If you’ve spent much time reading the Psalms you know David’s life was hard. It wasn’t easy being the king. David was a man with many enemies.
These enemies were committed to his downfall. They persistently pursued him in order to destroy him. He cries out in Psalm 7:1,2 “O Lord my God in Thee I have taken refuge, Save me from all those who pursue me and deliver me, lest they tear my soul like a lion, dragging me away, while there is none to deliver.”
They loved to see David humiliated. He prays in Psalm 13:1,2 “How long O Lord? Wilt Thou forget me forever? How long wilt Thou hide Thy face from me? How long shall I take counsel in my soul, having sorrow in my heart all the day? How long will my enemy be exalted over me?”
What is more, they didn’t just want David destroyed and humiliated, they wanted him dead. He desperately pleads with God in Psalm 86:14, “O God arrogant men have risen up against me, and a band of violent men have sought my life, and they have not set Thee before them.”
That in fact seems to be what is happening in Psalm 139.
Most of this Psalm is very familiar, but there is a section that is not, and that’s verses 19-22. These are a couple verses we often ignore whenever we study this passage. That’s too bad, because although they are somewhat difficult to understand, they provide the setting for the rest of this psalm.
David indicates in verse 19 that He is in the midst of wicked men, men of bloodshed, violent men. They obviously have gathered around him; they are on every side, that’s why he has to cry out, ‘depart from me, men of bloodshed. I don’t want you near me.’ We find that these men were speaking against God, they hated God, and they are rising up against Him. As a result, they have set themselves up against David, God’s anointed.
Now David’s a man, not a Superman. So as he is in the midst of this, he struggles with anxious thoughts. That’s why he cries out in verse 23, “Try me O God and know my anxious thoughts.”
David’s not writing this psalm from the comfort of his lazy-boy. He’s in a very difficult position. His future is up in the air. He doesn’t know what is going to happen to him. He could be killed at anytime. He doesn’t know how it all is going to end.
Try to place yourself in David’s shoes. You’ve got people in your life who hate you. You’ve got people who are trying to destroy you. Perhaps they are saying lies about you. Maybe they are gossiping or slandering behind your back. Whatever they are doing, we know they are out to get you. Not because you’ve done something wrong, but because you’ve done something right. They hate you because you are taking a stand for God.
How would you respond? How do you handle that? What would you do?
You’d do well to learn from David. What we have here in Psalm 139 is an example of a man who is thinking biblically about his life. This is an example of what it looks like to have a God-centered perspective on life.
David’s life is chaos, so what does he do? He turns to God. He flees by faith to God.
Here in Psalm 139 it is as if “David comes into God’s presence and there, he starts taking stock of his life. It’s like he is asking himself some questions: ‘What can I depend on right now? What do I have that I can count on?” And he finds assurance and strength by reflecting on the character of God.
To put it another way – David’s life is on the line – so what’s does David do?
As you read through this psalm you find David keeps bursting out in praise. It’s as if you can’t contain him. He says in verse 6, God, Your “knowledge is too wonderful for me; It is too high I cannot obtain it.” Then in verse 14, “I will give thanks to Thee…Wonderful are your works, and my soul knows it very well…” And again in verse 17, “How precious also are Thy thoughts to me, O God! How vast is the sum of them…” David’s reflecting on the character of God, and as he does so, he can’t contain himself. He’s got to worship. And so he sits down to write this psalm in order to say, God, you are awesome.
It’s amazing. Here David is in a chaotic situation, yet the focus of this psalm is not on David. The focus of this psalm is not on David’s enemies. The focus of this psalm is God. You know what David’s doing in this psalm? He’s exalting God. Look up at the heading under Psalm 139. It says, “For the choir director. A psalm of David.” That means this psalm is actually a hymn. David’s life is on the line, and he’s like you know what I need to do? I need to sit down and write a hymn of praise to God.
This man’s circumstances are difficult but he is not defeated because he finds his hope in God. This man’s circumstances are difficult but he’s not complaining, he’s not grumbling, he’s not destroyed, instead he’s rejoicing, because of what he knows to be true about God.
This is important. I want you to take a moment and think about what’s going on here.
Contrast the way David responds with the way you normally respond.
When your life becomes chaotic, what do you do?
I’ll tell you the way most of us respond. When our life gets difficult, we usually respond by thinking what can I do? How can I resolve this? And worries flood our mind. We get all anxious.
The truth is – when we are in a difficult circumstance, usually God’s the last thing on our minds. We might offer up a quick prayer, but we definitely don’t think we have time to stop and do some serious reflection on the character of God. We certainly don’t think we have time to stop and worship.
It’s interesting, I find so often when people’s lives get busy you know the first thing to go? The first thing they slack in? Usually, it’s not their job. It’s not their family. It’s the church. And specifically, when their life gets difficult they get lazy in their relationship with God. They think, I’ve got to get things under control, I just don’t have time to take God very seriously.
David’s example here in Psalm 139 is a powerful rebuke. We often act like thinking about and worshiping God when life is difficult is the least important thing we could do. David shows us that it is actually the most important. He is doing in this Psalm what every true Christian must learn to do. He stops and thinks. Here is what is going on in my life; here is what I know to be true of God; here is how the two connect; and here as a result is how I must respond. He’s putting his theology into practice.
Before we look at exactly how David does that, can I just give you a footnote? What’s it take for David to worship God like this when his life is so difficult? He had to know God. He had to think about Him. Sometimes we don’t like to think hard about God. Well, if we don’t work hard at knowing God we’re going to be very weak in the midst of our trials, and really, the result will be we’re just going to be weak at living life because you’re not going to be able to rejoice and worship the way David did, unless you first know God the way David did.
David was not content with a superficial knowledge of God; as you’re going to see here in this Psalm, he goes very deep.
So David’s life gets difficult, and what does he do? He worships.
Next time we will look at Psalm 139:1 in order to see what in particular it is about God that stirs David up to worship.