Knowing The God Who Knows You | Psalm 139

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  • Knowing The God Who Knows You | Psalm 139
  • A cathedral was known for its beautiful organ. Its music filled the surrounding valley. People came from all around to hear its melodic sounds. One day, the music stopped. The organ broke, and no one was able to repair it. Then, as suddenly as it stopped, the organ filled the valley with music again. People descended upon the cathedral to hear. When the old man finished playing, they asked, “How did you fix the organ? He answered, “I made it.” 

    What is broken in your life? 

    Denying the problem won’t help. Do-it-yourself efforts can’t repair it. Having that thing, going to that place, being with that person will not change it. Only God can fix it. Psalm 139 is a praise and prayer to God, who can fix what is wrong in our lives. 

    The ascription reads: To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David. This psalm was written to be sung in corporate worship. How we need more songs like this to sing to and about God! This hymn teaches rich theology. It declares God’s omniscience, omnipresence, and omnipotence. These glorious perfections are not presented abstractly or academically. Psalm 139 is applied theology. It is truth for life. The psalm is profoundly theological and deeply personal. The psalmist is singing about what he knows about God personally, experientially, and intimately.

    Some scholars reject David’s authorship. They claim the language and poetry are beyond David’s capabilities. Such thinking disrespects David’s knowledge and skill. It also dishonors the divine inspiration of scripture. David wrote this psalm under the superintendence of the Holy Spirit. Psalm 139 is called “the crown of all the psalms.” 

    I defy you to find a psalm with a grander view of God or a clearer view of man. These perspectives are closely connected. David saw himself in light of who God is. It gave him a spiritual 20/20 vision. God was the basis of his self-identity, self-worth, and self-esteem. That’s the message of Psalm 139: You cannot know yourself until you know your God. What should I know about God to know myself?

    God Knows Me. 

    Verses 1-6 praise the omniscience of God. God knows everything known, unknown, and knowable. David sings about the objective truth of divine omnipotence in intimate terms. The God who knows everything knows me. This truth is convicting to the unrighteous; comforting to the righteous. God knows me.

    God’s Perfect Knowledge. Verse 1 says, “O Lord, you have searched me and known me!” “Searched” was used for miners digging for ore, scribes studying the law, or spies exploring the land. Without effort or energy, God had thoroughly searched David’s life. As a result, God knew David. God knew everything good and bad about David. This testimony portrays an intimate relationship. Matthew 7:23 says the Lord will say to workers of lawlessness, “I never knew you.” The worst judgment is for God to disassociate himself from you. The greatest blessing is to be searched and known by God. Does God know you?

    God’s Penetrating Knowledge. Verses 2-4 are an exposition of verse 1. How well does God know you?

     God knows your works. Verse 2 says, “You know when I sit down and when I rise up.” Whether resting or working, God knows. God knows what you are doing and thinking. Verse 2 says, “You discern my thoughts from afar.” “From afar” may refer to space or time. The context suggests a reference to time. Before you think about what you will do, God already knows. 

    God knows your ways. Verse 3 says, “You search about my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways.” “Search” means “to winnow.” God sifts what you do in the streets and in your bed. He is acquainted with all your ways. Hebrews 4:13 says, “And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.”

    God knows your words. Verse 4 says, “Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.” People may hold you accountable for the words you say. God holds you accountable for the words you think to say but do not utter. Pray Psalm 19:14 daily: “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.”

    God’s Protective Knowledge. Verse 5 says, “You hem me in, behind and before.” This military language pictures a city under siege. It is used here for God’s protective custody in which we are safe and secure. Verse 5 says, “You lay your hand upon me.” In Genesis 48:14 and 17, Jacob laid his hands on his sons to bless them. In Exodus 33:22, God covered Moses with his hand as his glory passed by. God lays his hands on us to favor, protect, and sustain us.

    Verse 6 says, “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot contain it.” God is worthy of worship because he knows what he is doing. Romans 11:33-36 says, “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God?! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor? Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid? For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.” 

    God Is There. 

    • Verses 1-6 declare the omniscience of God. 
    • Verses 7-12 declare the omnipresence of God. 

    Verse 7 asks, “Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence?” These rhetorical questions assumed a negative answer. God is fully present everywhere. He is never late, tardy, or absent. The sinner finds this truth terrorizing. The godly take comfort in the fact that wherever you go, God is there. 

    He’s there in every direction. Verse 8 says, “If I ascend to heaven, you are there!” God is too high to go over him. And God is too low to go under him: “If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!” Death, hell, and the grave are not escape routes from God. God reigns over life, death, and eternity. Verse 9-10 says, “If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me.” If I go as far east or west as possible, God is there. God is present in whatever direction you take – north, south, east, or west. 

    • His hand is there to lead you. 
    • His right hand is there to hold you. 

    Deuteronomy 33:27 says, “The eternal God is your dwelling place, and underneath are the everlasting arms.”

    He’s there in the darkness. Verses 11-12 says, “If I say, ‘Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night,’ even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light to you.” Here are two further extremes that emphasize God’s presence with us. Day and night, darkness and light are all the same to God. He won’t lose you in the darkness of the night.

    Psalm 23:4 says, “Even thou I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff they comfort me.”You can trust God when in your dark night of the soul. John 8:12 says, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” Sinners live in the dark. We cannot find our way back to God. But Luke 19:10 says, “The Son of man came to seek and to save the lost.”

    God Made Me. 

    • Verses 1-6 declare the omniscience of God. 
    • Verses 7-12 declare the omnipresence of God. 
    • Verses 13-18 declare the omnipotence of God. 

    The omnipotence of God was on full display in the creation of the world. Here David sings of God’s power demonstrated in his conception and birth. The evidence that God knows me and is with me is that God made me. 

    God made me personally. Verse 13 says, “For you formed my inward parts.” “Inward parts” is the soul or spirit. God formed the immaterial me. God created my soul and body: “You knitted me together in my mother’s womb.” You are a work of art God designed in your mother’s womb. Verse 14 is the proper response: “I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” This is true of every human life. John 9:3 says a man was born blind, so the works of God might be displayed in him. Your life is a reason to praise God. 

    Verse 14 says, “Wonderful are your works, my soul knows it very well.” Social media can be addictive, misleading, and destructive. Don’t let algorithms determine how you view yourself. You are one of God’s wonderful works. Instead of mindlessly scrolling, meditate on God until your soul knows well how special you are to God. 

    God made me providentially. Verse 15 says, “My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth.” You were not an accident, mistake, or unwanted. God orchestrated your conception and development in the mysterious birth process. Verse 16 says, “Your eyes saw my unformed substance.” Without our medical, scientific, or technological advances, David knew life begins as conception. Our political agenda cause us to deny that fact. But when you were an embryo, God saw your “unformed substance.”

    Jeremiah 1:5 says, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you.” Here is the biblical case of the sanctity of life. Life is a gift that should not be snuffed out by abortion, suicide, or euthanasia. Verse 16 says, “In your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.” God controls birth and death. No one dies before his time.Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

    God made me purposefully. Verse 17 says, “How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!” David has been singing about his thoughts about God. Now he sings about God’s thoughts about him. God’s thoughts about him are precious,weighty, and valuable. Verse 17 adds: “How vast is the sum of them!” God does not think of you occasionally. You are always on God’s mind. Verse 18 says, “If I would count them, they are more than the sand. I awake, and I am still with you.” 

    • When we wake up in the morning, we will still be with God. 
    • When we wake up in resurrection, we will still be with God.  

    Psalm 3:5 says, “I lay down and slept; I woke again, for the Lord sustained me.”  

    God Will Do Right.

    • Verses 1-18 is David’s praise. 
    • Verses 19-24 is David’s prayer. 

    Psalm 139 is a model prayer: Spend more time in praise than in petition. This final stanza is such a sudden contrast it seems it is another psalm stapled onto the end. It is the climatic point of the psalm. It may be a prayer for vindication after being falsely accused. David’s prayer reflects his confidence that God will do what is right. The one who is omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent is also omni-righteous. How should we pray to our great God?  

    Pray with Steadfast Devotion. Verses 19 prays, “Oh that you would slay the wicked, O God!” This is not an imprecatory prayer. It is righteous indignation. David asks God to judge those who dishonor his name, defy his authority, and disobeyhis commands. He speaks to them directly: “O men of blood, depart from me!” David described the wicked as bloodthirsty killers. He wanted nothing to do with them. 

    Psalm 1:1 says, “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers.”

    Verse 20 says, “They speak against you with malicious intent; your enemies take your name in vain.” This prayer is about God’s enemies, not David’s. They speak maliciously, breaking the third commandment. Verse 21-22 says, “Do I not hate those who hate you, O Lord? And do I not loathe those who rise up against you? I hate them with complete hatred; I count them my enemies.” 

    These statements seem harsh, stiff, and cold. But they reflect David’s steadfast devotion. He was “a man after God’s own heart.” Godly people take God’s side. David did not associate with God’s enemies. God’s enemies were his enemies. Whose side are you on?

    Pray with Humble Submission. 

    • David prayed against wickedness around him. 
    • Now he prays against wickedness within him. 

    Verse 1 says, “O Lord, you have searched me.” Verse 23 asks, “Search me, O God.” He lays his heart open to divine examination. He asks, “Try me and know my thoughts.” Like a refiner purifying metal, David asks God to test his thoughts for anxieties that betray a lack of faith. Verse 24 says, “And see if there be any grievous way in me.” He asks God to expose any behavior that would sinfully grieve God or others.

    Then he prays, “Lead me in the way everlasting.” We miss divine guidance when we pray “lead me” without praying “search me” and “try me.” David does not ask God to lead him to a self-appointed destination. He asks God to lead him in the way everlasting! Philippians 1:21 says, “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” 

    This is one of the most profound prayers in the Bible. It is also one of the most dangerous prayers. Can you sincerely pray this prayer? If you do, God will answer every time! 


    H.B. Charles Jr.

    Pastor-Teacher at the Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church of Jacksonville and Orange Park, Florida.