Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18
Knowing the God Who Knows You
Sometimes we doubt God’s love for us. Sure he loves the whole world, but does he love me? If God is a perfect God (and he is), and if I’m not perfect (and I’m not), how is it that an all-perfect God would even want to know me? Why would a God who created the entire universe—including all 7 billion humans on the globe—how could God have time for me? How much does he really know me? And how much do I really want him to know about me, since the more he knows, the more he’ll be disappointed in me.
Today’s scripture turns this kind of thinking on its head. Psalm 139 is a carefully crafted poem describing how well God knows us and yet, how he still loves and cares for us. In four sections of six verses each, with each section ending with a summary statement, David gives a beautifully organized description of the thoroughness of God’s love for each of us.
In the first of the four sections, David lists the ways God knows him uniquely as a person. God knows his every action (v. 2), his every endeavor (v. 3), even the way he goes about each endeavor (v. 3) his thoughts before they are fully crystallized (v. 2) and his words before they are out of his mouth (v. 4).
You know what is amazing? Even though God knows us from the inside out—every thought, every motive, every feeling, every action—God still likes us. In fact, he is over the moon about us! Verse 5 says, “You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me.” Now days, when we say “hem me in” we mean someone is crowding us. Or if we say, “You lay your hand on me,” it’s not a good thing. But in David’s day these phrases described protection and security. God had David’s front and rear, as well as his flanks. God gave David full 360-degree perimeter security. God’s hand was upon David both to protect and to guide.
What’s one to think about this kind of God? In verse 6 David sums it up: “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.” It’s simply mind-blowing. How can the God of the universe know me this well? And in knowing me so well—with all of my insecurities and failures and quirks and sins—how could God still want to care for me, to protect me? Francis Chan said, “The very fact that a holy, eternal, all-knowing, all-powerful, merciful, fair and just God loves you and me is nothing short of ASTONISHING!” We serve a great God! All we can do, like David, is try to imagine it.
So when did God first get to know us so well? David traces it all the way back to the womb. God’s knowledge predates our birth! Verses 13 and 15 describe God “knitting” and “weaving” us into being. God has formed each person here with your own unique strands of DNA, personality, physical stature, all prepared in advance. In grade school I used to hate being so skinny. But God knew someday I wouldn’t have to worry about that anymore!
People talk of accidental births or illegitimate babies, but the truth is, there is no such thing as an illegitimate baby, only illegitimate parents. The circumstances behind your birth may have not been ideal, but you are no accident in God’s eyes. He planned your life from the beginning, and knew in advance the day you would be born and the day you would die, along with every day in between. As verse 16 says, “All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” Nothing catches God off guard. God is not like, “Oh, I can’t believe Kerry did that! Good night! What am I going to do with him now?” No, nothing surprises God. And yet he still loves us.
In verses 17 and 18 David considers how many thoughts God holds for us. We are constantly on his mind. If God had a refrigerator, your picture would be on it. You are God’s beloved. In the novel, “The Shack,” Jesus says to several characters, “You particularly are among my most favorite people.” And that is literally true for everyone who responds to God’s love. We become one of God’s most favorites.
The truth is, this God who loves and protects us is always with us wherever we go. In verse 18 David says, “When I awake, I am still with you.” Our propensity is to think that when life gets hard, maybe God left us. Maybe God is mad at us. Maybe he’s punishing us. Maybe God doesn’t like us or approve of us or care for us anymore. But none of that is true. God’s thoughts are on us, his pinnacle of creation, constantly.
This doesn’t inflate our ego if we understand it correctly. It inflates our image of God. We need to make much of God. That’s what it means to exalt him. We need to brag on God! We need to be excited about God’s excitement for us. We need to be secure in God’s love. As the Apostle Paul would write, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31)
The truth is, there is nothing you can do to be loved by God any less than you are right now! You cannot outrun God’s love. And likewise, there is nothing you can do to be loved by God any more than you are right now. You cannot earn a greater dose of his love. You are fully loved by God in this moment. When you become a believer, a child of God, from then on you are God’s and God is yours.
_____ took us to “Pastor Appreciation Night” at the annual Texas Gideon’s gathering in San Antonio. One of the speakers shared a story about an elderly man dying in a hospital bed. His sweet nurse shared a Gideon New Testament with him and read scriptures sharing the plan of salvation, that we are sinners, but God will forgive us our sin and give us eternal life as we trust that Jesus died for our sin and ask God to forgive us. Like us this man knew his sin. He knew all the ways he had rebelled against God. And even though the word “gospel” means “good news,” this news was too hard to believe. He thought himself too far gone to be reached by God’s love. So he turned down the nurse’s plea to surrender himself to Jesus. She went off shift sadly contemplating that she would probably never see him again, since his death was anticipated any day. Sure enough, three days later when she arrived at work, she found that he had passed on. But on her desk was a note that said, “Your patient did accept Christ. His daughter’s pastor visited him, and he told the pastor about your visit and how he couldn’t stop thinking about a God who loved him anyway, despite his sin. And the pastor helped him then to give his life to Jesus!
Folks, there is nothing too great to separate us from God’s love! I’ll close with some words from that descriptive writer, Max Lucado, who reminds us, “You are more than statistical chance, more than a marriage of heredity and society, more than a confluence of inherited chromosomes and childhood trauma. More than a walking weather vane whipped about by the cold winds of fate. Thanks to God, you have been “sculpted from nothing into something” (Max Lucado, “Cure for the Common Life”). Let us pray:
God, you are an amazing God. When we consider the truths of today’s scripture, we are amazed. We are amazed that you know us so well. And we are amazed that in that knowledge you still love us, you still care for us, you still long to protect us, to watch out over us, to help us honor you with our lives. Please do help us, Lord. Please help someone here today trust their life to you for the very first time. Please help all of us find our security in you, in a God who loves us just as we are, and then help us to trust you to change us more and more into the character of your son, Jesus, in whose name we pray, amen.