The Agora
Bible Commentary

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Psalm 139

Psa 139:1


SEARCHED: Sig "to dig, or mine". 'You know me inside out!'

Psa 139:2

YOU PERCEIVE MY THOUGHTS FROM AFAR: The prodigal son: "When he was yet a great way off" (Luk 15:20).

Psa 139:6

'Such knowledge... as God has... is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain unto it.' But see Eph 3:19; 4:13 and context (in which Paul is quoting this psalm: cp Eph 4:9 with v 15 here).

Psa 139:7

FLEE: Suggesting the need to escape, as old as the Fall (Gen 3:8). Jonah (Jon 1:3,10).

Psa 139:8

Vv 8,9: Heavens, depths: vertical limits of creation. Dawn (east), far side of sea (Mediterranean, west): horizontal limits...

Psa 139:13

Vv 13-16: (NT) Christ's virgin birth: Eph 4:9 quotes v 15 here. Jesus was "from above" (Joh 3:31; 6:33,50; 8:23,42), yet actually woven together in the womb of a woman.

CREATED: This reading is confirmed by Ugaritic (see Gen 4:1n; Gen 14:19,22; Pro 8:22).

KNIT ME TOGETHER: The fantastic complexity of the human genetic code. This last verb ["knit together"] describes the meticulously interwoven intricacy of pattern on the veil of the Tabernacle. Yet that unique man-made fabric was utter simplicity compared with the fantastic complexity of every human being coming to birth. David, even without the resources of modern investigation in the field of genetics, was awestruck as he contemplated the "weaving together" of the human fetus in the womb. Then what would he have said if he had known what is commonly known today: how the genes of two parents are "knit together" by the unseen Hand to produce, every time, an absolutely unique human specimen?

Such a comparison, between a fabric and a human being, is fitting to teach us that the true "tabernacle" was the man Christ Jesus (John 1:14; 2:19; Col 2:9; Heb 8:2; 9:8,9,11; Mat 12:6).

Like a fabric is created of individual strands or threads, carefully woven together, so even a great building is created of separate building materials, skillfully arranged and intertwined by the builder. And so the same analogy holds, on another level, for the construction of a building. And thus we are taught also that -- in Jesus Christ -- every person may be a temple, filled with the glory of God: "Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit which is in you, which you have received from God, and you are not your own?" (1Co 6:19,20; cp 2Co 6:16).

Psa 139:14

WONDERFUL: The sw in Heb occurs in Isa 9:6: "His name shall be called Wonderful..."

Psa 139:15

WOVEN TOGETHER: The embroidery of the door hangings and the vail in the tabernacle (Exo 26:31,36; 27:16; 36:37; 38:18; cp Heb 10:20) and the high priest's coat (Exo 28:39; 39:29). And so, here, the body of the fetus (cp Jer 1:5).

IN THE DEPTHS OF THE EARTH: Perhaps, "in the lowest parts, even the earth": cp Isa 44:23 with Isa 49:13: an idiomatic way of emphasizing the contrast between God's heaven and the human sphere of earth. See Eph 4:9.

Vv 15,16: Do these verses also picture the re-creation of life in the entombed Christ? (See Eur 1:15.) Jesus, born from a virgin womb and, later, from a "virgin" tomb (John 19:41)! Then "all my members" (KJV) or "all my days" (NIV) would be all believers, destined to become members of the One Christ-Body (1Co 12:27; Col 1:15,18) as a result of the death and resurrection of the Head.

Psa 139:16

God saw the end from the beginning, even in the development of the individual fetus.


Psa 139:17

HOW PRECIOUS TO ME ARE YOUR THOUGHTS, O GOD!: That is, God's purposes with the psalmist. The marvel of formation in the womb is now matched by the equally wonderful Providence with which each day and every day runs its course according to the unperceived guidance of God. The evidences of this Providence are not to be counted (v 18); they are too numerous, too complex, too "wonderful".

"Divine omniscience affords no comfort to the ungodly mind, but to the child of God it overflows with consolation. God is always thinking upon us, never turns aside His mind from us, has us always before His eyes; and this is precisely as we would have it, for it would be dreadful to exist for a moment beyond the observation of our heavenly Father. His thoughts are always tender, loving, wise, prudent, far-reaching, and they bring to us countless benefits: hence it is a choice delight to remember them. The Lord always did think upon His people: hence their election and the covenant of grace by which their salvation is secured; He always will think upon them: hence their final perseverance by which they shall be brought safely to their final rest. In all our wanderings the watchful glance of the Eternal Watcher is evermore fixed upon us -- we never roam beyond the Shepherd's eye.

"In our sorrows He observes us incessantly, and not a pang escapes Him; in our toils He marks all our weariness, and writes in His book all the struggles of His faithful ones. These thoughts of the Lord encompass us in all our paths, and penetrate the innermost region of our being. Not a nerve or tissue, valve or vessel, of our bodily organization is uncared for; all the little things of our little world are thought upon by the great God" (CHS).

Psa 139:23

Vv 23,24: (NT) Jesus' yielding of self to his Father.

TEST ME AND KNOW MY ANXIOUS THOUGHTS: "What we are putting in our minds from day to day is what we are making of ourselves, our lives, and our eternal destiny. God requires that to the fullest of our abilities and opportunities we build minds spiritually by filling them with His Word. Each spiritual thought adds to the spiritual man; each fleshly thought adds to the fleshly man. Each thought leaves permanent physical imprint for good or ill" (GVG).

Psa 139:24

LEAD ME IN THE WAY EVERLASTING: "A great mistake -- perhaps our greatest mistake -- is not to seek the guidance of God enough. We seek it generally, and formally, and ritually, but we do not seek it specifically enough nor frequently enough. We tend to reserve God's direct guidance for 'emergencies': we feel we can handle all ordinary affairs with our own unerring understanding and common sense. We wouldn't say so, but we act that way. We know nothing, and have no sense, common or otherwise. Seeking God's guidance must be a continuous, conscious, moment-to-moment operation, in all things, great and small. It must, as much as possible, by constant effort and remembrance, become second nature. This is how those of old who succeeded, did succeed, and how those who failed, failed. Of ourselves, we are ignorant and foolish, and no amount of worldly education or knowledge can change this basic fact, although it can mask and obscure it, and deceive us concerning it. Only in the sought-for guidance of God moment to moment is there any possibility of 'directing the steps aright.' It's a fatal error to leave God's guidance to the 'big' things. It is the constant 'little' things that are shaping our character and our destiny. God is not a compass to be glanced at occasionally and briefly, to see that we are moving generally in the right direction. He is the balance-pole on the tightrope of life: essential for safety every moment" (GVG).

"We do not love a dream; that is only a kind of self-love, like the fabled Greek who fell in love with his own reflection in a pool. We cannot love a convention, a respectability; that is only a refuge for dried-up souls, who by running in a groove can evade the need of loving. We do not love a hobby (however much we may like it), because a hobby in itself is only an expression of our own energy, mental or physical. The fact is that we cannot love God unless we know Him to be wholly other than ourselves; and then we can say with the Psalmist: O Lord, thou hast searched me, and known me. Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, Thou understandest my thought afar off... Search me, O God, and know my heart: Try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, And lead me in the way everlasting" (TM 185).


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