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Psalm 139:16, 1318comment (0)

January 12, 2012

By Joseph F. Scrivner

Related Scripture: Psalm 139:16, 1318

Bible Studies for Life
Assistant Professor of Religion, Department of Religion, Samford University

Psalm 139:1–6, 13–18

The Bible emphasizes humans’ value and dignity. In the Bible’s opening narrative, we read that God created humans in His image (Gen. 1:26–28). In the next chapter, we see that God created people for companionship because it is not good to be alone (Gen. 2:4–25). Later we witness another powerful affirmation of human worth: God created humanity a little less than Himself and crowned it with glory and honor (Ps. 8:5). These passages illustrate the pervasive biblical theme of God’s love for people, especially the most vulnerable. In Psalm 139, we read another moving description of God’s care.

God Values Us (1–6)
As the Psalmist considers God’s intimate knowledge, he declares that God has “searched and known” him (1). God even knows his words before they are spoken (2–4). Moreover the Psalmist says God encircles him and has put His hand on him (5). In other words, God is immanent before His human creations (see Acts 17:28). The Psalmist concludes that God’s omniscience and omnipresence are beyond his comprehension: “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain it” (6).

The Psalmist goes on to explain that there is no hiding from God’s knowledge and presence (7–12). Obviously, then, God can evaluate us thoroughly. Indeed this is the ultimate point of this Psalm. The Psalmist contends that he follows God’s moral commands. He has affection for what God favors and is against what God condemns (21–22). Yet he asks God to be the final judge by assessing and correcting his motives (23–24).

Since God is so intimately familiar with us, we can approach Him with honesty and vulnerability, asking Him to test our intentions and actions. If we have sinned, then God is ready to forgive because He knows our weaknesses (Ps. 103:8–17). He will throw our sins into the sea (Mic. 7:19). Of course, God’s intimate care comes to its fullest expression in Jesus Christ, and it is through Christ that we can petition God in bold confession and prayer. “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tested in every way as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us at the proper time” (Heb. 4:15–16).

God Has a Plan for Us (13–16)
The Psalmist provides us with one of the most moving images in the Bible. He describes God as forming the human body in the mother’s womb as a weaver creates cloth. God “created,” “knit” and “formed” the human frame. Yet God’s intimate knowledge does not end there. Even before God prepared his body, the Psalmist says, God saw him. God also has planned his life’s span. This statement of God’s foreknowledge is similar to Jeremiah’s contention that God called him to be a prophet even before He formed him in the womb (Jer. 1:5). As the Psalmist contemplates God’s careful artistry, he responds with praise and awe: “I have been remarkably and wonderfully made. Your works are wonderful and I know this very well.”

God Is With Us (17–18)
The Psalmist is compelled again to reflect on his inability to grasp God’s magnificence. God’s thoughts are too weighty and their sum too great for human accounting. Yet God’s greatness does not mean He is far away. Instead God is with us.

God’s presence and care mean that He is very concerned about the vulnerable. Thus God calls on His people to show special concern for those who are unprotected by money, status or privilege. This includes defenseless children, from the unborn to those deprived of adequate food, housing and education. Immigrants also should be included (Ex. 22:21–23).

Indeed God’s holiness is especially offended when there is religious observance without justice for the helpless. God makes this clear in the prophets (Jer. 7:1–15; Amos 5:18–27; Mic. 6:6–8). Jesus also said, “Whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me either” (Matt. 25:45).

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