Reflections on Psalm 139 (Part 2)

August 10, 2017

Ray Galea

The great know-it-all

The beginning of Psalm 139, written by King David of Israel, introduces us to a God who is the great know-it-all.

O Lord, you have searched me and known me!
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from afar.
You search out my path and my lying down
and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.
You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is high; I cannot attain it.

(Ps 139:1-6)

Look at the verbs David uses to describe God. God searches, knows, discerns. He is acquainted with all my ways. All of life is covered and nothing escapes his radar. If I sit or stand, if I am near or far, whether I am going out at 8pm or coming home at 3am; all my ways are known to God. As the famous Police song goes, “Every breath you take, every move you make … I’ll be watching you”. Sting may have had a lover or a stalker in mind, but his words capture God’s moment-by-moment awareness of everyone on the face of this earth.

God knows what you are going to say before you say it. Some of the garbage that leaves our mouths may come as a shock to us, but it does not surprise God. What we say may horrify him, but it never surprises him. David writes, “Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether” (v. 4). None of the things you say, none of the things you think and none of the things you do are off limits to God. He is all-knowing. The technical word is ‘omniscient’.

I once went to a 21st birthday party where two 14-year-old friends claimed they could read each other’s mind. But they could only do it using numbers from one to ten, and they needed to be facing each other. Their ‘mind-reading’ abilities were fairly limited. But no matter how we communicated the number to one guy, the other would get it right every time. To this day I still don’t know how they did it. It was one cool trick. Even though it was only a trick and their mind-reading was limited to ten digits, it was still impressive.

If a person really did know the thoughts of another, we’d be dumbfounded. It just doesn’t happen. But God genuinely knows in detail every precious, private thought we have. And yet we still think that by closing the door or whispering in someone’s ear, we can shut God out—but of course we cannot. It does us good to remember that God knows when you undress another person in your mind. He listens to every piece of gossip you utter about another human being. None of your thoughts or conversations are off the record!

We live out all of life in God’s presence, as Proverbs 5:21 says: “For a man’s ways are before the eyes of the Lord, and he ponders all his paths”. This is also what David is saying in Psalm 139. In a nutshell: God is inescapable. This idea overwhelms David: “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it” (v. 6).

Think of the effort it takes for you to know one single person well. Now consider that God is intimately involved in the life of every person on the earth—all seven billion of us. This is why we can all pray at the same time without worrying about whether we are going to overwhelm God. We do not need to coordinate the timing of our prayers; God’s concentration is not limited. When it comes to prayer, God does not need the departed saints to assist him. And unlike my hard drive, God has unlimited memory.

So pray directly to God, anytime, anywhere. As you do so, remember that you are trusting God, not educating him.