************ Sermon on Psalm 139 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on January 16, 2005
"God Created Me"
Listen to these quick abortion facts from the Tulare Kings Right to Life web-site:
-one out of every three babies conceived in America is now killed by choice
-there are around 1.7 million abortions per year in America
As Christians we are abhorred and appalled by these statistics. We believe that every baby should be given life because every baby is a gift from God.
On this Right to Life Sunday I have chosen to focus on Psalm 139. When it comes to abortion, so much of the battle has been shaped by the terms "pro-choice" and "pro-life." It is clear that Psalm 139 is "pro-life." But Psalm 139 is first of all "pro-God." The focus of Psalm 139 is not pro-life or life's beginnings; the focus of Psalm 139 is God.
I God Knows Everything About Me
A We all have something to hide. We hide from our spouses, our parents, our friends, our fellow church members. Although we may have one or two close friends with whom we discuss some of our deepest, darkest secrets, none of us reveals everything. If everything were known about anyone of us we would instantly lose any good name we may have. So we cover up. We try to present our best side to the world. We want people to know us for our virtues, not our vices.
B Try as we may like, we can't hide our true nature from God. God knows us better than we ourselves do. You see, when it comes to you and to me God knows all things and sees all things.
God is perfect in knowledge (Job 37:16). He isn't fooled by outward appearances because He looks into the heart and knows what is really there. Remember the time the prophet Samuel was commanded to go to Bethlehem to anoint one of Jesse's sons as king. Samuel was impressed when he saw Jesse's son Eliab and thought "Surely the LORD'S anointed stands here." But the LORD said to Samuel,
(1 Samuel 16:7) "Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart."
God knows and sees everything. He knows the number of the days of our lives before we are even born (Ps 139:16). He knows where we live and what we do. He knows our deeds, He knows our words, He knows our thoughts.
David learned this about God. From his palace he spied on a neighbor lady as she took a bath. He slept with her and got her pregnant. He had her husband killed to cover up his adultery. David thought he had covered all the bases, that he was safe and secure. But God knew what David did and sent the prophet Nathan to confront David with his sin. It was sometime after this that David composed the beautiful words of Psalm 139:
(Psalm 139:1-4) O Lord, you have searched me 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 know it completely, O Lord. (5) You hem me in--behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me. (6) Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.God knows me, says David. He knows my words and my thoughts. He knows where I am and what I am doing. He is familiar with all of my habits. He is aware of all of my sins and shortcomings.
C In these first six verses David is asking a question. He is asking, "How well does God know me?" The answer is: "Very well!"
Let's take a closer look at these verses.
Verse 1. "O LORD, you have searched me and you know me." The Hebrew word for "searched" is the word, to dig. Literally what David is saying is, "O Lord, you dig me!" The word means, "You dig into me and therefore you know me." It is not surprising that the word, dig, has come to mean in English, "to know or to understand." This is the way the psalmist begins, "Lord, you dig me!
Verse 2. In what way does God understand me? In what way does God dig me? "You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar." That is, "Lord, You understand and know me in my conscious life. You know when I sit down (my passive life) and when I rise up (my active life). When I am resting or when I am active, You know me. And You know me also in my subconscious life – that level of life from which my thoughts arise. You understand them even before they get to the surface. You know how I think and what I think about. You even understand the thoughts which come unbidden, in a constant flow to my mind."
Verse 3. God knows my habits and choices. "You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways." You know the way I choose to go, and You know the habits of my life. "You know me, Lord," says David, "intimately – inside and out."
Verse 4. Then David contemplates the fact that God has foreknowledge. "Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O LORD." That is, "You understand my language. Every word that I utter you know and understand before I even say it." As a boy I grew up in a Dutch immigrant community. The "Canadians" used to tease us about our Dutch language and habits. I used to resent that until I discovered that God knows more than English; He also knows Swedish, Afrikaans, Hebrew, and all the other languages of earth. That is what impresses the psalmist: "Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O LORD. You understand my language, you communicate with me."
Verse 5 & 6. Then the psalmist discovers that God is active in his past, his future, and his present. "You hem me in--behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me. (6) Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain." Like a fence or a pen or a wall, God surrounds His people and is with them every step of the way.
As we take a look at these first six verses we realize the psalmist is simply overwhelmed by the fact that God knows him better than he knows himself, better than anyone else knows him. That is amazing, isn't it? God knows me in the subconscious, the unex-plorable part of my life, as well as in the conscious. God knows everything about me.
II I Cannot Escape From God
A God not only knows everything there is to know about me, but He also goes everywhere I go. There is no place I can go where I can escape God's all-knowing and all-seeing presence. We can call for the mountains to fall on us and the hills to cover us, but the eye of God can see through mountains and hills. Again we listen to David in Psalm 139:
(Psalms 139:7-12) Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? (8) If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. (9) If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, (10) even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. (11) If I say, "Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me," (12) even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.There is no escape from God.
B In these verses David is again asking a question. This time he is asking, "How near is God to me?" The answer: "Very near!"
Let's take a closer look at these verses.
Verse 7. "Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?" How many times we have asked that of ourselves: "Lord, how can I get away from you? Is there any way in my guilt that I can escape You?"
Verse 8. This is the psalmist's answer. "If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there." No place can separate me from the fact of God. If I go to heaven, God is there, of course. And even though I go to hell I still will not escape God. Of course, other Scriptures make clear that there is a vast difference between the experience of God for one who is in heaven and for one who is in Sheol, or hell. In heaven we shall experience to the full the love, compassion, glory and warmth of God; the positives of God. In hell it is the other way around. There men experience the absence of God's love, the dark side of it, the wrath of God; His negatives. But it is still God that they experience, that is the point. God owns and runs His universe and there is no escaping His presence.
Verses 9 & 10. The writer goes on to say that no distance can separate him from God. "If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, (10) even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast." What do you think he means by the "wings of the dawn"? This is a beautifully poetic expression. If you have stood and watched the sun come up you will have noticed how the rays of the rising sun shoot swiftly across the sky and reach to the farthest corners of the horizon. This is what the psalmist is describing. "If I could travel with the wings of the morning and reach to the farthest points of earth, even there," he says, "I would find you Lord. You have gone before me, have preceded me, and I will find you there as much as here."
I read of a twelve year old boy who was moving from Minnesota to Montana. The night before they left he got down by his bed and said, "Goodbye, God. We're going to Montana." He was sure he would not find God there, but when he arrived, there God was. Like this boy, we have found God everywhere. That is what David is talking about.
Verses 11 & 12. Finally the psalmist cries out that not even darkness can separate him from God. If I say, "Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me," (12) even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you." Remember when you were little how you felt guilty and tried to hide from your parents by crawling under the covers or hiding under the bed, or in the closet? You thought that your parents could not see you because you could not see them. There are many grownups who are still trying to do that. They feel that if they do not think about certain things then God will not think about them either. But He does. No darkness, physical or mental, can hide us from God's presence. He knows us and sees us no matter how dark it is. Paul reminded the Athenians that God is not far from any one of us. Whether we know Him or not, He is but a touch away.
III God Made Me
A As I already said, this psalm is pro-God. God is the focus. God is the star. It is God Who knows all things. It is God Who is everywhere present. It is God that we come face-to-face with in this psalm.
Now, how does this tie in with Right-to-Life? In the middle of the Psalm the psalmist sees God's foreknowledge and God's presence in the womb.
Verse 15 says, "When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body." God saw me when I was just a ball of cells, an unformed mass of molecules, undeveloped and undifferentiated, with nothing that would distinguish me as human, just a piece of matter, some would say. But "your eyes saw" me. God knew it was me.
Look at verse 16: "all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be." Wow. Before I was born, before I was even a bunch of cells, God knew how long I would live. The day of my conception and the day of my death and all the days in between have been ordained by God. To interfere with the days God has ordained is to give ourselves godlike powers. It is our refusal to recognize Him as God.
On Bethany's web-site I read the wonderful story passed along by Dr. Peter Tigchelaar, professor of biology at Calvin College. Last year a young woman approached him before class. She asked if he still had the 3-month fetus encased in plastic that he used to show his classes at the appropriate time. He said he did and asked her how she knew about it and why she wanted to see it. She said that he had shown it to her mother a generation ago. Unknown to Dr. Tigchelaar, that young woman had been pregnant when she saw it. Confused and panicked, she had visited Planned Parenthood and was advised to have an abortion. But after viewing the 3-month fetus in Dr. Tigchelaar's class with tiny fingers and facial features and liver and eyes, she decided not to have the abortion. And, said the young girl, "I was that baby." She is now living out the days ordained for her.
B In our Scripture reading there are two wonderfully descriptive words that are used to picture God's act of making or creating what is in the womb. The first word is found in verse 13. David says that God "knit me together in my mother's womb." The second word is found in verse 15. There David says "I was woven together in the depths of the earth."
Did you catch the two words? I am thinking of the words "knit" and "woven."
Topic: ManWhat a painstaking process: collect the hair, spin the yarn, and then knit the finished product. The Bible tells us that God "knit me together in my mother's womb" and that "I was woven together in the depths of the earth" (Psalm 139:13,15). God took as much care knitting me in my mother's womb as those who knit with dog hair take in knitting a scarf or a mitten. He was present there in the womb, knitting me together – one vein, one bone, one organ, one system at a time.
Subtopic: Created in God's Image
Title: Knitting With Dog Hair
Summer is a sleepy time for the publishing world, but one book Knitting with Dog Hair has become a surprise cult hit. Inside is a complete guide to each stage in creating clothing from "a dog you know and love rather than a sheep you'll never meet" as the book puts it - from picking up the hairball under the sofa to spinning the yarn. At the back of the book are patterns for scarves, mittens and jumpers, with the finished results proudly modeled by the dog owners. There's even an exhaustive guide to which dogs provide the best yarn. Readers learn that the Rottweiler, "calm and intelligent by nature", has a very short, fine undercoat that can be spun when mixed with longer fibers.
The word for "woven" is actually the word for "embroider." It is the word used to describe the work of Aholiab – who was an embroiderer in blue, purple and scarlet yarn and fine linen (Ex 38:23). He used this skill to fashion the cloth for the Old Testament tabernacle. You ladies know what embroidery is – the little fancy stitches that are used to make lace or a doily or to decorate a piece of cloth.
David pictures the work of God within the womb as a knitting process. This tells me that God makes us according to a plan – His plan. He makes us so all the parts fit together just right and support one another. God also embroiders us within the womb. This says something about how intricate and complex we are. We have been knitted and woven together by God according to His plan. He was present there in the womb, putting us together.
Psalm 139 is not pro-choice. While it is pro-life it is especially pro-God. God, it says, is there in the womb. He is there making me and forming me. He knows the date of my conception and He knows the date of my death. He knows everything about me. As we think about this, we can only say what the psalmist says:
(Ps 139:17-18) How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! (18) Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand.
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