< What I Learned Teaching Sunday School: Studying the Psalms Part 5 – Psalm 139

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Studying the Psalms Part 5 – Psalm 139

In the next section the psalmist is telling us how he knows all this. Someone might say, “Well, this is certainly beautiful poetry, all this about God’s knowing me and being with me, but how do you know it is true?” All right,” says the psalmist, I’ll tell you.”

First, because of the design of the body.

For thou didst form my inward parts, thou didst knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise thee, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. (Psalms 139:13-14a)

Here he is examining himself and he is amazed at the vitality and complexity of the forces in his own body which are essential to life, but over which he obviously has no control. “That,” he says, “shows me there is something outside of man that is regulating and running me. I live within the limits of that force or Being, whatever or whoever it is.”

This is what has struck the psalmist. He says, “Thou didst knit me together in a most amazing way in my mother’s womb. I praise thee, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”

Then he is struck by the progress that is necessary in the forming of a human being.

Thou knowest me right well; my frame was not hidden from thee, (Psalms 139:14b-15a RSV)

The frame is the foundation of the body, the bone and muscle system. That is where the body begins to be put together, with the frame. Without a frame we would be blobs!

…my frame was not hidden from thee, when I was being made in secret, intricately wrought in the depths of the earth. (Psalms 139:15 RSV)

That phrase, “intricately wrought” is one word in Hebrew. It is really the word for “embroidered.”

It describes the delicate embroidery of the body, the things that tie us together so that one organ supports another. The lungs need the heart and the heart needs the lungs; the liver needs the kidneys, and the stomach needs both; all the parts are amazingly embroidered together.

Then he uses this phrase, in Verse 16, Thy eyes beheld my unformed substance. (Psalms 139:16a RSV)

Literally the word in Hebrew is, “my rolled up substance.” It pictures the embryo, all rolled up. People are asking questions today about when life begins. When does an embryo become a human being? When does abortion become murder? The answer of the psalmist is, “Thy eyes beheld ME, not an impersonal collection of cells that wasn’t me yet, in my rolled up embryonic state.” The marvel of the human body, even at that stage of growth, has convinced him that God is with him and knows him immediately.

But that is not all. All of verse 16 says; Thy eyes beheld my unformed substance; in thy book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. (Psalms 139:16 RSV)

He is not only impressed by the argument from design, but by the evidence of determination. Evidently he had an experience similar to many of us – there came certain days in his life during which so many unrelated factors suddenly fell together to produce a circumstance or an experience that he could not help but be aware that something was causing it to happen, that it was all being brought about by a mind greater than his own. There was “evidence of determinism.”

We have all had something happen suddenly, something which we did not plan nor expect. It was made up of so many varied factors, which all of a sudden fit together, dovetailing beautifully, that we become aware that Someone else was planning our days and yet allowing us free will in the experience of them. That was what struck this Psalmist. It was the fact that, even before these days occurred, they were written in the book of God. They were planned by Him.

This of course is the basis for all biblical prophecy. How is it that an event can occur in the life of our Lord, which was predicted by the prophets 500, 600, sometimes 1000 years before? And not by one prophet, but several? After the passing of years and even centuries, there comes a moment when many factors suddenly fall together and our Lord fulfills an event that was foretold long before. All this impresses the psalmist, and he is made aware of God’s knowledge of him.

The third thing that convinces him follows. How precious to me are thy thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! If I would count them, they are more than the sand. When I awake, I am still with thee. (Psalms 139:17-18 RSV)

The psalmist is impressed by the abundance of revelation from God. We would never understand our lives if God did not tell us who we are.The Bible is deep and complex. How precious are God’s thoughts! How vast is the sum of them! How wide is the range of fact that God comments upon in His revelation. Even if you come to the end, says the psalmist, God is still more. No revelation can ever plum the depths of God. How great, how impossibly great, are His thoughts toward us.

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