One day when my daughter was about two-and-a-half years old, she began asking me a series of questions. Why, why, why? It was a constant bombardment. The questions just kept coming. Every answer was met with another "why?" Finally, I said, "Julie, I'm sorry, I don't know everything." Surprised and indignant, she said, "when I'm three, I'll know everything."
I am relieved to report that when she turned three, she did not actually know everything. She still doesn’t. Can you imagine how it would have changed our relationship for her to know everything and for me to still be me, knowing just a very little? Talk about awkward! A lot would have changed in our relationship! I’d be at a terrible disadvantage in every conversation with her!
But God does know everything. He is “omniscient.” Intellectually, most of us know that God knows all things but when we relate that truth to ourselves, it seems awkward. We are at a disadvantage in every conversation with him! Do we really want to live in relationship with a god who knows absolutely everything about us?
David wrestled with that question in Psalm 139. Omniscience is a powerful theological idea but it is more. What David has to say is deeply personal and can change our lives for the better.
So let’s dig into the Psalm. If we are able to understand this truth as David did, and not run in fear as he considered doing, it will change our lives for the good. I hope that is what will happen to you today.
I. GOD’S KNOWLEDGE OF ME ENCOMPASSES MY PRESENT.
David does not indicate the occasion for the writing of this psalm, but that is perhaps because it is appropriate for all times. He begins by writing that God’s knowledge encompasses everything he does. There is nothing that you or I do or think that God does not know. READ vs. 1-4.
He knows all about your passive activities– “you know when I sit.” He knows where you sit, what you are sitting on, and how long you have been sitting.
He knows all about your active activities–“you know when I rise.” He knows if you can jump up or if rising is getting hard to do and exactly which joints hurt and what is wrong with them. God is fully aware of every aspect of everything you do. His omniscience is very personal.
God knows all about your thoughts–“you know my thoughts from afar.” He knows every word that you will utter even before the thought is fully formed in your mind. He knows what you will say when you are surprised or startled. He knows the words you don’t even consider before you blurt them out. He knows the first word you will utter when you leave this building.
He knows what you are thinking now. Think of a word, any word and prepare to say it on my signal. (Whisper) Let’s try to trick him. When my arm goes down, say a different word very quickly. [Do it]. Did we trick him? Was he fooled? No!
There is no corner of your mind that is able to keep God out. There is no place in your mind that you can barricade against God.
God’s knowledge of you encompasses everything about your present: all your activities, all your thoughts.
How can this be? We can get no farther than did David so long ago when he said, in v. 6, “such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.” Paul says in the book of Romans, “O the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
When we understand that God has complete knowledge of our deeds and thoughts, our relationship with Him will change.
II. GOD’S KNOWLEDGE OF ME ENCOMPASSES ALL MY PLANS FOR THE FUTURE (VS. 7-12)
I think that David probably paused for a while after writing v. 6. It is frightening to think that God literally knows every one of our activities and thoughts in advance. So David briefly contemplated attempting to flee from God. READ v. 7.
It frightened him to think that, in essence, he was always naked before God. He could never be alone with his thoughts. He never could have an absolutely private moment. Neither can you or I. God knows it all.
Because of this overwhelming truth, David felt that impulse first known to Adam, to run and hide from God. But as you see, he was fully aware that he could not hide. READ v. 8-10.
Neither by ascending or descending to any place would he escape from God. Whether fleeing to the east or the west, he could not escape. V. 9 says “if I rise on the wings of the dawn and settle on the far side of the sea…” Even if David leaped up and grabbed the first of the sun’s rays and hung on as it raced westward and rode the light beam to the farthest shores in just minutes, faster than any modern jet, he would not be able to flee the presence of God.
For a moment the thought arose in his mind that perhaps the darkness would give him the chance to hide from the Lord. READ v. 11. But that was quickly dismissed. READ v. 12. He knew that wherever he was, God’s hand would guide him and hold him fast. You see, God knew everything about David. And he knows everything about you.
So what did David do? What should we do? David came to understand that he could do nothing but surrender all to the one who knows all.
When we understand that God has complete knowledge of all our plans, our relationship with Him will change.
III. GOD’S KNOWLEDGE OF ME ENCOMPASSES MY PAST (vs. 13-16).
God knows all about my present; he knows all about my thoughts for the future. There is more: He knows all about my past.
As we move into the 13th verse, we encounter what may be for many of us the heart of the psalm. Again it reveals the omniscience of God in the most intimate and personal terms. David shows us that God’s knowledge of him encompasses every moment of his past. READ vs. 13-16. V. 13 began with the word “for.” The fact that God created him in his mother’s womb is proof to him of the previous statement that “the darkness is as light to you.” In that dark place (the womb) God knits together the most sophisticated organism in the universe. He can do the work without the aid of the light. Indeed, “darkness is as light to you.” The full richness of the poetic beauty of this section escapes me I am sure, but still it moves me to hushed contemplation.
In v. 13, David said that God created his “inmost being.” He is referring to the internal organs and most specifically to one; the kidney. “Inmost being” is a word that can be translated “kidney.” The kidney is a mysterious organ whose functions are to this day, I have read, still not well understood by doctors. Unlike the heart, it does its work silently; unlike the heart, it gives no clue to its presence. Yet without it we would die.
As David contemplated the greatness of God in knitting together his complex body in the darkness inside his mother, he was moved to write, “I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful (v. 14).” The complexity and perfection of your body is astonishing.
Illustration: consider the cells that make up your body. Do you know how many there are in your body? No, we don’t even know how many hairs are on our heads. You do know what DNA is; it is the molecular structure found in the nucleus of every cell in your body. You have all seen pictures like this (show DNA drawing). The cell is so small you can’t see it and the nucleus is an even small part of the cell. Do you know how long the DNA in each nucleus would be if you could unwind it and stretch it out like a string? Two meters long. If the DNA from each cell in your body were unwound and put in one long string, how long would that string be? From here to New York City? Around the world? From here to the sun? None of the above. Across the entire diameter of the solar system.
By the way, there are approximately 70 trillion cells in the average human body functioning together.
Where did this complexity and precision come from? Is a human being merely an accident, a product of impersonal and purposeless forces? Or did God weave us together? It is far more reasonable to believe that we are made by a designer for a purpose. Even non-religious people acknowledge the extraordinary design that is the human body. The following words are from a Michael Denton, an Australian medical doctor, who, at the time he wrote this in the 1980’s was an atheist.
…to common sense it does indeed appear absurd to propose that chance could have thrown together devices of such complexity and ingenuity that they appear to represent the very epitome of perfection. There can hardly be a student of human physiology who has not on occasion been struck by the sheer brilliance apparent in the design of so many physiological adaptations. (Denton p. 326).
In v. 15, David says that his “frame” was not hidden from God while he was in his mother’s womb. God knows him inside and out. Interestingly, frame is a word that can be translated “embroidery.” It speaks of the beauty of the human body and that God regards his creation as beautiful.
In v. 16, David continues writing “your eyes saw my unformed body.” The implications here are staggering. The two English words “unformed body” are just one word in the Hebrew. The classic Hebrew dictionary for Bible students lists the translation of this word as simply “fetus.” God is the one who knits together the fetus and the fetus draws the personal attention of Almighty God. The fetus is one of God’s wonderful works. It is a work in progress, being woven together.
The human body, throughout every moment of its growth from the moment of conception is a testimony of the greatness of God. Its very existence is a witness that God is great. David knew that 3000 years ago.
In v. 15 there is a phrase that has often distracted me and perhaps it has distracted you today. David says he was “woven together in the depths of the earth.” What does that mean? Earlier he said that he was knit together in his mother’s womb. Is this a contradiction? No.
It could be that David writes “depths of the earth” to describe how dark it is in a mother’s womb. Or it could be that David is acknowledging that the earth is the “depths” far away from heaven, but that nonetheless, God does his work here. Either way, there is no contradiction.
In the last half of v. 16, David summarizes God’s knowledge of our present, our future, and our past with awesome clarity. READ v. 16b. What a God we know and serve! He knows all our days.
When we understand that God has complete knowledge of our past, our relationship with Him will change.
IV. AN UNEXPECTED REVERSAL
The first 18 verses of David’s psalm are soaring in their view of God’s complete knowledge. It is stirring to read and leaves me in awe every time I think about it.
But verses 19-22 seem to have been imported from another planet and stuck onto the end of the psalm. They seem to be so negative that you have to wonder if someone altered the text! READ vs. 19-22. Why this talk of hatred? What has happened to David?
David is reflecting upon the greatness of God. It changes his view of the world.
He sees the insanity and arrogance of sin in a fresh way and he is appalled. Despite the total and complete knowledge that God has of all men and the great care that he extends toward them, men hate and reject their creator; they misuse his name and they plot to shed blood. David can hardly contain himself over the horrible contrast and he is driven to reject those who hate his God.
Does this mean the application is that we should hate the sinners around us? No. The point is not hatred for sinners but awe for God. David’s awe for God is so profound that compared to his regard for sinners it could be called hatred but David is not teaching hatred for sinners.
In the last two verses, David expresses his surrender to God. Overcome by God’s complete knowledge of all things, David concludes, READ vs. 23-24.
As David recognized God’s complete knowledge of him, it brought forth his adoration and surrender of his will. It changed his life.
David began the psalm by stating that God had searched him and known him. He concludes by asking God to search him and know him. God’s complete knowledge of him had frightened him; now he invites it. No more hiding, no more avoiding, no more pretending that he can get away with something. It changed his life and he lived in peace and awe of his creator.
God invites us to do what David did. You can’t hide from him. You cannot do or think anything that escapes his attention. Is it time for you to stop trying to run or hide? Is this the day for you to surrender to him who loves you and sent his Son to die for you? If you do that today, you’ll find God’s peace and learn to adore him more than ever before. Your life will begin anew.