Monday, May 20, 2013

Search me and know my heart

23 Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my concerns.
24 See if there is any offensive way in me;
lead me in the everlasting way.
Psalm 139:23-24

This was the verse of the day today. The boldness of David's prayer here really struck me, especially in relation to the rest of the psalm.

In verses 1-18, David marvels at the greatness and all-encompassing nature of the knowledge of God. He starts in verse 1 with "You have searched me and known me." God knows all we think and all we do (Ps 139:2-3). He knows everything we are going to say (Ps 139:4). In considering this, David declares "This extraordinary knowledge is beyond me. It is lofty; I am unable to reach it." (v. 6)

In verses 7-12, David proclaims that no place on earth is free from God's knowledge. I find a bit interesting the perspective from which he describes this knowledge. He starts with, "Where can I go to escape Your Spirit?" David professes the limitless scope of God's knowledge as if to say "I have tried to run away from God, and everywhere I went, He was there." In between this recognition of his inability to hide from God, David states that everywhere he goes, God is there, not to judge him, but to lead him; not to crush him, but to hold on to him. (Ps 139:10)

In verses 13-16, David turns his focus inward, and again he marvels at the depth of God's knowledge. He considers how he was made, how God "knit" him together in his mother's womb. Interesting thing about verse 14:

I will praise You
because I have been remarkably and wonderfully made.
Your works are wonderful,
and I know this very well. 

Most people that I've seen comment on this verse focus on the fact that David said "I will praise you because I have been remarkably and wonderfully made." Most of these comments approach this verse as a place of comfort in knowing that we are special in the eyes of God. While I think the idea itself is supported elsewhere in scripture, I don't think that's what David had in mind here.

I see David again marveling at the all-encompass nature of the knowledge of God, in keeping with the the focus of the psalm up to this point. What I believe David was focusing on here was this:

I will praise You
because I have been remarkably and wonderfully made [by You, God].
Your works are wonderful,
and I know this very well.

God knows our inmost being, the bones He placed in our bodies, and the days He has planned for us. God's knowledge is so complete that He knows us even before we existed (i.e. formless, Ps 139:16). And after this inward focus, David again exclaims how far beyond us God's knowledge is (Ps 139:17-18).

Without carefully reading this psalm, Psalm 139:19-22 might seem out of place. But really, it is a natural progression of David's worship of God. Up until this point, David is saying, "God, You know me, You know everything about me, You everywhere I could go, and You even know how you put me together." At the end of all this, David focuses on his desires compared with God's desires. He recognizes the inherent war waged between his flesh and God's Spirit. 

And here at the end, we come to the boldness of David's prayer. After declaring the limitlessness of God's knowledge, he asks God to apply that knowledge to his own desires. And not just to know them, but to shape them to be in line with God's desires. David prays something similar in Psalm 86:

Teach me Your way, Yahweh,
and I will live by Your truth.
Give me an undivided mind to fear Your name.
Psalm 86:11

It is one thing to pray, "God, teach me Your ways and I will walk in Your truth." It is quite another to pray "God, shape my desires so that I will want to walk in Your truth."

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