I love Psalm 139 (read here). Even since my first weeks of following Jesus, I found great comfort from this truth. In my seminary class we were dissecting some questions about it. Here are some of my thoughts.
1. Are verses 1-18 good news or threatening news?
When someone is lonely, feeling attacked, and frustrated, the feelings are the farthest thing from love, acceptance, and purpose. It’s a feeling of chaos and being utterly out of control. I think that this is good news for one to cling to, to fall back upon, and to choose to believe when all human circumstances are bleak. It’s a wonderful truth that even when darkness is all around and we are being ridiculed and scoffed; God is close, and ordaining our days for a significant purpose. This would have been a comfort for King David. But I love thinking the reverse. For those wicked, those wanting and clinging to darkness, the enemies of God's anointed (David), they don’t want to hear that God is there with them, in their darkness. But according to this psalm, there is no place on Earth one could go where God is not. God is in on the battlefields of war, the strip clubs, the back alleys, the human trafficking rings, the closets, the abandoned and rural hotels used for evil and treachery. So Psalm 139 can be bad news for those who think they can run from God. But He is there, very present. And this brings home in retrospect when victims wonder where God was during the harrowing pain of their past.
2. How do verses 19-22 follow from verses 1-18? And verses 23-24 from verses 19-22?
I love how 19-22 seems out of place, but it’s a human way of thinking. The psalmist is conscious of the goodness of God, dwelling on his grandeur, intimate power from 1-18 and then all of a sudden the thoughts of the wicked, those who opposite of the qualities of God enter the psalmist’s mind in 19-22, hate is present. It’s these people that have probably propelled the psalmist to remind himself of the truth of God’s character when it is being clouded by the wicked circumstances in which he finds himself. It’s an abrupt change that then is partnered with the thought of repentance, a need for God to lead him away from those thoughts in his mind in 23-24. Once those thoughts in 19-22 gain some momentum the psalmist must ask for help, to be searched that these thoughts would be wiped clean, back to mediating on the greatness of God.
3. What images for God does the Psalm use? E.g., is God father, or lord, or creator – or what?
God is seen as a lover, maker, creator, knitter, artist, an invisible presence, a writer, healer, leader, and a conscious.
This psalm comes to mind a lot when thinking about pregnancy and the value of the unborn child. As a father, I used these words to pray over my children in utero, and I constantly want to share these truths with my daughters. I want them to know how valuable they are to God and that God is not only with them at all times, no matter what they do, but that he was making them and forming them in my wife’s womb. I have cherished memories of praying and singing over my wife’s belly while I felt little kicks and movements. It’s a beautiful thought. I also regularly like to share this word with those who are celebrating birthdays. It’s such a great time to reflect on one’s purpose from conception and birth that God was at work creating, knitting, making, preparing, and ordaining all the days of our lives. This is good news indeed. If you can today, thank your mom for allowing God to use her womb to bring you life!