Feelings of Insignificance - Psalm 139
We live in a world of airbrushed images and finely chiseled bodies. In our dealings with many companies (and government agencies) we are known by our account numbers rather than our names. If you need to talk to someone from a large company you may spend a good amount of time listening to a computer and being prompted to push annoying buttons before you can ever hope of talking to a real person. It is no wonder people feel increasingly more insignificant.
In Psalm 139 we learn about the character of God. We learn about God’s all encompassing knowledge and His inescapable presence. In teaching us these truths David also speaks to us about our significance as individuals. It is a message we not only need to hear . . . it is one we are often longing to hear. So listen closely to these words because they will give you comfort again and again.
1 O Lord, you have examined my heart
and know everything about me.
2 You know when I sit down or stand up.
You know my thoughts even when I’m far away.
3 You see me when I travel
and when I rest at home.
You know everything I do.
4 You know what I am going to say
even before I say it, Lord.
5 You go before me and follow me.
You place your hand of blessing on my head.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too great for me to understand!
God Knows Us
David begins his Psalm with a wonderful and at the same time terrifying statement: “God knows everything about me”.
Every one of us has hidden areas in our lives. They may be past mistakes, sinful deeds, perverse thoughts, or addictions we think are hidden from others. We spend a good deal of our lives trying to cover up blemishes both physical and character based. We have insecurities we keep hidden because we feel we must maintain the illusion of competency. Every one of us does a certain measure of “spin” in order to shape what people know and think about us. One of our greatest fears is being exposed or fully known by others. The idea of having what we are really like and the way we really think exposed fills us with anxiety and keeps us awake at night.
However, at the same time, our hearts ache to be truly known and loved. We feel distant even from the people we cherish and care most about because we know (or believe) they will only be attracted to us as long as we can maintain our charade. In other words, we think they are attracted to and love the illusion, not the reality.
David says God sees the whole picture. He sees everything. He sees our failures, our sin, and our inconsistency. He knows the lies we tell and the cover-ups we live. He knows what we are thinking! He knows where we are nursing bitterness and refusing forgiveness. He knows where we possess hatred and the things we are really indifferent about. This terrifies us! We know we stand guilty before a Holy God. Our pretend righteousness crumbles before the gaze of our all-knowing Father.
However, God also knows our hurts, our insecurities, our feelings of failure and disappointment. He knows when we were trying to do what was right and everything turned out wrong. He sees when we are treated unfairly or shamefully. He knows the lies about us that we are helpless to correct. In other words, He “gets us”. And there is something wonderful about this.
Because God knows us fully we don’t have to hide anything. We don’t have to make excuses or live a lie before Him. We can be honest, vulnerable and safe.
In the rest of the Bible we learn that God not only knows us . . . He also (still!) loves us. It’s not that God approves of everything we do. However, He takes us and loves us as we are and wants to rescue us from our sinfulness through the work, sacrifice, and resurrection of Jesus. There is something wonderfully freeing about this fact.
God Accompanies Us
7 I can never escape from your Spirit!
I can never get away from your presence!
8 If I go up to heaven, you are there;
if I go down to the grave, you are there.
9 If I ride the wings of the morning,
if I dwell by the farthest oceans,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
and your strength will support me.
11 I could ask the darkness to hide me
and the light around me to become night—
12 but even in darkness I cannot hide from you.
To you the night shines as bright as day.
Darkness and light are the same to you.
Once again this is good news and bad news. The bad news is that we can’t get away from the Lord. Jonah tried running from God and found out that it didn’t matter where he went (onto a ship, the belly of a big fish, the city of Nineveh, or even sitting alone under the plant he used for shade on the hill outside Nineveh) God was already there.
Think about how many people believe they are hiding the truth from God. They seem to believe that as long as they can keep things a secret “God will never know”. David says it is foolish to think this way! God is with us when we think we are all alone. He is with us when we are browsing the web. He is with us as we talk about our friends and family members to others. He is there when we lose our cool, fall into temptation, or even when we go looking for trouble.
The bottom line is that we are truly accountable for everything that we do. We can hide from others, but we cannot hide from the Lord.
Positively, the fact that God is always with us means we are NEVER alone. David says Darkness and Light the same . . . God ALWAYS is with us. He is with us,
During Chemotherapy Treatments and the sickness that follows
In times of danger and crisis when we feel threatened
When we are lost and away from home
When we are on a battlefield
When we are in a jail cell
When we are in a hotel room far from home
When we are sitting with a loved one who is dying
When we feel completely abandoned and terrified because our mind has eroded and we don’t know those people who keep coming around and getting too close to us.
When we have failed miserably and no one wants to be seen with us
When we are overwhelmed by life
When even God’s people seem to have turned away
We are NEVER alone. This fact brings not only accountability but also comfort if we turn to Him.
God Made Us
13 You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body
and knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!
Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.
15 You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion,
as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.
16 You saw me before I was born.
Every day of my life was recorded in your book.
Every moment was laid out
before a single day had passed.
17 How precious are your thoughts about me, O God.
They cannot be numbered!
18 I can’t even count them;
they outnumber the grains of sand!
And when I wake up,
you are still with me!
David recognizes that God has been making us from the very moment of our conception. He “knit us together in our mother’s womb”.
Let me add an important aside here. This text is one of the reasons for opposing abortion on demand. Society thinks those who are pro-life or anti-abortion are this way because they are sexual prudes and are trying to impose their moral standards on everyone else. While it is true that God designed sex for the covenant relationship of marriage and it is only supposed to be entered into within that context, this is not the primary argument against abortion. The argument against abortion is the recognition that life begins in the womb. From the moment when a seed and egg come together there is a life that is being “knit together”. That tissue is already a person who is known and loved by God. The abortion debate is about the value and the dignity of the most helpless of persons. In most cases a “woman’s right to choose” was exercised when conception took place. Abortion on demand asks the question: “Does a person’s right to try to escape the consequences of their choices take precedence over the right of the weakest of human beings to life?” Frankly, it is staggering to me that some of the same people who lobby for animal “rights” (protect animals from undue suffering) also support abortion on demand (the ending of life for a pre-born human being)!
This is not a political issue, it is a moral one. I think it is important for you to see the Biblical and moral implications of our text as it relates to this debate that continues in our country. The Bible affirms the value of all life from the baby in the womb to the person confined to a bed in a Nursing home. It affirms the value of those who are born with disabilities just as it affirms the lives of those without disabilities.
In verse 13 we are told God also made our inmost being. Tim Keller says this inmost being is our “psyche” or our true self. In other words, God creates our personalities. He made us with the unique gifts and even the personality quirks which we possess. God has been creating us to be perfectly equipped for the part He wants us to play in the building of His Kingdom. This does not justify or excuse our sinful tendencies. We have admittedly distorted God’s creation. However, don’t miss the fact that your uniqueness as a person is intentional.
Few of us would look in a mirror and say “I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (14) but it is true. Though we may not have cared for the body God gave us in the best way possible, it is still the body and the personality God gave us. God really does have a plan for your life.
This is especially relevant to the person who feels they are too short, too tall, uncoordinated, tone deaf, not good in academics, not as pretty or handsome as others. God did not make you to be like anyone else . . . He made you to be the unique individual that He wanted you to be. You and I were made by the hands of the master designer. As the old saying goes: “You must be special, because God does not make any junk.”
Responding Passionately to the Passionate Love of God
19 O God, if only you would destroy the wicked!
Get out of my life, you murderers!
20 They blaspheme you;
your enemies misuse your name.
21 O Lord, shouldn’t I hate those who hate you?
Shouldn’t I despise those who oppose you?
22 Yes, I hate them with total hatred,
for your enemies are my enemies.
All of a sudden it seems David takes a sharp left turn. Think about what has happened. David has come to realize how truly wonderful, caring, and patient God is. He sees clearly that God desires not to do us evil, but good. God has not set out to ruin or control our lives, He wants to lead us to the life we were created to live.
With this information in mind David is asking that anything that stands in the way of the Lord’s plan for us be destroyed. He pleads with God to destroy wickedness because He knows how destructive it is to our lives.
It’s not that odd if you think about it. We have pointed it out before. You and I pray that God would destroy cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, ALS, Parkinson’s, Diabetes and heart disease. We want God to destroy these things because they destroy people that we love.
David understands that wickedness is doing the same thing as these diseases. He hates anything and anyone who is wicked because it/they are destructive. In some cases the people are destroying others, in other cases they are destroying themselves. A person who understands the love and compassion of God will love what God loves and hates what God hates.
Why wouldn’t we want to be fully committed to this one who knows us, made us, and stands with us? Why wouldn’t we want to throw off anything (people, ideas, and things) that hold us back from basking in this security, wholeness and love? David concludes with this heartfelt prayer,
23 Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 Point out anything in me that offends you,
and lead me along the path of everlasting life.
Do you see what is happening? David understands that the purging must start with him. He says: search ME, O God! He begins by hating the sin He sees in Himself. Before we start accusing those around us we need to have God address the anxious, offensive, and wicked things in our own lives. David asks God to do surgery on his soul. He wants God to reveal those things that are drawing him away from the Lord. He wants to see the parts of his life that he is hiding even from himself.
In other words, David is ready to live transparently. He wants to rest in the arms of the one who loves him in the way he thought he could never be loved. No more games, no more duplicity.
In the Garden of Eden the first thing Adam and Eve did when they sinned was try to hide from God. When they did this they did not fool God. They only hurt themselves. As they lied to cover their sin, they moved further and further away from the God who wanted only to love them and provide for them. We have all been hiding, running, and hurting ever since.
We have seen this phenomenon with our children. We want to help them but they pull away. For some reason they doubt our love. They slam doors, refuse to talk, and when they do talk it is about how miserable we are making their lives. As parents we are helpless. Until our children are willing to let us love them, we can only wait . . . with our arms open.
We see it with animals. An animal is hurting and we want to help. However, the animal misreads our intentions and in fear and pain they fight us and sometimes do so viciously. They don’t know that we want to help them get well. As a result they suffer longer.
Instead of transparency being scary, David understands that it is really the only way to health. Only as we submit to the searchlight of God’s all encompassing gaze can we hope to find peace, and life. Only as we open ourselves to Him will we be able to find Him! He is always by our side. He knows who we are. However, we will not know peace, we will not find healing until we see Him as He really is and stop running from Him.
This week we will sit down at a table and give thanks. Hopefully, you will be able to spend some of that time with those you love. But even if you are alone I hope you will remember something: You have every reason to be thankful. You have a reason to rejoice. You are known, you are loved, you are fearfully and wonderfully made, and you need never be alone. The One who loves you has done what was necessary to redeem you and make you new. He has gone to extreme measures to prove His love. And if you are like me, you will realize that is something to be thankful for every day because every other blessing pales by comparison.