Summary: Growing in grace.
"Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!"
Taking a personal inventory is a difficult thing to do. In Paul’s letter to Rome he writes: For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned (Romans 12.3; cp. Galatians 6.2-4). It is easy, though frequently unprofitable, to judge what others are doing (Matthew 7.3-5). It is much more difficult properly to assess one’s own strengths and weaknesses. Yet the Christian has no hope of achieving any degree of maturity without becoming self-aware. Last week we observed that people are influenced by their family heritage, by their peers, by the inward call of God on their life and by their commitment to live self-disciplined lives. This week we will briefly examine Psalm 139 where we will discover that David is eager to comply with God’s sovereign work in shaping his life.
Psalm 139 is an intensely personal reflection on the loving, all-knowing, ever-present, providential care of God. David revels in the merciful, omniscient intervention of his loving Lord. He happily acknowledges that God is familiar with everything about him. There are no secrets to be kept from God. Every true believer longs to be conformed to the likeness of Christ (Romans 8.29; 12.2; Ephesians 4.22-24; Philippians 1.6). Though it is unpleasant to be confronted by one’s sin, it is necessary in order to experience the freedom and joy that comes from confession and repentance (Psalm 38; 40.1-5). David emphatically declares that God’s infinite knowledge, even of his “secret thoughts,” is a glorious thing. Indeed, the psalm opens with praise to the Lord because he knows his servant so intimately and it closes with an appeal that God would further examine his heart and remove any duplicitous thoughts or behavior.
THE LORD KNOWS ME (139.1-6)
The psalmist does not view the omniscient knowledge of God as an intrusion into his privacy. Quite to the contrary, he believes God is loving and protective. There is great security for the Christian in knowing that nothing he thinks or does is beyond the purview of God’s sovereign control. Nothing is hidden from God; not even the most mundane activity escapes his notice or is outside his decretive will (cp. Matthew 6.25-26). One may hide his motivations from even his closest friends, but he cannot escape the penetrating gaze of the Lord. Job says of God, His eyes are on the ways of men; he sees their every step. There is no dark place, no deep shadow, where evildoers can hide (Job 34.21; cp. Ecclesiastes 12.14; Romans 2.16). And, of course, the author of Hebrews writes, Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give an account (Hebrews 4.14).
The heroes of Scripture are those who submit to the purifying work of God’s mercy and delight in discipline of their souls (Psalm 51.7-12; Hebrews 12.3-8). They desire pure hearts and are fully devoted to the Lord. Such an openness and transparency is an invitation to the refining fire of the Spirit. The Bible bears witness to many such people. For example, Caleb was a man whom the Lord acknowledged as having a unique spirit: “But my servant Caleb, because he has a different spirit and has followed me fully, I will bring into the land into which he went, and his descendants shall possess it” (Numbers 14.24; cp. Joshua 14.13-14). God is always looking for those whose hearts are fully devoted to him. For example, at the end of Asa’s sad life, after he had failed to trust the Lord, the prophet Hanani reminded him of an earlier day when he had been obedient and the Lord had blessed him with military victories: Yet when you relied on the Lord, he delivered them into your hand. For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him (2 Chronicles 16.8-9: cp. Ezekiel 22.30). It is good to start the race well, but how you finish the race is even more important. Solomon started well but finished poorly, Jacob started poorly but finished well. Submitting to the ongoing purifying work of the Holy Spirit is crucial to staying the course and finishing the race.
In a great many ways David was a model of one whose heart belonged to the Lord (e.g., 2 Chronicles 17.3; 29.2; 34.2). After Solomon had finished building the temple, the Lord admonished Solomon to follow in the footsteps of his father: And as for you, if you will walk before me, as David your father walked, with integrity of heart and uprightness, doing according to all that I have commanded you, and keeping my statutes and my rules, then I will establish your royal throne over Israel forever … (1 Kings 9.4-5; Acts 13.22). By way of contrast, David writes of the ungodly: An oracle is within my heart concerning the sinfulness of the wicked: there is no fear of God before his eyes. For in his own eyes he flatters himself too much to detect or hate his sin (Psalm 36.1-2). There are two classes of people in the this world: those who love God and those who don’t. There are lots of subsets, but those are the two main categories.