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Wednesday, October 4th, 2023
the Week of Proper 21 / Ordinary 26
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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 139

Smith's Bible CommentarySmith's Commentary

Verses 1-24

Psalms 139:1-24 , another psalm of David to the chief musician. As David offers this prayer really unto God, declaring, first of all,

O LORD, thou hast searched me, and known me ( Psalms 139:1 ).

Recognizing that God knows me completely and fully.

You know my downsittings and my uprisings ( Psalms 139:2 ),

Or you know my ups and my downs.

you understand my thoughts afar off ( Psalms 139:2 ).

The Hebrew is, "You understand my thoughts in their origins." Before I even think them, You know them. You know the processes by which they are formed.

You compassest my path and my lying down, you're acquainted with all my ways ( Psalms 139:3 ).

"When I'm walking, I'm encircled by You. When I'm lying down, I'm encircled by You. I'm encompassed by You in everything." Paul the apostle said, "For in Him we live, we move, we have our being" ( Acts 17:28 ). The all-prevailing presence of God surrounding my life, God's omnipresence.

There is not a word in my tongue, but, lo, O LORD, you know it altogether ( Psalms 139:4 ).

So God knows me so completely.

Thou hast beset me behind and before, and you've laid your hand upon me ( Psalms 139:5 ).

I look back and I see the hand of God on my life. I look ahead and I see God's plan. And right now I feel the hand of God upon me. You see, I'm surrounded. My past, present, and my future is all wrapped up with God. "You've beset me behind and before, and Your hand is upon me." The psalmist declared,

Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain it ( Psalms 139:6 ).

What knowledge? Self-knowledge. Very few people really know their selves. We have hidden the truth about ourselves so long that we don't even know the truth about our own self. "The heart is deceitful above all things, desperately wicked: who can know it?" ( Jeremiah 17:9 ) Yet God said, "I do search the hearts of man." But who really knows the motive, the true motive behind our actions? And yet, it is God who weighs the motives. We put so much emphasis upon a person's actions. God puts the emphasis upon the attitudes, the motives from which the actions spring. And it is possible, very possible for people to have right actions with wrong motives. And God's looking at the motive.

"Take heed to yourself," Jesus said, "that you do not your righteousness before men, to be seen of men" ( Matthew 6:1 ). In other words, that should not be your motive, to be recognized by men. That's why I'm doing my righteous thing, so people can see me. You've got to be careful that that isn't your motive. For Jesus said, "I say unto you, you have your reward" ( Matthew 6:2 ).

Now he tells about people who were doing the right thing. They were giving to God. They were praying. They were fasting. But yet, they were doing it always with the wrong motive, and thus, no reward from God. No recognition from God for what they were doing. For God weighs the heart. God is checking the attitude, the motives by which I do things. And the Bible says that one day, "we are all to stand before the judgment seat of Christ to receive the things that we've done in our body, whether they be good or evil" ( 2 Corinthians 5:10 ). And our works are all going to be tried by fire, of what manner or sort they are. So all of the works that a person has done for God. "Oh Lord, weren't we doing this? Weren't we doing that? Weren't we big stars and we were on TV and we were doing all these wonderful things for You." And Jesus said, "Hey, I never knew you. Depart from Me, you workers of iniquity." The whole motive was wrong. The motive was to receive the recognition and the glory, the applause, the praise of man. "So take heed to yourself," Jesus said, "how you do your righteousness, that you don't do it with the motive of being seen of men."

So here the psalmist declares, "Such knowledge too much for me; I cannot attain it."

Now whither shall I go from thy presence or from thy Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I ascend into heaven, thou art there: but if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there ( Psalms 139:7-8 ).

The omnipresence of God filling the universe. There is no place that you can go and escape the presence of God. "In Him we live, we move, we have our being" ( Acts 17:28 ).

If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me. If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me; even the night will be light about me. Yea, the darkness does not hide from you; but the night shines as the day: and the darkness and the light are both alike unto thee ( Psalms 139:9-12 ).

In other words, with God there is no darkness. There is no hiding in darkness. It makes no difference to God. He can see just as well at night as He can during the day. Turn the lights out and hide from God. No, it doesn't make any difference. God can see us. Light and darkness are the same to Him.

For you have possessed my reins: you cover me in my mother's womb. I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: and marvelous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well ( Psalms 139:13-14 ).

Fearfully and wonderfully made. More and more we're discovering how wonderfully made we are made. The human body. There's a new book entitled, Fearfully and Wonderfully Made. I recommend the book. It's just excellent reading for you. Written by a doctor who spent many years as a missionary doctor in a leprosarium and has done his most recent work back at Carville, Louisiana in the leprosarium there, which they no longer call leprosarium. It's an institute for the study of Hansen's disease. And it's an excellent book. I think you'll enjoy it as he, from a medical standpoint, delves into the marvels of the human body. I'm fearfully and wonderfully made, and the title of the book is Fearfully and Wonderfully Made.

My substance was not hid from thee when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them ( Psalms 139:15-16 ).

In other words, God knew me completely before I was ever born. When I was still just chemicals. God knew me completely.

How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God! how great is the sum of them! If I should count them, they are more in number than the sand: when I awake, I am still with you ( Psalms 139:17-18 ).

God's thoughts for me, how precious they are. How great is the sum. If I should number them, more than the sand. I love to go down to the beach and just take and get a handful of sand and just open up the bottom of my hand and let it just drop on down and form a pile. And watch those grains of sand fall. I think there's something therapeutic about it. Just feels good. But also as the grains of sand are falling, I think, "Wow, God's thoughts concerning me, if I could number them, are more than the sand of the sea." Each one of those little grains of sand represent one of God's thoughts concerning me. God's thinking about me all the time. And then God said, "My thoughts towards you are good, not evil" ( Jeremiah 29:11 ). And so I drop a few little piles of sand on the beach and then I just look up at the beach and see all the grains of sand and think, "Oh my, how wonderful, Lord. How precious are Thy thoughts of me."

The psalmist then speaks of the wicked. God is going to destroy the wicked. Therefore I want to depart from wicked men. I don't want to keep company with evil men.

For they speak against God wickedly, they take his name in vain. Do not I hate them, O LORD, that hate you? am I not grieved with those that rise up against you? I hate them with a perfect hatred: I count them mine enemies ( Psalms 139:20-22 ).

The psalmist said. And then his prayer, that is, his petition. The whole thing is prayer. This is now the petition:

Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts ( Psalms 139:23 ):

Who is the man who prays, "Search me, O God?" He's the man who understands and knows that he doesn't know himself. The man who recognizes that he really doesn't know himself is the man who prays, "Search me, O God, and know my thoughts. And know my heart. Try me. My heart is deceitful. My heart is desperately wicked. Lord, know my heart. Try me. Know my thoughts."

And see if there be some wicked way in me ( Psalms 139:24 ),

Because You're going to destroy the wicked. I don't want to be wicked. See if there is something there, Lord, that is displeasing to You.

Now the work of the Holy Spirit is not only revealing Christ to us, but revealing ourselves to us. How often the Holy Spirit reveals to me the truth about myself. My reaction, my response to a situation. The Holy Spirit will say, "All right, Chuck, now that was wrong. That wasn't Christ-like. That wasn't a Christ-like spirit. You weren't responding in love. You were angry with them." And I usually say, "Yes I am, and I have a right to be." Then He starts dealing with me as He reveals these areas of my life that are not yet brought to the cross. Not yet brought into conformity to Jesus Christ. Those areas of self that are still there that He is desiring to give me victory over. The Holy Spirit's work is that of revealing to us those areas of our lives that are displeasing to God. And then the prayer ends.

lead me in the way everlasting ( Psalms 139:24 ).

Lead me in the path of life. Lead me in the way of everlasting life. There's one thing I don't want to be deceived about, and that is my eternal destiny. How many, many people are deceived concerning their eternal destiny because they're trusting in the word of some man. They're trusting in the word of some religious leader. Some maybe charismatic leader who has a lot of charisma, personal charisma, and personal magnetism and whatever these things are. And they are encouraging people to follow after them, engaging in brainwashing techniques. Making zombies out of their followers. And how many people are blindly following them today thinking, being assured that this is the path of life.

"Everybody else is wrong. We're the only ones who have the truth. We're the only ones walking in the light. All of the churches are wrong. They're all lying to you. None of them are telling you the truth. We're the only ones who have discovered the truth." And people blindly following them. And even within the churches, how many people have come to just trust in the church, church membership, or infant baptism. And they're deceived as to their eternal destiny. "Lead me in the way everlasting." I don't want to be fooled on this. I don't want my heart to be deceived on this issue. I want to make sure that I'm in the way everlasting. "For there is a way that seems right unto man, but the end of it is death" ( Proverbs 14:12 ). I don't want to be in that way, thinking that I'm right and landing up in the pit. "

Bibliographical Information
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on Psalms 139". "Smith's Bible Commentary". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/csc/psalms-139.html. 2014.
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