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Meditations On Psalm 139

What a treasury Christians have in this psalm! Nowhere else can they find language expressing so exquisitely the attributes of God, nor so appropriately the cries from the depths, out of the human heart. The range of thought is vast, the words used are so divinely chosen! The Psalms, read in the light of the life and words of the One they so frequently picture in (what we call) the Messianic Psalms, become very real to the Christian (though he be Gentileborn) despite their being expressed with a Hebrew background. The Psalms, the Lord Jesus Himself said, were amongst the Scriptures that spake of Him. And He came to declare to us His God and Father.

Psalm 139 reveals, from the experiences of David, deep thoughts of God. This is the great search of great thinkers of all times - to find God. In verses 1 to 6 we read of His Omniscience; in verses 7 to 12 of His Omnipresence; in verses 15 and 16 of His Omnipotence. Thereafter lessons are learned in the light of these revelations of God.

David commences by admitting that he knows God has searched him. All is open before His eyes-a solemn thought! Morning and evening God searches us, weighing up the value of our thoughts long before they are translated into acts. Where we go, what we say, are all within His omniscience. Too wonderful for David! Too wonderful, and very solemn for us! Some of this "searching" (verse 8, R.V.M.) is "winnowing." He expects to find some precious grain in our lives. He does not always "winnow" with the wind. Isaiah 28.24-29 reveals His wonderful counsel and excellent wisdom in teaching the farmer both to sow and to reap, and to winnow. The winnowing may be performed according to the plant being winnowed, by a staff or by a rod. Yea, even bread corn, the richest of the wheat, has to know the pressure of the upper and the nether grindstones! Sharp instruments and the cart wheel are used for others. Are these because of our hardness of heart? Our trials may be varied. If we are but fetches or cummin a rod may suffice; if we are true wheat we may have to suffer to be "ground." But whatever result He desires from His threshing-floor to fill His garners full, we rest assured He "is wonderful in counsel, and excellent in wisdom" (verse 29).

Perhaps we prefer to ask, as the bride in the Song of Songs did

"Awake, 0 north wind; and come thou south;

Blow upon my garden, that the spices thereof may flow out

Let my beloved come into his garden

And eat his precious fruits."

In verses 7 to 12 God is Omnipresent. He is with us in the council-chamber, the conference room, the sick ward, in the shipyard, in our homes and on the highways. Him we cannot avoid-if we ever dare to think we can do so! He is in the heights of heaven, He can descend to the depths of Sheol. The Lord Jesus, co-eternal Son of God, descended into Sheol, was not left there and has ascended into heaven. How all-pervading is God's presence! How thankful we should be that His hand leadeth us and His right hand upholdeth us! 'Tis a comforting thought.

"Stone walls do not a prison make, nor iron bars a cage", we have found by experience to be true. Oh, to keep the lines of communication open, that we may send our requests and receive His messages

We read in 2 Chronicles 16.9 that "the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong in the behalf of those whose heart is perfect toward Him." Thus He found a wandering man, a Hebrew, Abraham, to whom He revealed His will and to whom He made exceedingly wide and great promises (Genesis 12.1-3, 15.1-6). Similarly His eyes found the fugitive Jacob, and revealed to him-roofless and lonely as he was-the gate of heaven, the house of God (Genesis 28.10-19). Much of sorrow must have met those searching eyes as

"The LORD looked down from heaven upon the children of men,

To see if there were any that did understand,

That did seek after God" (Psalm 14.2).

But what a delight it was to Him in the fulness of time to behold the Man, Christ Jesus, arise from Jordan's waters, when His voice out of the heavens said "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased" (Matthew 3. 16, 17)! Surely a moment of divine joy!

What a contrast between this and the time when those eyes saw only the dark, dark clouds of wrath that lay heavily upon that same lovely, lonely Man of Calvary! and wrung from Him that bitter cry, "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?" Describing that cry, Elizabeth Browning has written

"It went up from the holy lips,

Amidst a lost creation,

That of the sons, no one should cry,

That cry of desolation."

Verses 13 to 16 show His Omnipotence. In other Psalms the writers use the majesty of God's wondrous works on land, in air and on sea to extol this attribute of Deity. Here in Psalm 139 the effect is more personal, nearer us, more individual. His Omnipotence is shown in the wonderful transformation of the infinitesimally minute embryo to a full grown man, planned and designed and created in God's image. From such a creation God's highest praises should sound. Cannot we all, in some measure, reiterate the words of the Psalmist?

"How precious also are Thy thoughts unto me, 0 God!

How great is the sum of them!

If I should count them, they are more in number than the sand:

When I awake I am still with Thee."

David, who had opened his psalm for the Chief Musician with a truthful acknowledgement of God's searching, now welcomes that searching thus

"Search me, 0 God, and know my heart:

Try me, and know my thoughts:

And see if there be any way of wickedness (grief, R. V.M.) in me,

And lead me in the way everlasting."

Can we reach that stage in divine dealings? I wonder. Few of us can bear more than the chastening of the rod. Some great souls like Job have risen from the crushing of the cart wheel to record

"Though He slay me, yet will I wait for Him" (Job 13.15)

and to triumph through tribulation.

"Behold we call them blessed which endured: ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord, how that the Lord is full of pity, and merciful" (James 5.11).

There fell into the earth that day a grain of wheat which died, and, abiding not by itself alone, has borne, is still bearing, and will yet bear much precious fruit. (See John 12.24.)