Scripture: Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18 (N.B. 1 Samuel 3:1-10, (11-20); 1 Corinthians 6:12-20; and John 1:43-51 – Second Sunday After Epiphany Year B)
Sermon on Psalm 139
Song Psalms, this is my favourite.
Introduction to the Psalm.
With respect to an individual person:
- Verses 1-6 describe the insight that God has;
- Verses 7-12 describe the oversight that God has;
- Verses 13-18 describe the divine foresight God has from conception to death;
- Verses 19-24 describe the plaintiff’s devotion to God.
Stanza 1: The God who knows it all (vv1-6)
- David admits that everything he does is under the LORD’s surveillance – sitting, standing, coming in, going out – everything!
- Even David’s own thoughts are known intimately by Yahweh
- v5 is interesting ‘You hem me in’ – can mean ‘cornered or besieged’ or ‘guarded/circled for protection’ (sheep in a fold)
- v6 suggest that David sees this being hemmed in as a positive thing – “such knowledge is too wonderful for me”
Stanza 2: The God who sees it all (vv7-12)
- David reflects here on his inability to escape from God’s presence – “where can I go?”
- Not to the height, depths, east or west – nowhere to hide!
- v11 – interesting statement – does he sometime seek darkness in order to escape presence of God? A frustration that he cannot hide?
- Or is v11 a reflection of a King of Israel who has been fighting amongst the darkness of the surrounding nations where God is not worshipped and yet he is confident that even there he is safe in the hands of God?
- The clue again, v10, this is a positive thing that God sees all
- Yahweh is the God who can light out of darkness and who can call darkness, light!
- Nowhere is beyond God’s reach, comfort and care
- It’s an astonishing picture of God – seeing all, knowing all – even following and pursuing the Psalmist wherever he goes – east or west; height or depth
Stanza 3: The God who creates all (vv13-18)
- The Psalmist turns to thoughts of God as Creator
- Even in the womb David is seen and known – ‘you created my inmost being…’
- David knows that all his future is in the Lord’s hands
- David praises God for his unbelievable thoughts and knowledge of him (vv17-18)
- All of the detail of David – his height, his weight, his fear of the dark, childhood accidents, teenage traumas, weaknesses, strengths, relationships – every imaginable detail of every imaginable person
- I believe that more than 100 billion people have existed on earth – God knows every imaginable detail of everyone if them, of us!
- God knows us better than we know ourselves
Stanza 4: Be found amongst those who are for God (vv19-24)
- The psalm takes an unusual turn in v19 as David thinks about his enemies and his hatred of the wicked
- We’re reminded in this stanza that there are people who do rage against this God who knows, sees, and created everything.
- We’re reminded that a choice needs to be made – are we for OR against the LORD?
- David expresses his choice in very stark terms as he aligns himself with the Lord who knows all, sees all, and made it all.
- As he goes on he prays that he wouldn’t be found amongst the enemies of God – vv23-24
There are a couple of things to say here.
We can understand King David being accused of infidelity to God by one of his many enemies. David stole another man’s wife, raped her and then murdered the husband when she became pregnant. No doubt the scandalous tale was embroidered a bit by the gossip of jealous people, which was the social media of that time and still is today.
Also, David gets treated as an individual because he was a major character in the story – a King, chosen by God – so his personal story is important and becomes an example for us all.
But it’s Verse 14 that makes this my Favourite Psalm.
OK, this is it, this is why it’s my favourite: “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made”. Here is Rachel’s birth announcement, which carried Verse 14a. Verses 13-16 describe God’s intimate knowledge of us from before birth, to our death.
Rachel was born 25 years ago, but Verse 14 have come to mean a lot more to me since then. The kind of capture my journey from atheism to faith. I believed in evolution and the Big Bang (the Theory, but I also like the series) and I was fascinated by the beauty and complexity of the universe. Eventually, my growing awareness of just how complex, how beautiful and how unlikely the universe was, overcame my objections and my eyes were opened to the possibility of God.
In Verse 15 the Psalmist is right to observe that we are formed from the depths of the earth, because that’s where our substance came from. Our mothers ate plants and animals (who ate plants), so all the stuff we are made of came out of the earth.
However, the story of our creation is so much greater than that. The elements that we are made of were not created in the Earth. We are:
- 10% hydrogen, all of which came from the moment of creation, some 13,7oo million years ago;
- 18% carbon, most of which came from small stars dying;
- 65% oxygen, all of which was made in the shockwave of a massive star exploding – a supernova;
Most of the rest (6%) is nitrogen, calcium, phosphorus, then less than 1% is potassium, sulphur, sodium, chlorine, and magnesium. These are all made by stars dying in different ways. Interestingly what killed many of those stars was making Iron, which makes our blood red – we would suffocate without it.
Iodine and Molybdenum, which we need to live, did not come from dying stars. When a star over 10 times larger than our sun dies, it explodes in a supernova and leaves behind a collapsed core, a neutron star.
Now a neutron star is a very strange thing. Every object, you and I, are made of atoms, and they are mostly made of empty space – we look and feel solid, but that’s electric fields, not solid matter. But a neutron star has no gaps, it is solid matter. It is so dense that it weighs more than our sun, but it would just about fit between here and Henley Beach.
Iodine and Molybdenum, were made not by one neutron star, but by two neutron stars colliding. We really are fearfully and wonderfully made!
The ‘So what’ Test.
So why am I telling you all this, what’s it got to do with Jesus?
Well, John thought that it was so important that he started his Gospel by reminding us that Jesus was one with the creator at the moment of creation.
In our walk as Christians, we will encounter people who dismiss the possibility of God, and far more who just pay God no attention (except in emergencies). I’ve heard people say that they only believe what they can see is real. I wonder if they understand what ‘real’ really is?
There are also those who believe, and sometimes try to tell us that science and religion are enemies. I remember seeing a Christian on TV refusing to where a mask and screaming “I don’t believe your science, because I believe in my God”.
Now, I don’t think that this sister had thought this through. If we believe that there is only one creator, one God, then He made the laws of physics, the forces that bind our universe together and balance it. Science only works because God made creation orderly and consistent.
“The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they reveal knowledge.” [Psalm 19:1-2]
Some atheists have tried to claim that science is ‘on their side’, that ‘science proves that God doesn’t exist’. This is false. The scientific method consists of coming up with a hypothesis based on observations, then constructing an experiment to confirm or disprove that hypothesis. As there is no experiment to determine whether God exists then science has nothing to say about the existence of God. Nothing.
If someone says to you that science shows there is no God, then ask them which experiment proves that. They won’t admit that they are wrong; they will waffle. As an auditor, I have a little test when people claim something: “show me”. I suppose the modern version is “let’s Google that”!
Psalm 139 reminds us how complete God’s knowledge is about us, how intimate and detailed His view is of us. David knew this, but even King David’s knowledge of God was partial, and obscured by his sin, but he knew enough to praise God.
Now we know more:
- Jesus has become human and died for our sins on the cross, bridging the gap between us and God;
- God has sent the Holy Spirit to live in us;
- And now God’s revelation in scripture is complete, and we can interpret it with the mind and example of Christ.
Some embrace science while rejecting God’s revelation, while others embrace God’s revelation while rejecting science. We can enjoy both. The saved Christian has nothing to fear in studying God’s creation – we may be puzzled, dumbfounded even, by its strangeness and complexity, but we praise God for His creation.
Now that we are saved by Jesus, we are children of God, sisters and brothers of Jesus. There are no go-betweens any more, no Kings or Priests to intercede for us, but Jesus Himself. Each one of us is a major character in the story. We are co-workers with God, and what we think and do and say can advance His kingdom. Now we can and do know God, even better than the King in the final verses of Psalm 139.
Let us Pray:
Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.” Amen.