Psalm 139
The Lord Knows Me

Authored By Rev. Takao Kiyohiro, Tokyo, Japan

1.  "I know best about me [and my own business]."  We hear these words often and we even say them ourselves at times.  But, is this really true?  Actually, we don't understand ourselves so well.  In reality, isn't this entity called "me" beyond comprehension?  As a test, please go ahead and ask yourself several questions.  "Who in the world are you?"  You can probably answer that.  But, if you were to ask "Why are you you?," this is about impossible to answer. "Where did you come from?"  "What are you living for?"  "What is it that you really want?  What are the values by which you live?"  "Where in the world are you going ultimately?"  "And, what is your purpose?"  Although I should know best about me, I don't understand the things that have to do with the origins of my life.  I can't answer them.

2.  Well, we have a person here [in this passage] who does not say "I know best about me."  That person wrote the one hundred and thirty-ninth Psalm.  Whether he really knows [the answers about who he is and all] or not does not have great significance for him.  [It is not a big concern for him] because he knows the "One who knows me."  Though this psalm is an old one having been written two thousand and several hundred years ago, it still has significant meaning for us alive today because there are people in every era who try to find those very answers to the root issues of human life but come to lose his or her way in the maze lorded over by emptiness and vanity.  What we ought to know are not "the answers to my life."  [What we got to know or who we have to know] is "the One who knows me."  By way of inquiry, today I would like us to read Psalm 139 even though we will not experience it fully.

You Know Me

3.  To begin, I will read from verses one to six.

"O Lord, you have mastered me,
You know me.
You know my sitting down and standing up,
You perceive my plans from afar.
You [can] tell my walking from my lying down,
You are knowledgeable of all my ways.
Before my tongue has yet uttered one word,
O Lord, you know it all.
You surround me from behind or from the front,
You have placed your hand upon me.
Your awesome knowledge goes beyond me,
It is so high, I will never get there," (one through six).

4.  Day to day human life is expressed by the words "[my] sitting down and standing up."  The things [we do from day to day] are not always openly exposed to the human eye.  The places humans see are limited.  In a certain sense this suits us fine because we might not want to be seen.  [Indeed] we have wanted to keep things secret and the truth is we do have secrets.  But, not being seen does not always make for happiness.  There are times we would have ourselves see and know.  We would have ourselves understand correctly.  But, human life is not necessarily bound to being seen, known, or understood correctly.  Sometimes we are misunderstood by others, aren't we?.  This happens because we are based within human boundaries and limitations.  Consequently, we often have regrettable thoughts and feelings.

5.  We live out our lives usually thinking that such a humanly limited outlook is all there is.  However, unexpectedly, we come to realize that apparently completely unrelated things in the human eye are mutually connected.  In life two events which seem completely unrelated come to be perceived as truly deeply interconnected.  Many people call this "coincidence or chance."  Or, others might be used to expressing it vaguely as "some kind of fate."

6.  But, the person who lives worshipping God and in continuous prayer to God does not talk like that.  Because he or she knows that the world which is limited by what the human eye sees and [one's] consciousness which is [also] limited are not all there is.  Because he or she knows that there is a consciousness that is better than that and there is a plan that goes beyond that.  The psalmist who sang Psalm 139 was such a person.  What is recorded here is not some simple idea about God's omniscience and omnipotence.  It is the words of the prayer of a man who has lived with God.  As he looks back over his days so far, he can't help but confess in fear and awe and with a deep peace, "O Lord, you have mastered me, you know me."  He can't help but praise God himself as the very one who "is well informed of our every which way."

7.  Many people think they are well informed about their lives.  But those who think like that have no peace, [especially] because things one cannot foresee at all happen in one's life of which a person was supposed to have been well informed.  Inexplicable things come up.  Those who think they know best for themselves get impatient, get in trouble, and get all worried.  But, this psalmist is different.  [He's different] because he knows the One who "is well informed about my every which way."  He has no need for explanations since the One over all others knows me thoroughly well.  He has no need to give God lengthy commentary on what is best for his life or to ask for help so his humanly dreamt up schemes turn out.  No, far from that, he says the Lord knows everything before a person's tongue [can] state even a single word.  He lives in continual thought of how the One who knows all encircles [him] and has placed [His] hand on him.  That is his walk.  For him that was enough.  This person was not trying to seize God's knowledge into his own hands.  He just offers praise for that awesome knowledge and extols its height.

Wherever I Go You Are There

8.  I will read you next from verses seven to twelve.

"Where can I go and
Be able to be at a distance separated from your Spirit?
Even if I go to Heaven, you are there
Even If I lie myself down in Hades,
Look!, you are there.
Even if I arrive on the other side of the sea driven by the winds of the dawn,
You are there
You guide me with your hand
You hold me with your left hand.
I say:
'Even in the darkness the Lord sees me.
Even at evening the lights shed light on me.'
Darkness can't be called darkness in light of you.
Both nighttime and daytime radiate light,
Whether darkness or light, it makes no difference," (verses seven through twelve).

9.  He praises the awesome knowledge of God.  But he also knows quite well that humanity would try to flee from "the One who knows."  He thinks, "Where can I go and be able to be at a distance separated from your Spirit?"  He says:  If I go to Heaven or down to Hades or arrive on the other side of the sea, you are there.  Of course, he had never gone up to heaven.  Nor has he ever lied himself down in the land of death.  But, what is being expressed here is, in a word, the point about "no matter where I go."  It might have been his own experience, or even if it wasn't, this is frequently thought of by people.  [People] do try to run from God.  [People] try to place themselves some way or another wherever they can without God's knowledge.  But, they come to find out that they have been guided by the hand of God without even perceiving it at the time.  Eventually one can't avoid admitting that he had been tightly held by His powerful left hand.  People often times hide themselves in darkness.  They would try to run off into the darkness of a lifestyle without God.  But, before too long, they realize that there is no darkness nor anything that can conceal them from God.  He sheds forth light on them.  Through God's light everything comes to exposure before his presence.

How Precious Are Your Plans!

10.  Let's read the next part.

"You made my insides,
You put me together inside my mother's womb.
I lift up [my] thanksgiving to you.
By your dreadful power
Were awesome things created.
My soul does know well
How awesome are your works!
I was made in a hidden place
And woven [together] at the bottom of a deep place.
Not even my bones were hidden to you.
Your eyes saw me when I was an embryo.
My days were all recorded in your book
Even before one of those days had been made.
As for your plans,
How precious are they for me!
O God, how their number is great!
Were I to count them, they are more than the grains of sand,
Were I to investigate their boundaries to the very end,
I would still be with you," (verses thirteen through eighteen).

11.  No matter where he would try to run, since God would have hold of [him], running away was useless.  As creatures derived from the creator's hand, it is best indeed to turn oneself over in trust to his plans for you.

12.  This psalmist goes back to his own birth about which God knew quite well.  Whatever is the reason that I am here in this world?  Though he asks himself the reasons for his existence he doesn't know why.  [He doesn't understand] because no one was born into this world by his or her own volition.  Therefore, at the background to [one's] existence we can't avoid recognizing that there is someone else's will.  However, it isn't the parents because no parents have ever produced a life.  He recognizes the will of God at the background to his own existence and being.  Furthermore, this psalmist feels that because God is the creator, his embryonic self was already known by God.  In addition, when he thinks about his life up to this point what comes to mind was a book in God's hand.  There the days of a person's life are recorded, all of which God has known long ago.  The days are recorded though they are yet to be created.

13.  Since the psalmist was a very typical person, he must have had in the past days [of his life] many bewildering events.  Didn't he have a few days on which he could not help but moan "Why is this happening [to me]?"  Furthermore, even the future is entirely unknown.  However, he does not try to take a glance into God's book.  He praises God saying, "As for your plans, how precious they are for me!"  He humbles himself by recognizing that the plans of God cannot be mastered by any human being and [so] he praises God.

Please Guide Me In The Everlasting Way

14.  Lastly, let's read from verse nineteen to twenty-four.

"O God, won't you please smash out those who are defiant.
Separate from me, those who plot bloodshed.
They recite your name with trickery,
[They are] persons who empty out your towns.
O Lord, I hate those who hate you,
I consider them detestable those who rise up against you,
I hate them with a severe hatred,
I consider them as my enemies.
O God, please investigate me thoroughly
And know my heart.
Please test me and know my pain.
Please look at me-
At whether there is a way of wandering astray in me.
Won't you please-
Guide me in the everlasting way," (nineteen through twenty-four).

15.  It's a bit confusing because the words "hate" and "enemy" appear here all of a sudden.  It is not necessarily clear how it connects with what came before.  But, I would like to keep in our hearts here several things.  The poet did not say, "I hate the people who hate me and I consider as detestable beings those who rise up against me."  We would misunderstand the poet's intentions were we to read into this [passage] a hatred and animosity of heart which we experience so familiarly.  We don't know specifically who "those who are defiant," "those who plot bloodshed," and "those who recite your name with trickery" are.  At any rate, though, the psalmist is not speaking about [their] connection to himself, but [their] connection to God.  His concern is persistently turned towards God.  So, he does not say, "I will smash them out."  He entrusts [their case] to God.

16.  Thus, at the end of the psalm, the psalmist prays for himself because ultimately the important thing for him was not that someone be destroyed.  [The important thing] was his own relationship with God.

17.  What he was asking for was that God who knew him right then more than he knew himself would know his heart from that point also.  Also, [he was asking for God] to test him and reveal what was in him.  Because his sincere request was that he not go astray on the way of error and on the path to destruction.  Actually, that wasn't [his request], because [his request] was to be guided on the everlasting way, the way that leads to eternal life.

18.  The important point for us is not that we get answers for [our] confusing lives.  [The important point] is that we know the One who knows me more than I [do].  [The important point] is that we look to Him as the Lord and that we walk continuously guided on the everlasting way.

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