Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Dec 15 2019 - Psalm 139 – Known by God

We all have things in our lives or in our history which we would not wish everyone to know about. And we are glad that others cannot see our thoughts which may not always be complimentary or kind towards others. How do we feel about the fact that God knows everything about us; he knows all that we have done, all that we have said and the thoughts, longings and plans of our hearts?

This wonderful psalm was composed by David and was written from the perspective of one who is a child of God. He is fully aware that God sees and knows everything about him but, rather than filling him with fear, this fills him with a sense of thanksgiving and assurance (vv. 1-6). He delights in the fact that God knows every detail of his life, even the trivial things such as when he stands up and when he sits down, when he goes out or when he lies down. God even knows what he is about to say before he says it. He cannot really get his head round this level of knowledge and care – it's just too wonderful for him. We sometimes use the phrase, "Out of sight, out of mind." The opposite is also true, particularly of our relationship with God; we are never out of his sight and we are never out of his mind – he delights in his unceasing and unfailing fatherly care of us.

But it's not just that God sees and knows all about us, David goes on to say that God is with us wherever we go (vv. 7-12). Again, this can be a frightening thought if we are foolish enough to be seeking to escape from God – like Adam and Eve in the Garden or Jonah on his way to Tarshish. But it is a wonderfully comforting thought to the child of God. We are never alone. Our God is no local deity who is no longer with us if we should "settle on the far side of the sea". Heaven and earth are full of his presence (and his glory if we can but see it). The day will come when we will take our last journey and leave this world altogether. Our God will be with us in that journey too. The Saviour who passed through death to life will be with us and will keep us safe on that last part of our pilgrimage: "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me" (Psalm 23:4). We need not be afraid of death.

David continues with the wonderfully confident assertion that this God, whose presence and knowledge continually surrounds him, also made him and has planned every detail of his life (vv. 13-18). We are "fearfully and wonderfully made." The intricacies of the human body are endless and wonderful in the way in which they (generally) work together to keep us alive, active and well. The complexity of the human brain continues to defy our complete understanding – someone has made the claim that the human brain is the most complex object in the entire universe. God designed and fashioned it all. David uses homely language to describe how God fashioned us, and knew all about us, when we were in our mother's womb; God knew of our existence before our mother was even aware that she was bearing a child. And, at that point, says David, "all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be" (v. 16). Again, God's knowledge of us and the intricacy of his care for us are beyond our comprehension. But we may be assured that when the last of those earthly days ordained for us is past, "when I awake, I am still with you" (v. 18).

To speak in theological terms for a moment, David has spoken of God's omniscience, omnipresence and omnipotence. But this creates a problem. If God knows everything and is all powerful, why does he allow evil to continue seemingly unabated in his world? (vv. 19-21). This psalm does not offer an answer to this troubling question but does assure that the Lord Jesus who endured the cruellest of suffering at the hands of evil men is with us by his Spirit in every situation we face. More than that, the Scriptures assure us that the day is coming when evil will be no more. When Jesus returns he will complete his work of new creation and we will live and reign with him in a world marked by righteousness and peace.

Triune God, you know my heart and my anxious thoughts. Help me by your Spirit to know, delight and rest in your constant presence with me and loving embrace around me in every circumstance and moment of my life.

Peter Misselbrook