ďFamiliar With All My WaysĒ†††††††††††† Psalm 139††††††††† ††††††††††††††April 3, 2011
SI:† Please open your Bibles to Psalm 139.
This is one of those Psalms, like Psalm 91, where every verse is so rich,
†† that numerous sermons have been preached on single verses.
Itís such a great description of God, that after reading it
†† it seems appropriate just to sing the benediction and go home.
INTRO: †After Allison fell on Thursday afternoon I took her to the hospital
†† to get an X-ray.† She was in a wheelchair and she was in a lot of pain.
But before we could get the X-ray we had to go to the registration desk.
†† The woman there was as nice as could be, and she was going as fast as she could,
†† but she had a procedure to follow.† There were forms to explain and sign.
All this time Allison was moaning and groaning, twice she fainted dead away.
†† I was behind her, holding on to her to keep her from falling out of the wheelchair,
†† and answering the womanís questions.†
I looked over and there beside us, checking in at the next cubicle was a man
†† and his young son.† Most people, when they want to look at someone
†† who is in the condition Allison was in, will be discrete.†
You know the person doesnít want to be seen like that, and itís rude to stare anyway
†† So you just glance and look away.
Well these two must have not have gotten into town very much,
†† because both of them, father and son, were just staring with mouths hanging open,
†† taking in the whole show.
Right then the woman said:† I have one more form I have to go over with youó
†† it has to do with your privacy rights.
When Iím nervous, itís very easy for me to start laughing.†
†† When she said:† Your privacy rightsóand I looked over again at that father and
†† son just staring in undisguised fascination at Allisonís most undignified moment, I cracked up.† I couldnít stop giggling.†
A hospital stay is a funny thing.† You do want certain privacies.
The legal privacies that the receptionist was trying to read to us
†† arenít really the ones that matter the mostó
†† that my health information is not going to be sold or whatever.
Itís the more personal privacies that feel so important.
†† Like a private room.† Itís hard to relax when a complete stranger and her family
†† is on the other side of a curtain and they can overhear your conversation,
†† and can see you when you make your way to the bathroom.
Or the privacy or lack thereof in a hospital gown.
In a bigger sense, privacy is something that is very important to us.
There are things we very much want to keep to ourselves.
†† There is information we donít want people to know.
There are private matters that we tell very few people or none at all.
There are conditions and situations were we donít want to be seen.
†† There are things weíve done, we donít want anybody to know about.
Some people are more private than others, yet all of us have some parts
†† of our lives that we hold very close to the vest.
†† Because we are threatened when certain things about us are known.
What does this have to do with Psalm 139?
This Psalm is about Godís omniscience.
†† Omniscience is a word theologians have coined for Godís complete knowledge
†† of all things.† Omni means all.† Science means knowledge.†
Before the Lordís omniscience there is no privacy.
†† Everything about you, every part of your being is known by God.
†† Nothing is hidden from his sight.† He is familiar with all your ways.
How would you feel if other people knew everything about you?
†† If every bit of your privacy were stripped away.†
†† If even your thoughts were exposed and known.† It would be horrible.
And yet King David celebrates the Lordís complete knowledge of him.
†† He sings of it.† He writes beautiful poetry about it.
†† He calls it wonderful and precious.†
Hereís why.† We want our privacy, and yet, at the same time, we want to be known.
†† We want the details of our lives to matter.
†† We want people to care about us and be interested in us.
We long for intimacy and true friendship and that requires being known.
†† Itís very comforting when people know your quirks and laugh about them
†† and love you anyway.†
Itís only through Jesus Christ that Godís complete knowledge of you
†† is transformed from a terrible threat to a great joy.†
Letís look at this Psalm more closely and see three things:
1.† Godís omniscience is an inescapable fact
2.† Godís omniscience is a great fear
3.† Godís omniscience is a transforming joy
MP#1† Godís omniscience is an inescapable fact
This Psalm has four stanzas: 1-6, 7-12, 13-18, 19-24.
†† In the first three, David describes Godís knowledge of us from different angles.
In the first stanza, David describes how Godís knowledge is complete.
†† It surrounds us.† It views us from every side.
The Lord knows when you are sleepy and when you are active.
†† He knows when you are at home and when you are away.
†† He knows your thoughts and your behavior.
He knows the inside of you and the outside.
†† We only see the outside of peopleóhe sees all.
Verse 4:† ďBefore a word is on my tongue, you know it completely, O Lord.Ē
†† Even before I know Iím going to do something or say something, God knows.
David is saying that the Lord sees all the times of your life at once.
†† Every part of your existence is present before him.†
†† You just see your life in its current stage, he sees the whole thing.
One old famous way of describing this is that when you are in a boat
†† on a river, you can only see from bend to bend. †Canít see around next bend.
†† You canít even look back and see where you were.† Can only remember.
But suppose you were on a bluff overlooking the river.
†† From that view, you see all the bends of the river, exactly where boat is.
Thatís just a little picture of the way the Lord sees your life.
†† Not just where you are nowóbut the whole sweep of it.
Thereís a passage in The Lord of the Rings where a king has died.
†† Heís lying in state before his burial, all his subjects paying respects:
ďThen a great beauty was revealed in him, so that all who came there looked on him with wonder, for they saw the grace of his youth, and the valor of his manhood, and the wisdom and majesty of his age were all blended together.Ē
†† Thatís how the Lord sees you:† Your youth, manhood, and old age.
†† He sees you and knows you better than you know yourself.
Then David describes Godís knowledge in another way in the next stanza.
He describes it in terms of Godís presence.†
†† He knows all about you because heís always with you.
†† You can never get away from him.†
No matter where you go, he is there with you.
If I go up to the heavens, if I go down to the graveóyou are there.
†† If I rise on the wings of the dawnóeast,
†† If I settle on the far side of the seaówestóyou are there.
If Iím in the dark, you can even see me in the darkness as if it were light.
Where can I flee from your presence?† Literally Godís face.
†† Heís personally present.† Heís with you and he sees you.
On Fridays I lead chapel for the Kindergarten and elementary children
†† who are here at Covenant School.†
One thing I always do with them is practice the Childrenís Catechism.
†† You know how a catechism works, itís a series of questions and answers.
Iíll ask them questions, and then they will all answer together.
†† Children love that format.† Fun to see their earnest little faces giving the answers.
One question is:† Where is God?† Every year when first ask they say, heaven.
†† I say, Thatís right, but the answer is:† God is everywhere.
Whatís interesting to me is that they seem to understand that when we say
†† God is everywhere, donít mean like air, or like a gas, but that his presence,
†† his face is everywhere.† Thatís heís a person and he sees.
Then, in the third stanza, David describes Godís knowledge as our creator.
†† When a person has made something, he knows it.
When you eat something good you ask the cook, how did you make this?
†† He might tell you and he might not.† Might be a secret recipe.
†† But he would never say:† I donít know.† If he made it, he knows it.
David says in verse 13, You know me because you created my inmost being.
†† ďYou knit me together in my motherís womb.Ē
†† God made you.† He formed you body and soul in the womb of your mother.†
The verses that come after that are full of beautiful and memorable lines.
†† ďI am fearfully and wonderfully made.Ē
†† ďYour eyes saw my unformed body.Ē
Itís no surprise that these particular verses have become the theme verses
†† of the pro-life movement.† Speak so powerfully of the Lordís creation of life
†† in the womb and his personal knowledge of each person.
And then verse 16 caps it all off:
†† ďAll the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.Ē
God not only made you, heís written the story of your life.†
You can raise all sorts of philosophical objections to thisó
†† what about the freedom of the will, and what about responsibility and free choice.
And all of those are interesting and important questionsóbut here it is.
†† God knows your life from beginning to end because he made you
†† and has written the days of your life in his book.
So this is the inescapable fact.† The Lord is omniscient.
†† He knows all thingsóno just about the workings of the universeó
†† but he knows you.† Better than you will ever know yourself.
Every part of your mind and soul.† Your deepest motives.
†† Your hidden drives and desires that you can barely express.
He sees what you have done in the light and in the darkness.
†† He knows the meaning of every experience in your life so faró
†† and he knows, in fact he has written, what your life will be.
What you need to see next is that this is a cause for great fear.
MP#2† Godís omniscience is a great fear.
There is a sermon website called sermonaudio.com that I sometimes look at
†† when Iím preparing.† Itís got sermons by hundreds of preachers from all over
†† the United States and Great Britain.
Every once in a while Iíll find a sermon that looks interesting and Iíll listen to it.
This week I looked at the sermons listed under Psalm 139.
†† All of them had titles like:†
†† ďGodís OmniscienceĒ ďLiving Before an All-Knowing GodĒ
Good, solid, boring sermon titles just like the ones I come up with.
But there was one title that caught my eye.† It just jumped off the page.
†† ďWhat Happens In Vegas Doesnít Stay In VegasĒ
†† I laughed when I saw it and thought:† Why canít I be that clever.
And I decided to download it and listen to itó
†† but even before I did, I knew where he was going with the title.
†† I knew he would be talking about the fear and threat of Godís omniscience.
Itís fun and liberating to think that what happens in Vegas stays in Vegasó
†† but itís not true.† Because the Lord is familiar with all your ways.
†† He knows your words.† He knows your thoughts and deeds.
The darkness is as light before him.
In the sermon, the pastor told a story about a childhood memory.
†† He had once sassed his mother and he knew he was going to get a spanking,
†† so he ran away from her and she chased him.†
And he ran into one of the bedrooms and got under a bed.†
†† When his mother reached for him, he slid to the other side.
†† When she went around to the other side, he slid back
He did that several times and finally his mother gave up.
†† But on the way out she said:† God sees you under that bed.
He said, Iíve never forgotten how that frightened me.
†† Just a moment before, I felt so cozy and safe under that bed.
†† I thought, this is great.† This is where Iíll always come when I do something bad.
But when my mother said that I realized:† God sees me under this bed.†
I think David hints at this in the Psalm.† He hints that Godís omniscience is a threat.
†† He says in verse 5:† ďYou hem me in.Ē† That sound suffocating.
†† Like he canít get away from God.
Itís more clear in verse 7 where he says:† ďWhere can I flee from your presence?Ē
†† Itís the very same phrase used when Jonah rebelled against God.
†† Remember, Lord told him to do one thing, and Jonah fled from God.
That meant he went in the very opposite direction God told him to go.
†† God said go east to Nineveh.† Jonah got on a ship west to Tarshish.†
Maybe David is being honest and saying:†
†† Sometimes I feel like this.† I want to live my own life, do what I want,
† †but knowing that God knows all things hems me in.
Or maybe David is making more of a general observationó
†† that the omniscience of God does hem a person in.
If you know that God knows, then you canít stop thinking about it.
†† You canít justify your actions.†
†† You canít be totally free to do what you want to do.
†† You canít get away from God.
There would be a lot of things we could say at this point about people in the world.
†† How some become atheists because canít stand thought of God watching them.
†† It spoils their fun.† The only way they can feel free is get rid of God.
One of the most famous statements of this was by Aldous Huxley.
†† He admitted that he became an atheist because he wanted sexual liberation.
It wasnít that he became an honest atheist and then thoughtówell, if thereís no
†† God, then there are no morals.† No, he didnít want morals, so he got rid of God.
Of course, he didnít really get rid of God, just tried to cover up the threat of
†† Godís all seeing eye.† Thatís what sinners have been doing since the Garden
†† of Eden when Adam and Eve hid in the bushes and tried to cover their nakedness†
†† with fig leaves.† Most people donít go so far as to become atheists.
They just tell themselves, Godís not like that.† He doesnít really notice.
But letís focus this doctrine on ourselves.†
†† ďNothing in all creation is hidden from Godís sight.† Everything is uncovered
†† and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.Ē
God sees all and we must give an account.† We, the writer of Hebrews says.
†† Thatís us, believers.† Thatís frightening.†
†† Are we supposed to be fearful of Godís omniscience?
Listen to 2 Corinthians 5:10-11
ďFor we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.† Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade men.Ē
We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ.† ďWe must allĒ says Paul.
†† Now the judgment will be different.†
†† For unbelievers it will be a judgment of condemnation.
†† For believers it will be a judgment of inquiry into our lives.
But what is Paulís response:† Since we know what it is to fear the Lord.
†† Hereís the fear, even for believers.
†† The Lord knows, the Lord sees.† Do you have that fear?
Itís a good fear.† Itís a godly fear.† But itís not the last word or even most important.
Brings us to last point.
MP#3† Godís omniscience is a transforming joy.
When another person knows you, really knows youó
†† all your faults and weaknesses and quirks and loves you anyway,
†† it has a transformative power.† It can almost make you a different person.
One of Allisonís favorite movies is Rocky.
In fact, the reason our firstborn child is named Adrienne is because
†† Allison fell in love with that name after watching Rocky.†
I wanted to name her Andrea, after me of course, but Allison wanted Adrienne.
†† Men watch Rocky because we want to see him fight Apollo Creed.
†† Women watch Rock because of his romance with Adrienne.
She starts out as a quirky and shy person.† Intensely private.
†† Not letting anyone into her world.† Suffering an unhappy home.
And Rocky in his own awkward way tries to get to know her.
†† Yo, Adrienne, he says when he sees her.
†† He finds out she likes pets.† He tells her jokes.†
At the end, sheís transformed into a more joyful, confident, and beautiful person.
†† But that only happens because she opens herself to Rockyís knowledge of her.
Thatís what we see in the Psalm.† There is this sense that as David writes,
†† he is filled with more and more wonder at the thought that God knows him.
†† And God wants to know him.† Uses words like wonderful and precious.
And this feeling grows and grows until the climax in verses 23 and 24.
Look at it again, itís remarkable.
†† ďSearch me, O God, and know my heart, test me and know my anxious thoughts.
†† See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.Ē
Whatís David doing here?† Heís inviting God to scrutinize him.
†† Heís inviting God all the way in.
Heís not just saying:†
†† I know God knows all things and nothing in my life
†† is hidden from him and I canít get away from him.
Heís saying:† I love it.† I want it.† Please, Lord, know me completely.
†† Peel away everything and look down into the deepest part of my soul.
That means, Lord I want you to look at the ugly parts and the sinful partsó
†† and all the yucky things in my life.† I want to be known by you.
You can fight Godís knowledge of you.†
You canít get away from it but you can ignore it and resent it.
†† Or your can embrace it and invite it and rejoice in it.
If you do that, you will become, in time a more joyful, confident person.
†† Because you can say to yourself:† God knows me.† He knows everything about me
†† And he loves me and accepts me.
But there is one more crucial question that we have to answeró
† †or we donít have the Gospel, and we donít have true Christianity.
How did David have the assurance that if he asked God to come all the way in
†† and know his heart and test his thoughts, that God would accept him?
David knew the holiness of God.
Remember the time David tried to bring the ark of the covenant back to Jerusalem.
†† And he did things wrong and Uzzah touched the ark and God struck him dead.
The Bible says that when that happened, David was afraid of the Lord that day,
†† and said, ďHow can the ark of the Lord ever come to me?Ē
He knew the holiness of God.† He knew that God cannot tolerate the least sin.
†† Even angels cover their faces before the Lord.
How did David know if he said:† Lord, search me, that he wouldnít be struck dead?†
And how can you know that you can come to God as you are,
†† and know that he will receive you, even though he knows all your terrible sins?
I think the answer is in this strange part of Psalm 139 that seems so out of place.
†† The verses right before the climax, where David talks about the enemies of God.
†† And how he hates the enemies of God and doesnít want anything to do with them.
Itís interesting how often those verses are left out when people read this Psalm.
†† And they do seem out of place.† When you leave them out, and the whole
†† Psalm would sound much more positive.
But you canít do that to a poem.† You canít just leave lines out you donít like.
†† And this is not must any poem, itís an inspired poem.† David is giving us a clue.
Heís saying:† I know God will accept me, even when he looks down deep and sees
†† all my sins because something has happened to me.
Iíve been changed.† Iíve received a new identity.
†† Iím no longer an enemy of God, Iím a friend of God.
Of course David knew he was still a sinneróread Psalm 32 and Psalm 51.
But he also knew that because of Godís grace and Godís Spirit,
†† he had a new identity and a new heart.
And that deep within him he loved what God loved and hated what God hated.†
†† And it was that confidence, in what the Lord had done for him and in him,
†† that he was able to sayóLord, search me.† Know me.† Test me.† Lead me.
Have you been born again?†
Have you put your faith in Jesus Christ and confessed your sins
†† and asked him to save you?†
Are you trusting in his death to make you right with God?
†† Do you see in yourself a love for what is good and a hatred for what is evil,
†† starting with what is in your own heart and mind?
If you donít then Godís omniscience is a terrible thing.
It will hound you and oppress you and finally judge you and destroy you.
†† But if you know Jesus, then his knowledge of you will be a precious intimacy.
†† You will rejoice in all these wonderful things David expressed.