Reading: Psalm 139
Search me, 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 (NIV).
In my opinion, Psalm 139 rates in the top ten of the 150 psalms in the Bible. Many find deep comfort and encouragement in it. It is arguably the most intimate or personal psalm. Take a minute to read the entire psalm and you will see for yourself why I draw these conclusions.The Psalm begins by pointing out the futility of fleeing from God. We can’t hide from Him though we may try. The prophet Jonah discovered this truth the hard way. In Jonah’s case, it took three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish to come around to right perspective. See Jonah 1 & 2. How long does it take for us to realize how foolish it is to run from God? I dare say some of us sink below sea-level before the wisdom of Psalm 139 takes hold.
Though the psalmist begins by discussing the futility of hiding from God, he concludes by asking for God to search his heart. He willingly comes before the LORD and asks to be tested. That takes humility and courage—more humility and courage than many of us can muster.
Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. This appears to be a very straightforward request, but there are intricacies to this statement that deserve some careful consideration.
Does God need to search my heart? Does He need to search for anything? Not really. He already knows everything that’s there. I’m the one who doesn’t know what is in my own heart. I’m the one who is surprised when some emotion is triggered, or I react in an unpredictable or irrational way. Do I understand my heart? Do I know what is lurking down there? My knowledge is partial at best. Self-flattery and subtle forms of self-deception can blind me to what is really in my heart.
When we are asking God to search us and test us, we are really asking to begin a process of self-discovery. We are exposing our soul to God, so He can point out what is there. Then you and I can repent and turn our heart-hidden sins over to God. I cannot trust myself to see and acknowledge what is there. I need God’s help. By nature I am a hider. Jesus is the Great Seeker. Remember he came to seek and save the lost. See Luke 19:10.self-f
Jesus is the one who can see if there is any offensive way in me. He is the Good Shepherd, the one who will lead me in the way everlasting. When I freely confess my need for him, his blood cleanses me from the darkest sins. Real freedom for us begins with exposure—exposure to the penetrating searchlight of God.
Response: LORD God, you know my heart. You know what triggers my wrong responses. Search me and show me what needs to change and how to make those changes. Lead me in the way everlasting. Amen.
Your Turn: How well do you know your heart?
Reading: Psalm 139
If only you, God, would slay the wicked!
Away from me, you who are bloodthirsty!
They speak of you with evil intent;
your adversaries misuse your name.
Do I not hate those who hate you, LORD,
and abhor those who are in rebellion against you?
I have nothing but hatred for them;
I count them my enemies.
As much as I love the psalms of the Bible, there are some psalms, or verses within psalms that I would just like to skip. I wish they weren’t there. Today’s reading from Psalm 139 is a prime example. The author’s words are filled with venom. Why are they even in the Bible? (Please bear with me.)Passages like today’s reading are particularly troubling in light of Jesus’ teaching in the New Testament. In his great Sermon on the Mount, he gave us this teaching: “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matthew 5:43-45).
Reconciling today’s reading from Psalm 139 with Jesus’ words makes my head hurt. Jesus calls us to an incredibly high standard—God’s standard. God shows kindness and love even to the unrighteous. They like us receive both sunshine and rain. Let’s face it, when someone hurts me, my default position is to hurt them back. That’s the natural human response. That’s the way it has been since the beginning, and the world is full of lasting scars—intergenerational scars because of it. Wounded people have been busy hurting other wounded people as hate builds on hate in the home, at work and internationally.
But Jesus came to interrupt that corrosive cycle. He asks us to counter that hurt—that slight—that injury with love. Now that’s truly revolutionary. It’s a revolt against the status quo of hatred that has poisoned human relations in our country and the world. Has someone gone out of their way to hurt you? Retaliate with an act of love. That’s what Jesus is saying.
Is that hard? Absolutely. It’s much easier to respond like the author of today’s reading from Psalm 139. So why is this portion of Psalm 139 in the Bible? Maybe it should be redacted—blacked over like a secret government file.
In reality, Psalm 139 like all the psalms, began as someone’s personal prayer—their personal interaction with God. They are pouring out their heart before God. It’s a heart that has been wounded by others. Should they bottle up those feelings and never express them to God? Of course not. We need to pour out our hurts to God. He alone can heal and change that wounded heart.
Response: LORD God, you know all my hurts. I bring them before you. Pour your love into me, so I can love my enemies. Show me the way forward. Jesus, you forgave even those who killed you. Amen.
Your Turn: Have you changed your default position from hate to love?
Reading: Psalm 139
For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
How precious to me are your thoughts, God!
How vast is the sum of them!
Were I to count them,
they would outnumber the grains of sand—
when I awake, I am still with you (NIV).
Psalm 139 is a psalm of incredible intimacy—divine intimacy. God knows us; sees us; loves us like the LORD only can. He has known us and cared for us from the moment of conception. We need to make that statement personal, because it is personal. The Almighty has known me, and cared for me from the moment of my conception.For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
Last week, I had lens replacement surgery on my left eye. The same surgery was done on my right eye three weeks earlier. This highly skilled tinkering with my eyes has left me in awe of the gift of sight. What a miracle! Yes, the surgeon worked wonders. My sight has been restored without the need for eyeglasses—something I have needed and have worn since the age of eight. Now for first time in 58 years, I can roll out of bed and not reach for my glasses.
What I truly appreciate is the original miracle—the gift of sight itself; a gift we are born with. Because the miracle of sight is so universal, we take it for granted. But when that precious gift is lost or threatened we appreciate it again with new eyes. I join with the psalmist in making this declaration: I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
God took the time to knit you together in your mother’s womb. You can be sure He didn’t miss a stitch. You were formed according to His plan to live for His purpose. Wow! What an awesome privilege. And all the days ordained for [you and] me were written in [God’s] book before one of them came to be.
Response: LORD God, thank you for the gift of life, for sight, sound and touch. You thought of me. What joy that brings! Help me to live the days assigned to me with gladness and gratitude. Amen.
Your Turn: Do we take our physical gifts for granted? How do you cultivate an attitude of gratitude?
Reading: Psalm 139
Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,”
even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you (NIV).
One of my favorite games as a child was hide and seek. Whenever a group of kids got together, it wouldn’t take long before someone would say, “Hey, let’s play hide ‘n seek.” We settled on who would be the seeker, and off we went, happily playing until the adults eventually called an end to our fun.
I preferred being the hider rather than the seeker. What about you? There seems to be something fun, even natural about hiding. We should be good at it. Humankind has been hiding since that fateful day in the Garden of Eden. After willfully disobeying God, what was the first thing Adam and Eve did? They hid. First, they hid their nakedness from each other; then they hid from their loving Creator. Humanity has been playing hide and seek from God ever since. And yes, we are the hiders.
We should be the seekers—seekers after God. Instead we find ourselves hiding our sins and hiding from our God and Savior. What utter foolishness this is? The psalmist expresses this reality so well. Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
We can’t hide from God? Why can’t we, you ask. Because He is God—all knowing—present everywhere. This behavior—this hiding from God—is nothing more than profound stupidity on our part. Why do we even attempt such an impossible feat? Are we so blinded by guilt and shame that we can’t face the One to whom we must give an account? But the Grand Accountant has also provided the remedy for our sin and the guilt and shame that follows.
The remedy is the blood of Jesus. He is the atoning sacrifice that brings us back into fellowship with God. He became one of us so he could lead us, like errant sheep back to our Father God. There is no need to hide. Speaking of himself, Jesus said, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10).
Response: LORD God, you know me. You know all my sins, my weaknesses and shortcomings. Yet you love me. I bring all these things before you. Wash me clean. Jesus, your shed blood is my remedy. Amen.
Your Turn: Have you been playing hide and seek with God? Is it time to stop hiding and start seeking?