife from the uncircumcised Philistines?” But then it says, “His father and mother did not know that it was from the LORD, for he was seeking an opportunity against the Philistines. At that time the Philistines ruled over Israel.” – Judges 14:3-4

How mysterious are the ways of God and how he leads us within his will. Others may sometimes think we are outside the will of God, when in reality we are on the path that he has cast before us. He knows our ways. He has created us with a plan and a purpose.

A person’s steps are directed by the LORD. How then can anyone understand their own way? – Prov. 20:24

I know, O LORD, that the way of man is not in himself, that it is not in man who walks to direct his steps. – Jer. 10:23

God’s right hand holds us firmly and leads us as parent would lead a child learning to walk. The child may feel that he is choosing the direction and leading his parent, but his mother or father orchestrates his steps and nudges him in the direction to walk, distracts his attention when needed and guides him safely to his place of rest that they had in mind before they had set out on their walk.

God has a predetermined destination for us that he is guiding us also towards. It may seem as if we are wandering about aimlessly but if we are with God and know that God holds our heart hand and has encompassed us about, we can be sure that we will reach the place God has prepared for us in advance.

For I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, “Fear not, I am the one who helps you.” – Isa. 41:13

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.

There is no veil that can hide us from God. The darkness can be a cloak to those who would use the night to hide their actions from others, but our God never sleeps, and his eye is ever upon us and the darkness is as light to him.

God can cloak himself with darkness as he wills, but darkness is unable to cloak anything from God.

You can’t do anything in the dark when God’s around. None of your thoughts are in the dark or your actions. Sometimes we try to hide from God behind the darkness. We can play dumb at times and say we never knew his will when we knew His will but God sees us. God’s light penetrates the darkness and it is as light to him. The darkness can provide no covering before God.

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