Psalm 139 — Close by the Creator — Reading the Psalms


For the Chief Musician. A Psalm of David.

1 LORD, thou hast searched me, and known me.
2Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising,
Thou understandest my thought afar off.
3Thou searchest out my path and my lying down,
And art acquainted with all my ways.
4For there is not a word in my tongue,
But, lo, O LORD, thou knowest it altogether.
5Thou hast beset me behind and before,
And laid thine hand upon me.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
It is high, I cannot attain unto it.
7Whither shall I from thy spirit?
Or whither shall I flee from thy presence?
8If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there:
If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, thou art there.
9If I take the wings of the morning,
And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea;
10Even there shall thy hand lead me,
And thy right hand shall hold me.
11If I say, Surely the darkness shall overwhelm me,
And the light about me shall be night;
12Even the darkness hideth not from thee,
But the night shineth as the day:
The darkness and the light are both alike to thee.
13For thou hast possessed my reins:
Thou hast covered me in my mother’s womb.
14I will give thanks unto thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made:
Wonderful are thy works;
And that my soul knoweth right well.
15My frame was not hidden from thee,
When I was made in secret,
And curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.
16Thine eyes did see mine unperfect substance,
And in thy book were all my members written,
Which day by day were fashioned,
When as yet there was none of them.
17How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God!
How great is the sum of them!
18If I should count them, they are more in number than the sand:
When I awake, I am still with thee.
19Surely thou wilt slay the wicked, O God:
Depart from me therefore, ye bloodthirsty men.
20For they speak against thee wickedly,
And thine enemies take thy name in vain.
21Do not I hate them, O LORD, that hate thee?
And am not I grieved with those that rise up against thee?
22I hate them with perfect hatred:
I count them mine enemies.
23Search me, O God, and know my heart:
Try me and know my thoughts:
24And see if there be any way of wickedness in me,
And lead me in the way everlasting.

That the creation is given a heart and mind by which it may contemplate its own existence and matter is the very stuff of wonder and poetry. If one may posit, “I think, therefore I am”, then one must be impressed by the very nature of thinking itself. Our psalm today celebrates the creator, but takes special note that the creation itself is impressed by its creator.

The actual substance under consideration in this psalm is the great difference between the creator and its creation.  Wherever we may go – either in flight or in obstinacy – we are known and seen by God. This seems to be part of the very nature of the creator: that he knows, sees and heeds each and every bit of his creation. God is its source & life. God is outside our limits and our ends.

These ideas can excite different responses in the reader depending on their current mood or environment. If we come to this psalm in a time of difficulty, seeking succor from above, these ideas will encourage and strengthen our hearts. If, rather, we come with feelings of guilt and shame, we may react in fear or such a knowing and ready creator. David, as he wrote this psalm, speaks of his nearby Creator with joy. He is helped by this proximity because he too loves & hates what the creator himself loves & hates.

What we ought to learn from this psalm is the great value in coming to know and understand the Great God of Creation. If he understands us so well, knowing our greatest limits and foolish failings, we ought to know the one who looks at us. Praise be to him that he opened his heart and mind to reveal himself in word. Thanks be to God that he sent this Word – incarnate and human – to live and love his creation. Praise be to God for his wonderful works.


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