God is with us
The Rev. Kathy Brumbaugh, Special Writer
Background text: Psalm 139
Devotional text: John 2:24, Hebrews 4:13
Today, I am focusing on Psalm 139. In its 24 verses, this psalm of David lays out our lives before God, from beginning to end, with hope and encouragement throughout. It’s one of David’s greatest psalms to read in light of where we are in our lives today. It’s as important in expressing that God is with us today as it was in the time of David.
While the Messiah had yet to come in David’s time, we will see how the verses of this psalm are also found similarly in the New Testament, as spoken by Jesus and his disciples to the believers.
The scripture found in Psalm 139 leads us in understanding the New Testament of God’s all-abiding love, leadership and plan for righteousness in our lives. Those very things learned by David as he glorified God are the same for worshipers today.
The first six verses refer to the depths of God’s knowledge concerning each of us. God knows when we sit and when we stand. He understands why we lay down and why we get up and go out. He knows what we are going to say even before we say it. God is before us and behind us. He lays his hand upon us.
For the psalmist, and for us, when we think of it, it is all too wonderful to comprehend that we are known so totally. These are not words to make us fearful. They are words of how much God knows us and is protecting us. They are words of God’s unconditional and all-consuming love for us.
In the New Testament, in the gospel of John, we find similar sentiment. John 2:24 tells us God knows all persons, and John 10:14 finds the words of Jesus as the Good Shepherd when he tells us he knows his sheep and his sheep know him.
These are wonderful words of acceptance that also tell us that we are not alone, for God is with us.
Psalm 139 verses 7-12 bring to us the knowledge of God with us even more. Here, the psalmist lists all the places he can go, and, yet, he finds God is always there, too.
Whether the psalmist tries to run from God or pray to him in heaven, God is there. Whether he gives in to darkest temptations or goes out into the sunshine of God’s love, God is there. Even if he takes up residence in a far-off country, God is still there. Not only is God there with us, he takes us by the hand to guide us in protection and safety.
What a comfort to know the loving presence of God never leaves us wherever we may go.
Verses 11 and 12 tell us that even the darkness cannot hide us from God, because God’s presence makes the darkness “shine like the day.”
Again, we can turn to the New Testament for words that add to our knowledge of God with us. In Hebrews 4:13, we read “nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight.” Matthew 10:26 says “there is nothing hidden that will not be made known.”
When I think on these words, it makes me think of the freedom we have in Christ. There is no need for hiding or lying, for through our Lord his darkness will bring it to light. If we live our lives in truth, treating one another with the kindness with which we ourselves would like to be treated, we find freedom from self-made burdens.
As we look at verses 13-18, we go even deeper into God’s knowledge of us. We learn that God has known us even in our mother’s womb, where he fashioned us, making us fearfully and wonderfully. It goes on to link us to the first human (Adam) whom God made from the soil of the earth. This is an analogy to the next verse (16), letting us know that God saw us even in our “unformed body.”
As if that were not enough, the rest of verse 16 reads, “All the days ordained for me were written in your hand before one of them came to be.”
What do these words tell us about ourselves? We were loved by God even before we were born, and God’s love remains with us, calling us to him. He has always had a good plan for our lives.
That doesn’t take away our free will. Our own free will is part of God’s plan. These words alone should show us how precious we are to God. They are also words of promise, for it is God who has made us, no matter what our size or shape or color. God has loved us even before our birth. What a wonder we are to God.
David ends this third section of six verses by stating that the thoughts of God are too numerable for us to understand. He likens them to being more than the grains of sand from the ocean. Comprehending these words helps us to realize that no one can ever out-think or fully know the glory of our God.
The next four verses of Psalm 139 (19 to 22) find David pouring out his heart to God, asking for justice. He shows God his feelings of hatred, saying he hates those who hate God. He counts God’s enemies as his own enemies.
We all have feelings. They are part of our human nature. God readily hears our feelings, both good and bad. God also wants us to turn our difficult feelings over to him.
As we break down the meaning of these words for us, we are reminded of Christ’s Great Commandment (Mark 12:30-31) for us to love God with all our being and to love others as we love ourselves. We can also go to Matthew 5:43-48 where Jesus tells his followers to “love your enemies, pray for those who persecute you.”
Notice in this psalm that David does not take action against his enemies. He asks God to do that. Remember from the New Testament, Romans 12:19, where we are told not to take revenge, but to give it to God. God says, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay.”
In verses 23 and 24, David puts his feelings together for God’s scrutiny, asking God to search him, to know his heart and his “anxious thoughts.” He wants God to see the true intent of his heart and of his feelings, hiding nothing from God. Then, he asks God to continue leading him in the right way.
So it is for us. As God shows us the way through the reading of scripture, through prayer, through the nudging of the Spirit inside us, we live day to day, trying to live a good life and trusting the help of God with us.