Psalm 139 is David’s box-buster, including how I see injustice.
He blows the hinges off any box we try to stuff God in…or any box we try to stuff ourselves into. Any small thoughts we may have of God are magnificently transcended by Psalm 139. Yet it’s intensely personal.
By ourselves, we could never come to such extraordinary answers to our two essential questions, “What’s God like?” “How does this God see me?”
(For a fuller explanation of the first three questions, see the post on August 13, 2018).
As in Psalm 139, all Scripture is an invitation into fuller life. Psalm 139 centers on concepts that are true of God as He relates with image-bearers…and each fries our mental circuits. The four implied questions with responses is my attempt to convey David’s flow of thought so we discover ourselves in this Psalm (see August 13, 2018 post for more on the first three questions).
1. How well does God know me? (vv. 1-7)
David answers this implied question with: “God knows everything about all the rhythms of our everyday lives.” Sit to rest, rise to do and think to communicate. Nothing remains hidden from Him. Theologians call this omniscience (or all-knowing.)
2. How near does God stay to me? (vv. 8-12)
David’s third response to such revelation that God knows everything, even our thoughts, is to flee. The answer to the second question is : “God is present in every place. Before we get there, God is already there. The theologians call this God’s omnipresence (or everywhere present, although God is unique from His creation).
3. How intimately involved is God with me? (vv. 13-18)
This third question brings the first two questions forward and expands on them.I could camp on these verses until midnight since they touch on something breathtaking about God’s relationship with His people. In short, “God is all powerful, so can do anything and everything needed to be intimately involved in your life.” David picturesquely sees God knitting the first two cells together at conception in his mother’s womb.
4. What life-focus releases maximum life? (vv. 19-24)
God is all-knowing, everywhere present, all-powerful in His intimate involvement with us, and also He is holy. Holiness in God means that He is whole, entire, complete, and perfectly pure. Holiness in us is the life-focus that releases maximum life (1 Peter 1:15-16). The very clarity of this fresh vision of who God is through verse 18 made any form of evil odious to David.
Radical Change in Mood in 139:19-22
Did you notice the radical change of mood in Psalm 139 beginning with verse 19?
For years, I stopped after verse 18, not understanding why the following verses were here. I have an idea now, but you check it out since you are the gatekeeper of your own heart.
19-22: God’s holiness…
…jolts David from the heights of revelation about God to reenter his life swirling around him. David’s mind immediately focuses on the wrongs of others. When I see injustice first, I also focus on the wrongs of others, and can be blind to my own.
Give David kudos. For all his fierce expressions, David was a good hater. He hated only those who hated good with a zeal for God. David never sets himself up as judge and jury, like we may be prone to do. David aligns himself with God’s purity and His justice in His fight against evil since our creation-design to rule aligns us against injustice in the world.
Some of you may be brokenhearted about a specific arena of injustice you see in the world. Or perhaps about one person and some of his/her harmful habits that limit the vast freedom we have in Christ. Your heart breaks, like David’s. This is good, godlike because God’s heart also breaks over injustice.
…it’s crucial that a glimpse into God’s holiness moves us to evaluate our own lives. Until we deal with ourselves, we are unable to help others caught in injustice whether the habits of a specific person or an unjust system. Often it’s too big in our minds to do anything but complain about, like David (although kudos to David…He still leans into God with his complaints!)
Insight from Jesus in Matthew 7:1-5
“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?”
How insightful by Jesus. When we see something in another that could cause them great pain (a speck of sawdust in the eye), this could be a mirror reflecting something in me. This is especially true if I feel strong or repeated emotion. If my approach to another is: “The problem is out there,” such a focus blinds me to my own need God is exposing and diminishes my ability to help the other.
“You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:5).
First check my own life to be sure that a similar problem does not lie hidden within me. First take responsibility in my own life to have God search me (coming next!) A hypocrite is a play-actor, someone who is covering up the real them, whether intentionally or not.
Real change first happens inside me. Use these opportunities when we see injustice in a person or in society for God to search us deeply.
First deal with our stuff, then help others. “Being always precedes doing.” As we are the people of God, then He can use as to partner with Him in this injustice, maybe in prayer only, maybe in prayer leading to fruitful ministry to one or to many.
If we begin with others, like David did in verses 19-22 (“O God, look at the wrong in others”), then we must quickly move to our own holiness (1 Peter 1:15-16). Ask God to search you to remove any beams in your eye.
“O God, restore a God-centered focus in me.”
23-24: God’s holiness…
… in David means he is growing in conformity to the all-holy God. When I’m more conformed to the all-holy God, I can see injustice more accurately. Use injustice in the world to first change our hearts. Then we see more clearly what our specific God-assignments are toward that injustice. Holiness grew as David first focused on what is primary, that is, on his own life, not first on others (on his “beam” first, not the “splinter” in the other).
These two verses show the continuity with the rest of the Psalm. What we do always flows out of who we are. Doing flows out of being. The ministry in 19-22 of aligning with God’s justice must flow out of our own lives of purity. David prays for God to restore him with three statements. David transposes the earlier truths into the key for change, a willing acceptance and full surrender.
- 23: David began in 1-7 by stating God had searched him, perhaps with a bit of dismay. Now David fully embraces God’s searching presence with the depths of his heart with gratitude and an eager welcome. He asks God to investigate every nook and cranny of his heart. Notice the growing trust and intimacy in this Psalm.
- 24: David asks God to expose any and every offensive way within him. Instead of fleeing to hide as in verses 8-12, now David invites God to show him a clear picture of what he is about so he does not grieve God in the least.
- 24b: In alignment with the third movement in 13-18, keep on guiding me on the road of eternal life.
This is where David was going from the first line of this Psalm. David brings truth home to encounter his life so we discover more of ourselves.
What have we discovered about ourselves in Psalm 139? When we see injustice, is our first response to ask God to search us, or to look down on the one captured by the injustice?
We grow as we expand our understanding of these two questions: “What’s God like?” “How does this God see and know me?”
Is there anything, anything at all that is blocking you from expressing from you heart:
“Here I am, Lord. Search me through and through. Know my heart, change my heart and send me.”
Then we are in the place to partner with God to see injustice and to do something about it, whether in a person or in society.
If this Psalm has touched you in any way in how you see injustice, why not begin reading through the Psalms regularly, one Psalm a month and it takes 90 days; 5 Psalms a day and only one month. I wrote Discover Yourself in the Psalms a companion to walk you through the Psalms, with very short pointed helps (or find it on my Books Page).