February 20: Psalm 139
The Omniscience of God
Long Meter 88.88 D In Christ Alone
Before the Throne of God Above
Guidance (He Leadeth Me), p. 110
Lord, Thou hast searched me; Thou hast known
My rising and my sitting down;
And from afar Thou knowest well
The very thoughts that in me dwell.
Thou knowest all the ways I plan,
My path and lying down does scan;
For in my tongue no word can be,
But, lo, O Lord, ‘tis known to Thee.
Behind, before me, Thou dost stand
And lay on me Thy mighty hand;
Such knowledge is for me too strange
And high beyond my utmost range.
Where shall I from Thy Spirit flee,
Or from Thy presence hidden be?
In heav’n Thou art, if there I fly,
In death’s abode, if there I lie.
If I the wings of morning take
And utmost sea my dwelling make,
Ev’n there Thy hand shall guide my way
And Thy right hand shall be my stay.
If I say, “Darkness covers me,”
The darkness hideth not from Thee.
To Thee both night and day are bright;
The darkness shineth as the light.
My inward parts were formed by Thee;
Within the womb, Thou fashioned me;
And I thy praises will proclaim,
For strange and wondrous is my frame.
Thy wondrous works I surely know;
When as in depths of earth below
My frame in secret first was made,
‘Twas all before Thine eyes displayed.
Mine unformed substance Thou didst see;
The days that were ordained to me
Were written in Thy book, each one,
When as of them there yet was none.
Thy thoughts, O God, to me are dear;
How great their sum! They more appear
In number than the sand to me.
When I awake, I’m still with Thee.
The wicked Thou wilt slay, O God;
Depart from me, ye men of blood,
They speak of Thee in words profane,
The foes who take Thy name in vain.
Do not I hate Thy foes, O Lord?
And Thine assailants hold abhorred?
I truly hate all foes of thine;
I count them enemies of mine.
Search me, O God; my heart discern;
And try me, every thought to learn,
And see if any sin holds sway,
Lead in the everlasting way.
With some exceptions, the psalms are generally not to be recited very fast. Indeed, the structure of some of them shows that considerable care has been taken to slow the pace down. There is a pronounced disposition to say many things twice or more, for instance, so that the mind is not permitted to race on to the next idea right away. Psalm 139 may serve to illustrate this extensive characteristic. The Psalmist could have written, very simply, “Lord, Your knowledge of me is total.” This brief statement would have said, in essence, what the first strophe of this psalm does say. But instead of one verb to describe God’s knowledge of the heart, the author uses six. Obviously he wants to dwell on the thought; he is not anxious to leave it. He wants the conviction to sink deeply into his soul that God knows him through and through, so he comes at the idea from a variety of angles and aspects—search and know, sitting down and rising up and lying down, paths and ways, thoughts and words. And because God’s knowledge of us is complete, it is impossible to escape His gaze. Once again the poet uses several lines to meditate on this fact, moving in several directions, as it were (through all of space and light and time)… So the believer seeks refuge in God’s saving knowledge of him and ends by praying that God will ever lead him in the path eternal.” (Reardon, p. 277-278)