Psalm 139:1-14, 23-24 (NIV)These verses served as the basis for a song we sang in church youth choirs on a handful of occasions, and even today I think I could reproduce at least a portion of the melody. That song alone is the main reason this Psalm sticks out in my mind with a select other few from the entire field of 150.
You have searched me, Lord,
and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before,
and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.
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.
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.
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.
The only thing I never quite understood about this passage, though, is the start of second stanza: “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?” Every time I come across these words and those that follow, I wonder why anyone would want to flee from God’s presence. I presume the actual intent is to underscore God’s omnipresence and to note the Lord is with us when we ascend to the mountaintops of praise and love and wallow in the depths of sin and depravity. Clearly a very important message. But still — I would not want to go away from the Spirit or flee God’s presence under any circumstances. If I do have such a desire, it’s probably indicative of a larger problem.
It has become a common theme for me to restate the wisdom of verse 6: “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty to attain.” I feel this way often when I think deeply about matters of the spirit. I feel so feeble, so meek, so tiny when compared to the power of God… in some ways it is freeing because I have accepted my limits and adjusted my expectations. Yet in others it is inescapably frustrating to realize I am powerless to affect the kind of change I feel a situation needs.
Then again, that sounds like me trying to assert my will in a situation when deference to God is required. It is my ego presuming I know what’s best and forgetting such wisdom is too lofty for me to attain.
On a different bent, sometimes we as parents feel we relate to our children similar to how the Psalm portrays God relating to us, as in we created and raised the kids, so surely we know them better than they know themselves. And while that may well be true for the first portion of their lives when they rely on parents for absolutely everything, it quickly fades away as the children start on the path to becoming a complete individual. Eventually, we only know about our children what they choose to reveal. And when they keep a tight control on what slips out, this reality can be very difficult to accept. I’m reasonably sure this is going to get more and more difficult as the kids mature — my only hope is that as they become their own person they don’t completely walk away from the things that make them special to us.
My heart is heavy with these and other such thoughts tonight, and it is a true blessing to come across this Psalm and to be able to use it as an inspiration for prayer. I hope I am not alone in that regard.
A prayer for June 29:
Lord, search me and know me. Test me, know my thoughts. Look for wickedness and lead me away from it down the path to eternal life. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made, as is all creation. You created my inmost being, and did the same for my children. I pray thankfully for your constant presence in our life and to know you will never abandon us, even when we turn from you. Lord, lead us all in the way everlasting. Amen.