Grace & Fairview United Methodist Churches
July 17, 2011
Psalm 139: 1-18, 23-24 (NIV)
O LORD, you have searched me 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 know it completely, O LORD.
5 You hem me in—behind and before; you have laid 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, O 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.
23 Search me, O 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.
Bob Hope was one of the great comedians of the last century. As he was getting along in years, he once commented that he’d been reading and was astonished to discover that: “Today my heart beat over 103,000 times, my blood traveled 168 million miles, I breathed 23,400 times, I inhaled 438 cubic feet of air, ate 3 pounds of food, and drank 2.9 pounds of liquid, I perspired 1.43 pints, gave off 85.3 degrees of heat, generated 450 tons of energy. I spoke 4,800 words, I moved 750 major muscles, and I exercised 7 million brain cells. It’s no wonder I’m tired all the time!”
Saint Augustine once said, “People travel to wonder at the height of mountains, at the huge waves of the sea, at the long courses of the rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motion of the stars — and they pass by themselves without wondering.” All the amazing marvels of our minds and bodies that we just take for granted; and yet, God looks at us with wonder. God values each and every person above all else, above the beautiful mountain vistas, and the deep blue oceans. The writer of this 139th psalm knew the depth, and breadth, and strength of God’s care for every person. “You created my inmost being, you knit me together…I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” Most of us don’t realize how intricate and wonderful we are, but God knows.
There are over six billion people living on earth, and each of us has been carefully formed, knit together by our Creator God. God has counted every hair on every head and knows the intricate details of each and every fingerprint. The psalmist was so impressed with the wonder of God’s gift of life that he spoke of it as being “knit” or “woven together.” It is the imagery of a craftsman who skillfully weaves a beautiful and colorful tapestry. What the psalmist is basically saying is this, “I didn’t just happen. I am not an accident. I have value. I have worth. God made me and God cares about me.” And the psalmist was confident in saying this because he recognized that he was created by God. It was God that gave his life value. It was God who gave him worth.
That is what it means to be known by God. We are valuable in God’s sight. God knows us even better than we know ourselves! Can you imagine?!? That is something wonderful; something to be celebrated. And that is just what the psalmist did! He says, “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Your works are wonderful!”
Tradition holds that the writer of this particular psalm was King David. David, the innocent little shepherd boy who defeated Goliath with a sling. He went on to become the greatest King in Israelite history, celebrated and revered through the ages. The prophets said the Messiah would come from the line of David. Indeed, David was a bright and shining King, but he also had his weaknesses, didn’t he? Do you remember the story of David and Bathsheba? David lusted after this beautiful woman, so he sent her husband into the front lines of the fighting so that he might be killed and David could have Bathsheba to himself. That’s pretty bad. In fact, it’s terrible on many levels. David knows that there is nowhere he can go that God will not know where he is and what he is doing. God knows every detail of David’s life, good and bad, and still David celebrates God’s handiwork, the depth of God’s knowledge, and the inescapable reach of God’s grace. Are any of us able to do that?
How many of us have noticed how many parents begin to squirm nervously when it’s time for the Children’s Moment? The worship leader calls for the children to come forward, and all around the sanctuary, parents and grandparents bow their heads and slump in their seats. We know why this happens, right? Because we know that eventually, one week, our child will be the one to blurt out that terribly embarrassing, deep, dark, family secret. And when everyone turns to look at the other members of that child’s household, we don’t want to be seen. Does that sound about right?
Children are wonderful. And among a whole host of amazing traits, one of the most wonderful things about children is their unabashed honesty. We all know it’s true, and those of us who live with children, live our lives accordingly. If there’s something that’s not appropriate for a child to be watching on TV, we don’t turn it on when the child is in the room. We try to restrain from expressing extreme anger or frustration in front of the child because we don’t want to set a bad example for them. We don’t talk about certain things when the kids are around. And, of course, we’re always careful about what we do and how close those little ears are because we never know when the latest family mishap will be generously shared with all our closest friends and most distant acquaintances too!
Often it’s quite intimidating to be known publicly the same way we are known by our families. There are things that we are ashamed of, or embarrassed by, and we just don’t want those tiny tidbits of our lives to become public knowledge. It’s not good if people know too much about us. It makes us vulnerable.
And yet, we are known in that way by God. “O Lord,” the psalmist says, “you have searched me and known me.” You know when I sit down and when I stand up. You know when I go out and come in. You know my thoughts, and before I can speak a word, you know what I will say. And there is no way we can escape that knowledge, nowhere we can go where we can hide anything from our Creator. It’s a little scary, isn’t it? To think that God knows…well… basically everything about us! It’s really easy to think about that and get scared. It’s easy to imagine God watching our every move and just shaking his head the way our parents shook their heads when we deliberately disobeyed them as children. But being fully known by God is not really a bad thing! Even David, with the bad actions he took realized that being known by God isn’t so horrible. In fact, it’s wonderful!
So often we perceive that God wants us to be more like someone else. That’s one of the reasons it’s so uncomfortable to be fully known by God, because we feel like we don’t measure up, especially compared to that other guy over there. But God created us just the way he wanted us to be. Granted, we mar that sometimes. We mess up. We pretend like God does not have a claim on our lives. We try to run from God, hoping that we can continue to live our lives the way we want to live them rather than the way we our called to live. But where can we go from God’s Spirit? How can we flee from God’s presence? “If I go up to the heavens, you are there;” the psalms says, “if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.”
But that doesn’t mean we have to be afraid of God because listen to what David says as the psalm continues. “If I say, ‘Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,’ even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.” We can mess up pretty bad. David knew that. We know that. And God knows that. But even the worst can be turned to good in God’s grace. If we are willing to humble ourselves before God; if we are willing to see that God created us to be better, then we are never beyond God’s forgiveness. And even if it takes us a while to figure out we’ve messed up, God in his infinite grace will never stop pursuing us, calling us back into his loving presence.
“Even the darkness will not be dark to you.” God knew David, and David knew God’s grace, the depth of God’s forgiveness. Even David’s worst was not beyond God’s redemption. And neither is ours. We don’t have to be afraid to be known by God. That is the most amazing thing about God, something which this psalmist picked up on and celebrated. God loves us anyway. Despite all those embarrassing things we do. Despite all the terrible thoughts that run through our minds. And despite all the ways that we defy God and God’s will for our lives. In his grace, God never stops loving us, God never stops pursuing us. God created us, and through his mercy and forgiveness, God will continually re-create us, always forming us more and more into his image. No matter how bad we mess up, there is nothing we can do that will remove us completely from the cover of God’s grace. God will follow us to the depths of the ocean and to the heights of the morning sky to keep us in his loving arms. God knows everything about us and loves us anyway. What an amazing truth! No wonder the psalmist says, “I praise you!” And let us also lift our praises to God today and everyday!