We are nearing the end of our summer in the Psalms. This past week, Kenny Clark took us through Psalm 71. David wrote this psalm as an old man. He was again facing enemies, unjust criticism, even apparent abandonment by God. In his distress, David runs to God as his refuge. Kenny pointed out some important lessons for us from David’s reaction: 1. Run to God for refuge right away—don’t look to anyone or anything else for our help. 2. Cry out for help. Don’t hold back. Tell God exactly what you want. Don’t censor your prayers because you think you shouldn’t ask for help. 3. Bring your grief to God. Bring your fear, your confusion, your anger at the situation and be honest with Him. 4. Shore up your hope in God by remembering all His works of salvation for you. Rehearsing or reminiscing about what God has done, how He has been a refuge, helps us to envision His future works of salvation on our behalf. He did it before. He was there when we called. He never left us. He will be our refuge in the future.
This week brings us to the last psalm in the summer series, Psalm 139. Erik Thoennes will take us through this psalm which, as Spurgeon notes, shines like a sapphire. It shines a spotlight on the nature of our God. He can be our refuge because He is able, more than able to care for and shelter us in every situation. He has the wisdom and the power and the love to do exactly what He purposes on our behalf.
Read through Psalm 139. Take your time. Savor the amazing words. Listen to the wonder that fills David as he writes. Note also how personal David’s statements are. The great Almighty God knows him! Surely this is part of his wonder. Think for a moment about how strange and wonderful it is that our Lord, vast beyond imagining, is mindful of you in all the ways David describes.
Reread verses 1 through 6. Here is a God who knows every one of your thoughts, words, feelings and actions in the past, present and future. You are completely known by this God and have been all your life. There seem to be two possible reactions to such a God: terror that we are so exposed, or joy that we are known and understood completely. What do you see happening in your heart? Are there secrets you thought nobody knew? Are there attitudes you are not proud of? Remember, we have a friend who is closer than a brother. It is He who knows us, and because He knows us, He knows exactly how to help us repent of every sin in thought and deed and attitude. Ask Him to show you what needs to change and give you the power to do so. He longs to have us ask that He may help.
Verses 1 through 6 describe the omniscience of God. Verses 7 through 12 speak of his omnipresence. “Where can I go from Your Spirit?” Who would want to? Perhaps, to those who have been rebelling against God or just living as if He didn’t exist, God’s knowledge and His presence are a terrible threat. This is the “fearful expectation of judgment” (Hebrews 10:27). For believers, however, we can know that wherever we may be, God is there to be our refuge. If we do find this idea troublesome, again, the Holy Spirit can help us see why we aren’t overjoyed by God’s knowledge of us and nearness to us. The guilt and fear of holding on to some sin need not be suffered any longer. He can help us confess and repent. He knows anyway. Ask His help and find the freedom to enjoy His wonderful presence.
Verses 13 through 18 portray God’s lavish love and care with respect to human beings. Look at the words David uses to describe God’s work. “Intricately woven” is how a master craftsman might carefully make a beautiful tapestry for the tabernacle. What might be made as an act of worship to God is used to illustrate the exquisite work of God in crafting His creatures. He brings out of the “unformed substance” a symphony of bones, muscles, nerves and blood vessels regulated by all sorts of organs and glands, exactly in accordance with his plan. “How precious are your thoughts to me, O God!” David rejoices that God has thought so much about him, cared so much about forming him and planning for him. He delights in this. Think about the life you have been given and what it took to bring you into existence. Think about all the events that have brought you to this present moment. What is in your heart right now?
In verses 19-22, what is David’s response to the greatness of God and the vastness of God’s care toward him? He loves God so completely, he hates anyone who opposes God. God’s enemies are his enemies. In our world, we hear daily from those who hate God, who twist His Word. The world tells us there is no absolute truth and that all religions are equally valid or invalid. Do you find yourself longing for Christ to return today and set this right? “Away, you men of blood!” The current call for “tolerance” would have outraged David. Israel had been taught not to tolerate heresy or blasphemy. We hear both almost daily. Are you outraged?
The last two verses ask God to search David. Verse 1 told us God already had. This last search is one we all need. God already knows all about us, but we need to know, too. The Holy Spirit searches constantly and brings up to us what isn’t godly in our hearts. Then He will help us if we ask. He will empower us to change our hearts. This is not instantaneous. Over months and years He works patiently. We ask Him to help and acknowledge our need. We humble ourselves and He lifts us up in due time. This is the “lead me in the way everlasting” David is asking for. This is a gift beyond price. God is willing and able to make us over into the image of His Son (Roman 8:29.) All God asks is that we agree that we need work and take faltering steps of obedience.
These last verses are the crowning wonder of a psalm filled with wonders. The great all-knowing, all-present God whose power created the farthest galaxies and the smallest cells in our bodies delights to help rebellious sinners be transformed into children in the likeness of God’s Son. Though most of us aren’t as gifted as David, surely we all have some capacity to praise God for His magnificent love. Let’s praise Him for all He is and all He does. Most of all, let’s praise Him for saving us when we could never save ourselves. No one could force Him or stay His hand. It is purely because He is filled with compassion, mercy and grace that He has considered our need and done everything to bring us to Himself. This week read over Psalm 139 again, singing it in your heart as great praise. When you are doing all the common things the psalm speaks of, praise Him that He knows and is there and loves you.
Also, please pray for Erik Thoennes as he prepares to open this psalm for us in all its beauty and power. Pray for everyone who will hear the sermon this week that they may be inspired to do what the Holy Spirit might prompt in response. Let us all encourage one another to know God more, love Him more completely and serve Him with abandon. Amen. See you Sunday.
Resources: Spurgeon, Treasury of David, (This website is often unavailable—Suggest the alternate below. It takes you to Verse 1 of Psalm 71 with links to the next verse. http://www.spurgeon.org/treasury/treasury.php
Bible Gateway, dozens of Bible translations, www.biblegateway.com
J. Vernon McGee, Psalms Volume III, Thru the Bible Books, Pasadena, CA. MP3s and other materials available at www.ttb.org
MercyMe Psalm 139 (You are There) https://www.vevo.com/watch/mercyme/psalm-139-(you-are-there)/USM2C1301809