Psalm 139 - Practical theology              

by Paul Coxall

 

Theology is the discovery, arranging, and presentation of truths about God. The discipline of ‘theology’ is very exciting as it gives us an understanding of what God is like. What we think about God will determine how we think and act in this world. As this is true then theology is extremely important. How we act, where we go, what we say, why we do what we do, and how we feel will all be determined by our thoughts about God.

 

Psalm 139 is a short masterpiece in practical theology. We read what David knew about God and how this affected him. In the first six verses of the Psalm, David is taken up with God’s knowledge. A term that many people use when speaking about God’s knowledge is ‘omniscience’. Omniscience means that God knows everything, things actual and possible. He does not have a favourite subject, as He knows all things equally well. He never discovers anything. He has never forgotten anything. He is never surprised. He never needs to ask questions to get information.

 

We, like David, can be captivated with the fact that God:

 

Knows us intimately

When David said the Lord had ‘searched him’, v. 1, he did not mean that the Lord needed to acquire knowledge about him but that He knew him as if He had examined him comprehensively, and had seen into the most secret places of his being. David was not a special case. Although there are estimated to be over seven billion people in this world, God knows each individual intimately. We can be assured He knows all about us. No information will be discovered about a believer’s life that will surprise God and cause Him to disown them.

 

 

Knows our thoughts

David understood that what he thought was known to God, vv. 2, 4. People who are close to us ask, ‘What are you thinking?’. Without asking us, even our closest friends do not really know our inner thoughts, 1. Cor. 2. 11. We respond to the question by giving the answer that we want others to hear. Imagine if our friends, work colleagues, or family did know all our thoughts! Yet God knows every single one of them. This knowledge should ensure we think righteously, Phil. 4. 8.

God knows what we are going to say and why we are going to say it, v. 4. ‘Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether’ ESV. The believer, like David, can be comforted and encouraged by this truth. What we say can be misquoted, and our motive for speaking can be wrongly judged, but we know that God knows the truth. This knowledge about God should also ensure we speak truthfully and with the right motive.

 

Knows what we are doing

David recognized that God knew every move he made. In verse 2 the two opposites of sitting and rising represent all David’s actions. The Lord knows our every move. When we relax by sitting down and when we rise up in action, He knows. When nobody else knows what we are doing He does. We can be assured that every action, private or public, that is done in service for the Lord is known by Him.

 

Knows how to protect us

David spoke of the Lord placing a hedge around him, v. 5. He understood that he was protected by God as if there were an enclosure around him. Nothing could happen to him unless God allowed it. Satan’s complaint to God concerning Job, Job 1. 10, was that there was a hedge around him. God did allow Satan to attack Job, but even then He set the boundaries, Job 1. 10; 2. 6. Every believer has the same guarantee that the Lord who loves them knows how to protect them.