Psalm 139

Monday, August 14, 2006


I am beginning to think I am becoming a person who reads the bible on-the-fly, i.e. whatever that comes along. But I do not want to think that it is entirely true though. I want to believe that the Holy Spirit has led to me the right places and the right chapters and the right verses. Because he has done it again.

The peace that only Jesus can give has placed a joy in my heart. On wanting to read a psalm, I went to the praise psalms found at the end (I had thought they were the Hallel psalms but I was wrong, Hallel Psalms are from 113-118). I scrolled up the numbers 150, 149, 148 … (I was reading it from my mobile phone – Oh, the convenience of technology!) and somehow or rather clicked on 139.

And there I have it again, a psalm that speaks my heart.

Psalm 139
To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David.

1 O LORD, you have searched me and known me!
2 You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
....you discern my thoughts from afar.
3 You search out my path and my lying down
....and are acquainted with all my ways.
4 Even before a word is on my tongue,
....behold, O LORD, you know it altogether.
5 You hem me in, behind and before,
....and lay your hand upon me.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
....it is high; I cannot attain it.
7 Where shall I go from your Spirit?
....Or where shall I flee from your presence?
8 If I ascend to heaven, you are there!
....If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
9 If I take the wings of the morning
....and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
10 even there your hand shall lead me,
....and your right hand shall hold me.
11 If I say, "Surely the darkness shall cover me,
....and the light about me be night,"
12 even the darkness is not dark to you;
....the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you.
13 For you formed my inward parts;
....you knitted me together in my mother's womb.
14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
....Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you,
....when I was being made in secret,
....intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
....in your book were written, every one of them,
....the days that were formed for me,
....when as yet there were none of them.
17 How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!
....How vast is the sum of them!
18 If I would count them, they are more than the sand.
....I awake, and I am still with you.
19 Oh that you would slay the wicked, O God!
....O men of blood, depart from me!
20 They speak against you with malicious intent;
....your enemies take your name in vain!
21 Do I not hate those who hate you, O LORD?
....And do I not loathe those who rise up against you?
22 I hate them with complete hatred;
....I count them my enemies.
23 Search me, O God, and know my heart!
....Try me and know my thoughts!
24 And see if there be any grievous way in me,
....and lead me in the way everlasting!

The psalm truly does speak my heart, I can’t say more. But just some notes on 2 sections:

1. I was reading the New King James Version and v.11 says: If I say, “Surely the darkness shall fall on me,” Even the night shall be light about me. Comparing it with the other versions:

NIV
If I say, "Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,"


NASB
If I say, "Surely the darkness will overwhelm me,
And the light around me will be night,"


NLT
I could ask the darkness to hide me
and the light around me to become night—


ASV
If I say, Surely the darkness shall overwhelm me,
And the light about me shall be night;


It looks like the NKJV is very different from the rest, almost the opposite if I may say. The KJV has the same. I was quite moved by NKJV on my first read. It made me to ponder that even when the darkness covers me, but because God is with me, even the night shall be light. It certainly reminds me of the “valley of death … his rod and his staff” of Psalm 23.

But after checking out the other versions, it seems the opposite, with the quotation marks at different places: even when darkness covers me and the light become darkness to me. But response to the statement is carried in v.12: even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you. The message is the same, when we are with God, even the night will be as day.

Verse 18b is a wow: I awake, and I am still with you, which is such a reassurance that Jesus is Emmanuel.

2. Verse 19-22 are verses that may not sit right with a lot of people.

19 Oh that you would slay the wicked, O God!
....O men of blood, depart from me!
20 They speak against you with malicious intent;
....your enemies take your name in vain!
21 Do I not hate those who hate you, O LORD?
....And do I not loathe those who rise up against you?
22 I hate them with complete hatred;
....I count them my enemies.

Why would the psalmist go about like this with the wicked while Jesus on the other would be teaching his disciples to love their enemies?

What I have and what I remember about Imprecatory Psalms from an Expository Preaching Seminar held back in 2004 on the topic of Preaching from Selected Psalms, lectured by DA Carson, these psalms may have various implications. Carson said that these imprecatory psalms have a great deal of theology within.

i. They are impersonal prayers of judgment, to a God who is holy, godly and just. They are directed to no one in particular, only to show that God is holy and those who are wicked will be judged. E.g. Ps 1:5-6 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; for the LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.

ii. They are a call of measure for measure. This is justice in a narrower sense. Judgment will certainly be meted out by a just God. E.g. Ps 137:8-9 O daughter of Babylon, doomed to be destroyed, blessed shall he be who repays you with what you have done to us! Blessed shall he be who takes your little ones and dashes them against the rock!

iii. They carry a language of outrage. They are not asking for any literal penalty. E.g. Jer 20:14 Cursed be the day on which I was born! The day when my mother bore me, let it not be blessed!

iv. They are bound up with God’s vindication, that God must be vindicated. This can be seen here in Psalm 139.

v. They present God’s love and God’s hate antithetically, i.e. His perfection of wrath and His perfection of love. God is whole and perfect. On reading and understanding these psalms, we cannot reduce them to our own frailty in the handling of emotions.

Maeghan
Picture by Kristin Smith

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4 comment(s)

  1. Maeghan,

    As usual, great stuff. Thanks for sharing.

    Where do you get the time for all of this?

    God Bless
    doug

    ReplyDelete
  2. I love it when God speaks to us.
    :-}

    ReplyDelete
  3. Doug,
    Where do you get the time for all of this?

    I pinched time here and there for that post! Because that 2 sections had intrigued me. I thought it was time well spent because I learnt and I revised what I had learnt before. This is what I mean by being an extension of my spiritual thoughts and quiet time. If I have nothing to post (which is apparent on some days), it means I haven't been doing my quiet time.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Milly,
    Amen ... he who has an ear, let him hear ...

    ReplyDelete