Friday, March 27, 2009

Some thoughts on Psalm 139 from this weekend

I'm finally feeling better. Life is good! :) (You never realize how good you feel until you feel really BAD for a while.)

The speaker at last weekend's retreat gave us a lot of time alone with God, with suggestions for study. I really enjoyed it.

The first suggestion she had was to meditate on Psalm 139. This is one I'd memorized years ago, and I haven't spent much time with it since. Thinking about it was such a treat. I'll share some of what I came up with for the first five verses, and I'd love to hear your thoughts also.

1. O LORD, You have searched me and known {me.}

There is SO much in me (and in anyone) that would offend God, at the very core of His being. He is perfect, and we human beings are far from it. I know myself, and know that I am far from it.

Yet He makes a deliberate choice to go there. He is all-knowing. He already knows everything. Yet to "search" seems to imply some attention above and beyond that. He somehow directed the process, focused it more precisely, when it comes to knowing His people.

Now my first (negative) thought is that He's looking for hidden sins and yuckiness that needs to go away. Yet later, in verse 23, David ASKS God to search him for hidden sins. So this initial searching must be something different, yes? Maybe a desire to become more intimately acquainted with one who's loved? Maybe gazing on the reflection of the Lord Jesus, that's present (even in small scraps) in the hearts of those who have trusted him?

The word "me" is in brackets, which means it isn't in the original text, but is strongly implied. It's interesting to read it without that word. "You have searched me and known." There's something all-encompassing when you read it that way. The open-endedness (new word ... made it up myself) is comforting. He has searched, and He knows it ALL ... the motivations, the secrets, fears, triumphs. He just ... KNOWS.

2. You know when I sit down and when I rise up; You understand my thought from afar.

He cares about all the little details of our day -- the things that would be SO tedious to all but those who really care ... "When did you get up this morning?" "Did you sit and watch the sunrise?" "Was your headache any better today?" These things are fascinating when they involve someone you love.

The end is amazing. "You understand my thought afar off." I have friends whom I love dearly, and whom I can truly say I "know." Yet, the way they think is so different fro the way I think that there is a continual mystery in understanding their motives and choices. Yet God is afar off ... profoundly different in every way. Nevertheless, somehow, He not only CAN, but chooses to, understand my thoughts. So often I don't understand them myself!

3 You scrutinize my path and my lying down, And are intimately acquainted with all my ways.

He "scrutinizes" or "winnows" my path. This sounds fearful, too, doesn't it? But only because I don't know HIM as well as He knows ME!

The use of "winnow" is interesting. Picking out the bad bits and blowing them away. Fortunately he adds in some good bits, so there's something left! It seems like a violent process, but it's a process with a POINT. There are times when violence is required in order to accomplish good ends. Surgery, or setting a bone, a soldier's boot camp or disciplining a child ... these would all seem violent to an observer who didn't understand the situation. Yet their end is healing, and maturity and strength.

"Path" or "journeying" makes me think of life and "lying down" of death as well as the day to day awake and sleep, or moving forward in our growth with God and times of stagnation. All of this, He knows intimately.

What a beautiful summary statement. "intimately acquainted with all my ways."

There's a story told, and I wish I could find the source. (help? anyone?) about a practical joker who sent anonymous notes to many people in his town. They all said the same thing: "all is discovered, flee now." And they did. Every one of them had a secret that, if it were known, would be so deeply shameful that they ran. We all do, don't we? If not something we've done, then something we've thought, or something we just ARE. But in God's case, all IS known, and there IS nowhere to flee. But there's also no need to flee.

4 Even before there is a word on my tongue, Behold, O LORD, You know it all.

Again, there's so much to know here that's abhorrent to me. There are things I've said that just make me flinch when the memory sneaks in unbidden. In James 3, it says "the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity."

In those times of verbal idiocy, I often don't even known my words before they slip out. Yet God DOES. If tongue control is going to happen, I need to ask Him to do it!

5 You have enclosed me behind and before, And laid Your hand upon me.

I can tend to be claustrophobic in certain situations ... crowded rooms full of people, amidst clutter, when I can't see outside, etc. But this is a good type of enclosure, not like a cow in a loading cute!

I was thinking about reasons why we enclose things:

Because they might get lost

livestock, children, earrings

"Prone to wander, Lord I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love.
Here's my heart, Lord,
Take and seal it.
Seal it for thy courts above.

Because there is danger to be avoided

There are hidden pits, evil people and treacherous pathways, and we'll wander into them chasing butterflies.

To set it apart for ourselves

My yard, my field, my last piece of chocolate cake ... we enclose it to show ownership.

Because it's valuable, and someone might snatch it away

Passports, cars, and beloved disciples who might listen to false teachers who would lead them into falsehood

Because we want to assign it value

If you're trying to sell something, putting it in a glass case automatically gives it a perceived value. If you have something that might appear ordinary, and you want to display it in your home, you set it apart, and it draws the eye, and curiosity. There's an allure to the apparently-every-day that is, for some reason, different.

Because it's fragile, delicate

Oh to remember this about other believers! It's so easy to be quick with advice, or criticism, or just un-useful words. We are all far more fragile than we let on. God wants us to deal gently with one another.

“Being perplexed, I say,
‘Lord, make it right!
Night is as day to Thee,
Darkness as light.
I am afraid to touch
Things that involve so much;
My trembling hand may shake,
My skilless hand may break;
Thine can make no mistake.’

“Being in doubt I say,
‘Lord, make it plain;
Which is the true, safe way?
Which would be gain?
I am not wise to know,
Nor sure of foot to go;
What is so clear to Thee,
Lord, make it clear to me!’”
-- Streams in the Desert


So, there's what I've come up with. I'd love to hear your gleanings!

On another note, my robins are back, and building a nest on the balcony again this year. I shredded some rags last night, and put them out, to contribute something to the construction process.


Rachel L said...

Wow! You could write a commentary! Much of what you say, I have thought the same and just have never put it into words. Your commentary on the last verse was new to me. I have always know God knows me better than I know myself, probably from this Psalm. I was so surprised a few months ago to read from a nonbeliever that he thought it was creepy to think that someone might know his every thought. I have felt the same as you, kind of like "At least Someone knows what's going on!"

Anonymous said...

that was good . thank you for publishing it.