by Bob Wheeler


Psalm 139

What makes it possible to have a personal relationship with God himself is the fact that God is a Person, a conscious Being who can think and feel and act.  And an important part of His personhood is the fact that He knows things – He is conscious of other objects.  And what is especially remarkable is the fact that the Ruler of the universe knows each one of us individually.

This is brought out in a striking way in Psalm 139.  As David reflects on his relationship with God his is struck by the fact that God knows everything, and that God knows him personally.

“O Lord, You have searched me and known me.”

(Psalm 139:1; NKJV).

Moreover God knew David exhaustively and comprehensively.  God observed all of his actions: his sitting down and his rising up (vv. 1,2), and his lying down (v. 3).  God hears every word that he says (v. 4), and knows what David is thinking (v. 2).

Moreover there is no place where David can go to hide from God.  If he were to go up to heaven, God is obviously there (v. 8).  But what about hell (sheol – the abode of the dead)?  God can even find him there too (v. 8b).  If David went aboard a ship and sailed to some distant land God could find him there as well (vv. 9,10).  Nor can David try to hide in the dark.

“If I say, ‘Surely the darkness shall fall on me,]

Even the night shall be light about me.

Indeed, the darkness shall not hide from You,

But the night shines as the day;

The darkness and the light are both alike to You.” (vv. 11,12)

God’s knowledge of David began while David was still in his mother’s womb (vv. 13-16).  In short, there was nothing about David that God did not know.

The fact that God knows everything about us can be both comforting and intimidating at the same time.  On the one hand David could say,

“You have hedged me behind and before,

And laid Your hand upon me.”  (v. 5)


“Even there Your hand shall lead me,

And Your right hand shall hold me.” (v. 10).

God knows all about us.  He is fully aware of the circumstances we face.  And, in fact, He knows things about our circumstances that we ourselves do not know.  And thus He is fully able to guide and protect us.  This consideration should enable us to go to Him in prayer in the full confidence that He will hear and answer.  But we need to learn to be patient and wait for His perfect timing and solution.  And for us, as finite, mortal human beings, that can be hard.

But God’s knowledge of us can be intimidating as well.  If He knows everything about us – everything we do, everything we say, everything we even think, there is nothing we can hide form Him.  Our entire hearts and lives are an open book to Him.  Thus in a very real sense we are personally accountable to our Creator for our actions.  Thus David concludes the psalm by saying:

“Search me, O God, and know my heart;

Try me, and know my anxieties;

And see if there is any wicked way in me,

And lead me in the way everlasting.”

(vv. 23,24).

Here he invites God to “search” him and “try” him.  The implication is that he wants God to judge his innermost thoughts, motives and desires.  This could also include David’s “anxieties” – his unsettling thoughts that might lead him to do the wrong thing.  And David specifically wants God to determine if there is any “wicked way” in him (lit., a “way of pain,” i.e., actions that cause pain in others).  And the ultimate object is to be led “in the way everlasting” – the path that leads to eternity.

Thus the God with whom we have to do is the true and living God – a conscious, personal Being who wants us to interact with Him in a genuine and sincere way.  As sinful, fallen human beings we try to ignore Him, to exclude Him from our lives.  But when we do so our lives are empty and meaningless.  For no fleeting pleasure, no finite earthly object can take the place of our Creator.  St Augustine said it well when he declared, “For thou hast created us for thyself, and our heart cannot be quieted till it may find repose in thee” (Confessions, I.i).