“Your thoughts of God are too human.” These are the condemning words Martin Luther wrote to the heretic Erasmus, but I wonder how much we might be guilty of the same thing. Every time we distrust in the sovereign plan of God, we diminish God to a lesser being who isn’t in control over every aspect of creation. What’s more is that any god less than the God described in Scripture is an idol, crafted by our own imaginations or perception. On the flip side, for our thoughts of God to be biblical, we would have to affirm that He is in perfect, sovereign control over every possible element and detail of His creation.
The last two posts I wrote were to address an all too pervasive malady in the church. The malady is unbelief. That may seem self-contradictory. Perhaps that is the point. Christians are identified as those who do believe! But, we still wrestle with the flesh, and there are times in a believer’s life when, while having placed their trust in the redemptive work of Christ for their hope and salvation, they distrust in God for His work in the minute details of our daily affairs. Some Christians wrestle with this more than others, as we all battle to put sin to death in our lives, but one thing we can be confident in, is that He has given us victory over every sin, including the sin of anxiety.
My first post was an introduction to the matter, and my intent was also to provide hope where the world provides none. In my second post, I sought to establish how to overcome this sin. In this final post for this series, I want to present why we can place our confidence in the same One who provides us with salvation. Of course there is a lot of overlap between the how and why, but my main point in this post is to remind us again, just how intricately and personally involved the Sovereign is over our lives. To do that, I would like to appeal to what has been called by many the “crowned jewel of the Psalms,” Psalm 139.
Many people wrongly look at this Psalm, and quickly fit it into a treatise for their theological system about the omni’s of God (omniscience, omnipresence, omnificence, omnipotence), or as a philosophical treatise on the Deity. But if we do that, I think we’ve missed the whole point. Certainly this Psalm speaks of those things, and even provides us with great insight into God’s characteristics. Yet, this is not a Psalm about them.
Psalm 139 is about intimacy. It describes an unfathomably personal and thorough relationship between God, and one whom He loves. In twenty-four verses, David appeals directly to God six times. Thirty more times, he refers to God using personal pronouns. Fifty times, David refers to himself, so we can say without question, that in this Psalm, David describes an infinitely intimate knowledge God has about him. But God’s attributes aren’t restricted exclusively to the life of King David. They apply to you as well. You can either rejoice in that reality resulting in love (which eliminates anxiety), or you can rebel from it resulting in hatred (which produces terror).
Let’s start with verses 1-6. David introduces his hymn with an emphatic declaration:
O LORD, You have searched me, and known me.
The verbs he uses here are perfect, as they are all through the end of verse 5. What David is expressing therefore, is that he is experiencing the full force of God’s omniscient character on his life, in every thought and deed.
The word “search” means literally, “pierced through,” or “explored thoroughly,” and it’s also used this way in Psalm 44:
If we had forgotten the name of our God, or extended our hands to a strange God, would not God find this out? For He knows [even] the secrets of the heart.
The best way to describe the comprehensiveness of God’s knowledge of you in both these passages is to say it is thoroughly thorough! We might even say this is an invasive understanding without qualification! AND… it is one of precision. David continues:
You know when I sit down and when I rise up; You understand my thoughts from afar.
In short, David is affirming knowledge of what he does, either passively (like sitting down), or actively (like rising up), and He also knows what he thinks. Every thought, every desire, every intention is fully exposed before God. Every aspect of David’s personality, God knows. He has scrutinized minutely the character and personality of David. That’s what David affirms in vs. 3! This isn’t just a matter of acquaintance. No one knows you better than God!
The word “scrutinize” helps us to understand this. It means to “examine critically,” and is often translated to “winnow” or “sift.” God is seen here as “sifting” through every thought of David. What is the significance in that?
God is not just knowledgeable about you. He has a knowledge of you so complete that He has sifted through your every thought and action. God is closely acquainted with every deed, to the degree that He even knows what you’re going to think before you think it (vs. 4). But how is this understood by David? Is this a good thing? Or is it a bad thing? Certainly it has a lot to do with your position before God. Actually, it has everything to do with your position before God. But David says in vs. 5, “You laid Your hand upon me.” It’s significant that that’s the Hebrew word for palm. David is not using an oppressive usage of the word “hand.” It is instead gentle, like a father lovingly resting his hand on his son to guide him.
Truly this is a wonderful thing as David expresses in vs 6! It is so magnificent it is incomprehensible, to know that our entire lives are plainly visible to God!
But David goes on in the next section, in verses 7-12 to describe the presence of God with you as well. He poses this as a series of hypothetical questions.
Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence?
The obvious answer is nowhere! Everywhere David goes, he experiences the Divine presence of God! Here the word “presence” provides a sense of immediacy. It’s literally the word for “face.” In verses 8-12, David lists all the possible extremities.
Vs. 8 – If I went to the extreme height, or extreme depth.
Vs. 9 – The extreme east, or the extreme west.
And vs. 10… this one is absolutely incredible to me.
Even there Your hand will lead me, And Your right hand will lay hold of me.
That is a statement of undivided attention! Let that sink in for just a moment… to consider the God of the universe, guiding you with His right hand (His primary hand), as though this were all He had to do!
Even in darkness, David says, so thick that you can’t even see your hand in front of your face, God still sees you as though it were the light of the day, and His loving hand guides you through. I should think this alone ought to be enough to “cure” any anxiety. Believe in this reality and anxiety is impossible! Why? Because it’s so removed by your awestruck LOVE!!!
But David doesn’t end there. In verses 13-18 David describes God’s comprehensive knowledge for you. He has personally ordained your every day. Vs. 13 describes the work of God in your life before anyone else knew you, weaving and stitching you together with His hands while you were in your mother’s womb. And He made you just the way you are in order to accomplish the task that He has pre-ordained for your everyday throughout your life!
So, He made you with all your abilities, and your limitations! He has pre-recorded your every day that you should live, every step you’d take, from the time in your mother’s womb, until your death. This is the emphasis of vs. 16. God was watching over David even in his “unformed substance,” meaning as an embryo, and He does the same for you.
To say the least, this ought to strike us with reverential awe and admiration as we consider the active, tender, and caring involvement in the creation of who you are! And what’s more, God doesn’t just make you and then put you on your way. His thoughts of you are more numerous than the seashore!
This is WHY.