SEARCH ME, O LORD (PSALMS 139)
An atheist complained to a Christian friend, ¡§Christians have their special holidays, such as Christmas and Easter; and Jews celebrate their holidays, such as Passover and Yom Kippur; Muslims have their holidays. EVERY religion has its holidays. But we atheists,¡¨ he said, ¡§have no recognized holidays. It¡¦s an unfair discrimination.¡¨
¡§What do you mean, atheists have no holidays,¡¨ his friend replied, ¡§People have been observing a special day in your honor for years.¡¨
¡§I don¡¦t know what you¡¦re talking about,¡¨ the atheist said, ¡§When is this special day honoring atheists?¡¨
So far we have studied many classic, renowned and beloved psalms in the Bible ¡V Psalm 1, 8, 23, 84, 121. Nearly half of the psalms (73) are attributed to King David, including Psalm 139.Psalm 139 is one of the most powerful, personal and popular psalms in the Bible. I know at least three songs from the psalm. Traditionally this psalm describes omniscience (vv 1-6), omnipresence (vv 7-18) and omnipotence (vv 19-24). There is evidence more compelling and complete for God¡¦s existence than in our physical, spiritual and emotional makeup.
How do you see yourself? Do you feel like a big shot or a small fry in life? Do you feel you have it all or do you feel you have nothing? Do you have the world at your feet or feel the world is not your home? What is your plan and purpose in life? To sleep, work, eat?
Your Thoughts are Transparent to Him
1 You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. 2 You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. 3 You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. 4 Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely. 5 You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me. 6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain. (Psalm 139:1-6)
President Abraham Lincoln once had a dream: He was in a party of plain people, and, as it became known who he was, they began to comment on his appearance. One of them said: He is a very common-looking man. The President replied: The Lord prefers common-looking people. That is the reason he makes so many of them.¡¨ ―
Psalms 139 is a very intimate, individual and introspective psalm. Even though 11 psalms begin by addressing God as ¡§Lord¡¨ (Ps 3, 6, 8, 15, 23, 27, 38, 93, 94, 97, 99), this is the only psalm that begins with the more forefront ¡§Lord, You¡K¡¨ introduction. The personal pronoun ¡§You¡¨ occurs more than ten times in the chapter.
David begins the psalm with three main verbs: search (v 1) and know (vv 1, 2) and perceive/understand (v 2). Search is to penetrate and probe, know is to pursue and prove, understand is to pervade and perceive. One is investigation, the second is insight, and the third is influence and integration. The verb ¡§search¡¨ is translated as sounded (1 Sam 20:12), found out (1 Kings 7:47), seek (Prov 23:30), try (Lam 3:40). No book uses this word more than the book of Job (Job 5:27, 13:9, 28:3, 28:27, 29:16, 32:11) that explores and examines everything for an answer. The verb ¡§search¡¨ is an inspection and investigation. God¡¦s search area includes our center, our core, our consciousness. God is the best ICAC, auditor, better than any airport scanner, detector or screening.
The next verb ¡§know¡¨ is the most repeated verb in the chapter (vv 1, 2, 4, 14, 23 twice). No psalm matches the chapter¡¦s six occurrences, not even the 176 verses in chapter 1119. The personal pronoun ¡§me¡¨ (know me) in the opening verse is not in Hebrew- it is just ¡§know,¡¨ not just him but her and humans altogether. One version (ASV) correctly has the ¡§me¡¨ in bracket. Know can be intimate (Gen 4:1). Know me and know about me is different. One is inside, the other is outside. One is information and the other is intimate. You ask me, Do I know so and so? I once made the mistake of asking a person in Cantonese, ¡§Do you know who and who?¡¨ The reply was, ¡§I know him but he does not know me.¡¨
The last is to perceive or understand in Hebrew. It is the discovery. Dictionaries define understand as ¡§to be thoroughly familiar with the character and propensities of,¡¨ ¡§to show a sympathetic or tolerant attitude toward something¡¨ (i.word.com), ¡§to know it very well,¡¨ ¡§to stand under something¡¨ (english.stackexchange.com). Others say it means to be close to.
We do not have to display our thoughts, disclose it or describe it but it is discovered by our Lord. There is no curtain, cover or cunning to conceal it. Nor is there a secret, shield, screen or shade for it. He knows us better than anybody, even we ourselves or our family.