Psalm 139:2-3

‘You know my sitting down and my rising up.
You perceive my thoughts from afar.
You search out my path and my lying down,
and are acquainted with all my ways.’
(Psalm 139:2-3)

It’s amazing to consider how God knows every little detail about everything that we do. He notes when we sit, when we stand, where we go and all that we spend our time on, including when we lie down to rest. In fact there’s no person or ‘creature that is hidden from His sight’(Hebrews 4:13), including even remote ‘“mountain goats”’(Job 39:1) etc., so He certainly notices our little lives, however obscure.

Beyond creatures, God knows about every drop ‘“of dew”’(Job 38:28) on the mountains, and no doubt we could go further, listing molecules, atoms, and even sub-atomic particles, including those in distant ‘“constellations”’(Job 38:32), since through the second person of the trinity He upholds ‘all things by the word of His power’(Hebrews 1:3), through His ‘“laws of the heavens”’(Job 38:33). It’s fascinating to ponder God’s infinite acquaintance with all of creation like this.

However, this psalm encourages us to make it personal: ‘my sitting… my rising’ etc., yesterday, right now, and forever. Even ‘“the very hairs of [our heads] are all numbered”’(Matthew 10:30). Moreover, this doesn’t simply involve external observation. He perceives our very ‘thoughts’ too. As another psalm puts it, ‘He knows the secrets of the heart’(Psalm 44:21). In fact He knows our thoughts, motives and plans better than we do, since the ‘“heart is deceitful above all things… Who can know it? I, Yahweh, search the mind. I try the heart”’(Jeremiah 17:9-10), just like He understands our physical inner workings better too, since we’re ‘fearfully and wonderfully… woven together’(Psalm 139:14-15) by Him, as this psalm marvels about a few verses later.

Its whole tone is one of awe and wonder at God’s detailed, intimate knowledge of our lives. This should encourage us, since even when no-one else seems to notice, God does – besides, His are the only eyes we should be seeking to please anyway, not those of ‘men’(Galatians 1:10). Likewise, even when no-one seems to care, God cares; when no-one seems to listen, God listens (the whole psalm is addressed to God). Even in a ‘wicked’(Psalm 139:19, cf. 19-22) hostile environment (which appears to have be the psalmist’s predicament) we can delight in God’s ‘thoughts… with’(Psalm 139:17-18) us.

However, this will likely make us feel somewhat uncomfortable too, since our ‘“iniquity isn’t concealed”’(Jeremiah 16:17) from His gaze either. Rightly we should feel like Isaiah in God’s presence: ‘“Woe is me! For I am undone, because I am… unclean”’(Isaiah 6:5), stained with sin, like ‘“scarlet”’(Isaiah 1:18)!

This psalm expresses such an awareness too, and a positive way through. The psalmist welcomes God’s penetrating yet illuminating and sterilizing gaze. His address to God begins with, ‘you have searched me, and you know me’(Psalm 139:1), acknowledges there’s no place to hide: ‘Where could I go… flee… hide from you’(Psalm 139:7-12), then welcomes more of the same: ‘Search me, God, and know my heart. Try me, and know my thoughts. See if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way’(Psalm 139:23-24).

One reason behind the psalmist’s willingness to come under God’s searchlight, despite having an appropriate humble self-awareness, is his understanding that God’s not only ‘acquainted with’ everything anyway, but somehow has ‘ordained’(Psalm 139:16) his whole life too, under the mysteries of divine sovereignty and providence. As believers, aware of God’s ‘hand’(Psalm 139:5&10) on our lives, understanding that we’ve been ‘“drawn”’(Jeremiah 31:3, cf. John 6:44) to Him, we can walk under/in ‘the light’(1 John 1:7) of His ‘piercing’(Hebrews 4:12), cleansing illumination and truth with a humble ‘boldness’(Hebrews 10:19ff., cf. 9:15 & Romans 3:25), grateful that ‘He chose us… before the foundation of the world… according to the purpose of Him who does all things after the counsel of His will’(Ephesians 1:4-11), knowing that He’s placed us securely on the ‘path’ sign-posted: ‘predestined… called… justified… glorified’(Romans 8:30).

It’s hard to comprehend such levels of gracious oversight and control operating in our lives, expressed here as ‘beyond me… lofty… I can’t attain it’(Psalm 139:6). Another psalm shows us one way to respond, when struggling to grasp these profound, almost incomprehensible truths: ‘Yahweh, my heart isn’t arrogant, nor my eyes lofty; nor do I concern myself with great matters, or things too wonderful for me… I have stilled and quieted my soul…’(Psalm 131:1-2). In such a frame, ‘like a weaned child with his mother’(Psalm 131:2), we can prayerfully rest in the presence of our Lord and God, tender, close and personal, in complete trust, ‘from this time forward and forever more’(Psalm 131:3).

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