Psalm 139 – A New Look

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I have been studying Psalm 139 all day and it is not what I thought. I have always read this psalm with an eye toward the first 18 verses and never knew what to do with the final 6. When taken alone the first 18 verses philosophize on the knowledge of God (vs. 1-6, 12-16), God’s presence (vs. 7-11), and the resulting praise that it elicits from David (vs 17-18). But when taken as a whole, in context, with the final six verses included it takes on a significantly modified meaning. On a side note, notice that I am dividing the psalm into the following sections 139:1-6, 7-11, 12-16, 17-18, 19-24. Most commentators include verse 12 in the section of 7-11 but I have altered that because verse 12 speaks of the knowledge of God which fits better with 13-16 than with 7-11.

Psalm 139 ends abruptly with a call for vindication on the enemies and seems entirely out of place in light of the rest of the psalm. It is clear that the psalm is about the knowledge and presence of God but the focus changes in light of the final verses. Why does David proclaim these thoughts about God’s knowledge and presence? Because he is setting up a comparison between himself and the enemies of God whom he is seeking vindication on. David is saying, “God, you know me completely. You know my thoughts. You know my ways. You made me. You have been present with me.” He is making a case that he is standing in the right and that the enemies do not.  God knows David’s thoughts and words. David is implying that he believes his thoughts and words have honored God. Not so the wicked, “They speak of you with evil intent.”

It seems to me that there is a comparison being made here with the intention being that God will see the difference between David and the enemies He will bring vindication. God knows David. God knows the enemies. God knows who is right and who is wrong. What is the natural result of that? The wicked should be punished! But then notice his final petition – “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.” God, if I am wrong about this, correct me. Lead me. Make my will your will and my desires your desires.

This psalm calls us to come to God in all honesty about who we are and what we think. We bring it all before him, the good and the bad and we say, “Here it is Lord…if you find anything here that doesn’t please you then please remove it from me.”

0 Responses

  1. I think youre on to something here, but I also believe that David truly hates the enemies of God and feels justified for feeling that way. It seems that he really wants God to do something about the wicked people around him, but he wants to make sure he isnt of that number. It seems like he is also sort of petitioning God for continued protection, and that is why he has anxious thoughts. After all, David was a man of war and had enemies all over the known world. Ulitmately I think David is trying to say to God that he wants nothing to interfere in their relationship.

  2. Matt,

    You are at it again. I love it when you approach the text at a way I never have seen before. I want to thank you yet again for making me think and the fresh approach you bring to the text. God bless.

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