Living Before the All-Knowing, Ever-Present God - Psalm 139
Psalm 139 is a psalm that’s known for what it teaches us about God. In this psalm David provides one of the clearest teachings in the Scriptures on the omniscience and omnipresence of God. Omniscience is the reality that God knows all things and omnipresence speaks to the fact that God is always present, everywhere. In this psalm David describes the full knowledge and presence of God and provides illustrations that add color and depth.
But while this psalm is a go-to for understanding the nature of God, we miss the point of the psalm if we use it merely as a statement of theology. At the heart of the psalm is how David responds to these truths about God. As we see God for who He is it should impact the way we think and live. It should change the way we handle temptation and deal with loss. It should guard us from worry, keep us from fear and motivate our obedience.
The All-Knowing God (Omniscient) (139:1-6)
- Searched and Fully Known (v. 1) – David begins the psalm by saying that God has searched and known Him. This is not to imply that there was ever at time when God hadn’t fully known David, rather it is David’s way of acknowledging his awareness of God’s knowledge.
- Understanding God’s Omniscience (vv. 2-5) – Through a series of merisms David illustrates and defines the extent of God’s knowledge. Not only is God’s knowledge complete, but it’s personal. Not only does God know what David does, He knows why he does it. God’s knowledge is personal and also protective (David is surrounded and guarded by God’s complete knowledge of him).
- Praise for God’s Omniscience (v. 6) – David’s response to God’s omniscience is wonder. He stands in awe of this knowledge that is beyond comprehension. It’s like a wall that’s too high to be scaled.
- Application – For those who are in right relationship with God His complete knowledge should serve as a comfort. There’s nothing that happens that He’s not aware of – this should give us confidence and hope. But for those who aren’t in a right relationship with God, His vast knowledge should stir up fear. The judge of every person knows all of your thoughts, motives and actions. For the unbeliever an awareness of God’s omniscience should encourage humility and repentance (Hebrews 4:13).
The Ever-Present God (Omnipresent) (139:7-12)
- Example One - Never outside of His presence (and care) (vv. 7-10) After asking two rhetorical questions David launches into another series of illustrative merisms. High or low, east or west, there is nowhere that David can go where he can escape the presence of God, and this is good news. God is everywhere-present, and actively leading, guiding and protecting (Psalm 23:1-3; Matthew 28:20).
- Example Two – Not hidden by darkness (v. 11-12) – Not only is God present in every location, he’s present and able to see in every condition. David knew seasons of darkness (Psalm 6:6-7) but he’s sure that even in our times of darkness God can see clearly.
- Application – There are times in life when we feel alone or abandoned, but this psalm assures us that this is never the case. God is always with us no matter the season. This is also a warning: your sin is never hidden and your rebellion is never unnoticed. God knows and see all.
An Illustration of God’s Sovereign Knowledge and Care (139:13-18)
- Carefully created by God (Praise Him!) (vv. 13-14) – In this passage David does two things: He teaches about God’s creative work in the womb and also illustrates that God is present everywhere. Even when you were in the womb God was there and knew you – Praise Him!
- Intimately known by God (vv. 15-16) – Using vivid language David shows how intimately God knows us – even in the womb. Even before a woman knows that she is pregnant God has seen this new life – and all the days of it.
- Praise for God’s Sovereign Knowledge and Care (vv. 17-18) – David isn’t frustrated by the fact that God knows and sees all, quite the opposite. He’s marveling at God’s knowledge and care. The sovereign God has turned His thoughts toward sinful man (Psalm 8:3-4, 40:5).
Responding to God’s Sovereign Knowledge and Care (139:19-24)
- A request regarding the wicked – A response of loyalty (vv. 19-22) David’s first request shows His loyalty to God. Afterrecounting God’s nature David wants to ensure that he is fully aligned with God – loving what God loves and hating what God hates.
- A request regarding his heart – A response of submission (vv. 23-24) – While the natural response to this understanding of God may be fear, David desires purity and obedience. He shows humility and submission to God by asking God to continue to search and know Him and to lead Him on the path to everlasting life (Ps. 26:1-3). This should be our response as well.