< What I Learned Teaching Sunday School: Studying the Psalms Part 4 – Psalm 139

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Studying the Psalms Part 4 – Psalm 139

In the second section of Psalm 139 (continuing with the article called Who Am I, Lord, by Ray C. Stedman) the psalmist is exploring the question, “How near is God to me?”

Whither shall I go from thy Spirit, Or whither shall I flee from thy presence? (Psalms 139:7 RSV)

How many times we have asked that of ourselves, “Lord, how can I get away from you? Is there any way in my guilt that I can escape?” This is the psalmist’s answer:

If I ascend to heaven, thou art there! If I make my bed in Sheol, thou art there! (Psalms 139:8 RSV)

No destiny can separate me from the fact of God. If I go to heaven, God is there, of course. And even though I go to hell I still will not escape God. In heaven we shall experience in the full the love, compassion, glory and warmth of God: the positives of God. In hell it is the other way around. There men experience the absence of God’s love, the dark side of it, the wrath of God: His negatives. But it is still God, that is the point. God owns and runs His universe and there is no escaping His presence.

The presence of God is not a fearful thought. The writer goes on to say that no distance can separate him from God.

If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there thy hand shall lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me. (Psalms 139:9-10)

What do you think he means by the “wings of the morning”? This is a beautifully poetic expression. If you have stood and watched the sun come up you will have noticed the rays.
One commentator said this is what he’s describing. “If I could travel with the wings of the morning.” If I could travel on these rays and reach to the farthest points of earth (the uttermost parts of the sea), even there, he says, I would find you Lord. You have gone before me, have preceded me, and I will find you there as much as here.”

Finally in this section the psalmist cries that not even darkness can separate him from God.

If I say, “Let only darkness cover me and the light about me be night”, even the darkness is not dark to thee, the night is bright as the day: for darkness is as light with thee. (Psalms 139:11-12 RSV)

People try to hide from God when they know they are doing something that doesn’t please Him. Adam and Eve tried to hide in the garden. We’re like the ostrich burying his head in the sand. We think that God can’t see us. We feel that if we don’t think about certain things then God won’t think about them either. But He does. No darkness, physical or mental, can hide us from God’s presence. He knows us and sees us no matter how dark it is.

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