Psalm 139. Where Shall I Fly From Your Spirit?

Key Notes: God knows David, even his thoughts. He has no place to hide. God made his body. He asks for an attitude-check on his enemies. God and embryology.

Psa. 139:1–6 God's omniscience
139:7–12 God's omnipresence
139:13–17 God's power (omnipotence)

A code for a rhythm of ideas in Hebrew poetry is spelled out in Lesson 1:
        =  synonymous ideas
     (=) synonymous ideas with verbal repetition
        >> focusing, intensification of thought
       -> a consequential idea, an outcome
       {  } complementing ideas

139:1   "O LORD, you have searched me -> and known me."

139:2–3   "You know when I sit down = and when I rise up;
You discern my thoughts from far away. =  You search out my path and my lying down,
>> and are acquainted with all my ways."

139:4   "Even before a word is on my tongue, O LORD, >> You know it completely."

139:5   "You hem me in, behind and before, >> and lay Your hand upon me."

139:6   "Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; = it is so high that I cannot attain it."
139:7   "Where can I go from your Spirit? = Or where can I flee from Your Presence?"

139:8   "If I ascend to heaven, You are there; = if I make my bed in Sheol, You are there."

139:9   "If I take the wings of the morning = and settle at the farthest limits of the sea,"

139:10  "even there Your hand shall lead me, = and Your right hand shall hold me fast."

139:11–12  "If I say, 'Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light around me become night,' even the darkness is not dark to You;  >>  the night is as bright as the day, = for darkness is as light to You."
139:13–14   "For it was You who formed my inward parts; = You knit me together in my mother’s womb. ->   I praise You, -> for I am fearfully and wonderfully made."

139:15–16   "My frame was not hidden from You, >> when I was being made in secret,  >> intricately woven in the depths of the earth."
"Your eyes beheld my unformed substance. >>  In your book were written all the days that were formed for           me, >> when none of them as yet existed."

139:17   "How weighty to me are your thoughts, O God! >> How vast is the sum of them!"

139:18   "I try to count them  >> — they are more than the sand;
I come to the end — -> I am still with you."
139:19   "O that you would kill the wicked, O God, << and that the bloodthirsty would depart from me —"

139:20   "those who speak of You maliciously,  >> and lift themselves up against You for evil!"

139:21   "Do I not hate those who hate You, O LORD? = And do I not loathe those who rise up against You?"

139:22   "I hate them with perfect hatred;  << I count them my enemies."
139:23   "Search me, O God,  =   and know my heart;
test me  =  and know my thoughts."

139:24   "See if there is any wicked way in me,  ->  and lead me in the way everlasting."


God knows David's actions (139:2), his thoughts (139:3) and his words. 139:4.
God is "afar" (139:2), indicating His transcendence and "you lay your hand on me" (139:5) indicating His immanence.

Christians believe that God is both immanent and transcendent. Those who believe only in God’s transcendence may be called deists; those who believe only in His immanence are pantheists (or panentheists). Both views are incorrect.

139:5 Is God's closeness comforting or threatening? Probably both. Is God's closeness something he had been taught or feels or senses intuitively? "Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is so high that I cannot attain it" suggests revelation rather than intuition.

139:7 Why would one of God's saints (David) want to run from God?
Everyone tries to make a place where God can be excluded. There are things about us that we do not want God to know. David thinks of three dimensions of existence in which he might hide: Heaven / Sheol--the soul's dimension; East / West--the body's domain; Light / Darkness--the heart's dimension. He cannot escape. Then he thinks of the last place anyone would think to look--in the womb. But there God was at work also.

"The Hound of Heaven" by Francis Thompson puts these thoughts into a long, vivid poem, which begins.....

"I fled Him, down the nights and down the days;
I fled Him down the arches of the years;
I fled Him down the labyrinthine ways of my own mind;
and in the midst of tears I hid from Him;"

139:13 David says that God is at work in prenatal life. God puts our bodies together. That is to say that He is involved in embryology. Science says God is involved only in the supernatural. If living processes can be explained, is God not present? We reply that it is impertinent of the theologically untrained to tell us where God does and does not operate.
We also must not destroy fetal life that God is creating.

139:16 God had a plan for David's life. Does God have a plan for every life?
Paul says we are "...chosen...before the foundation of the world that we should be holy and blameless before Him in love." (Eph.1:4)

139:19 Suddenly David has a burst of anger against the wicked and blood-thirsty. It seems to spoil a beautiful poem. Are the wicked his enemies or God's? Is his anger morally justified?

139:23 He is not sure of his anger. The repetition of "Search" at the beginning and ending of the poem suggest that the anger against the wicked is at the heart of the poem, rather than an annoying addition. He asks God, who knows all, to test his heart and see if there is wickedness in him.

An 18-year-old student from Taiwan sat at an international student dinner and heard a discussion of this psalm. Afterward, she sat on the floor, stunned. Her back-ground was Buddhist. She had not heard any of the Bible. She believed that “God” is unknown to us and we are unknown to Him. The idea that God made her, cared about her, and knew her better than she knew herself, left her speechless. That God would come to earth and suffer so that she did not have to suffer was unthinkable. But she thought, and then she believed. Now she delights others as a pastor’s wife and mother of three, teaching her own young disciples.