GOD OF THE LIGHT AND DARK
O God, You are everywhere I am and everywhere I can ever be. Help me to know Your presence, both in the light and in the dark, in Jesus’ name.
Read PSALM 139
1 You have searched me, Lord,
and you know me.
2 You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
3 You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
4 Before a word is on my tongue
you, Lord, know it completely.
5 You hem me in behind and before,
and you lay your hand upon me.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.
7 Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,”
12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.
13 For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
17 How precious to me are your thoughts, God!
How vast is the sum of them!
18 Were I to count them,
they would outnumber the grains of sand—
when I awake, I am still with you.
19 If only you, God, would slay the wicked!
Away from me, you who are bloodthirsty!
20 They speak of you with evil intent;
your adversaries misuse your name.
21 Do I not hate those who hate you, Lord,
and abhor those who are in rebellion against you?
22 I have nothing but hatred for them;
I count them my enemies.
23 Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.
New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
God’s thoughts about us, we are told, are both precious and innumerable. What are your thoughts toward him?
A glorious psalm—but it contains a dark passage. In my church we read psalms aloud. Our lectionary omits verses 19–22. People find them awkward. We are reluctant to mouth words of violence and revenge. In 2017, Psalm 139 fell on July 23. What would I do if I were preaching? First, as a good Anglican, I would look up the other readings. I would find violence elsewhere, including an ominous Gospel account of the end time when angels separate the wicked from the righteous and “throw them into the blazing furnace” (Matt. 13:49,50). Fires and furnaces represent an unavoidable reality: God will deal severely with those who reject him.
This psalm is attributed to David, a fighting man wielding sling and sword in the service of God. Can we impose modern sensibilities on a herdsman-warrior whose culture was just emerging from the Bronze Age? There is no subtlety here. God knows us intimately. God knows who are his—and who are not. The nots will inevitably face his judgment.
What matters about God to the psalmist is that the divine “you” intimately knows the human “me.” This is the God who knows every cell of my being (13), who numbers the hairs of my head (Matt. 10:30). This is the God who keeps all my tears “in thy bottle” (cf. Psa. 56:8, AV) who knows when the sparrow falls (cf. Matt. 10:29), the God who has no anonymous sheep (cf. John 10:3). There is nowhere that God is not found. God is everywhere that I could possibly go, in the light places and in the dark. What a wonderful thought to those of us who want to know God and want God to know us! What a terrible thought for those who, knowingly or unknowingly, flee from God.
“Search me, O God, and know my heart today. / Try me, O Savior, know my thoughts, I pray. / See if there be some wicked way in me. / Cleanse me from every sin, and set me free” (J. Edwin Orr, 1912–1987).
Lord, we thank You for demonstrating to us Your consummate knowledge of every component of our being down here.