How well does God know you?
David answers in Psalm 139.
First, he knows when you sit down and when you rise up.
You think you know your spouse pretty well? Tell me this. Tell me everything that they did yesterday. I’m talking specifics. What exactly did they do? Like, how many times did they sit down? How many times did they stand up? Too hard?
Let me get a little easier.
You know yourself pretty well? You should. You were with you all day yesterday. So this next question should be pretty easy. Who can tell me how many times you sat down yesterday? How about how many times you got up?
I know I can’t.
Sometimes people will ask me what I did last week and I can barely remember the big stuff much less the minutiae. I don’t even know myself that well. But God does. That’s the point here. He knows me. He knows you, better than you know yourself.
This is really awesome.
We have so much going on in our days, and in the midst of all our activity it is easy for us to forget God, but mark it down, He never forgets us. He knows everything you do.
He knows when you sit down, and He knows when you get up.
If someone knew absolutely everything you ever did, you’d have to say he knew you pretty well. But still he wouldn’t know you completely. Because there is more to you than just what you do. You can still hide from people what you think, and what you want.
You can’t hide that from God.
God doesn’t only know what you do, David tells us secondly, that God also knows exactly what you want.
David says God knows his thoughts from afar.
What’s more personal, more hidden than your thoughts? The word he uses for thoughts literally means purpose or aims, longings or intentions. So David is saying God you know everything I think, everything I desire, everything I long for.
Knows is actually too weak a word. David says God you understand. God you don’t just know my thoughts, you understand my thoughts.
You may not even understand your thoughts, but God does. You may not even understand why you want what you want, but God does. You may not even understand why you are thinking what you are thinking, but God does.
He is the heart-knower.
So you can never say, no one understands. Because there is someone who understands. God does.
He understands your thoughts. Now I think it’s interesting David adds, He understands them from afar.
Why’s he add that? Why doesn’t he just say God understands your thoughts? Why does he have to add, from afar? Is he saying God isn’t close to us? Is he saying God is far removed from us?
No, because in verses 7-12 he makes it clear God is everywhere. He’s here. He’s near.
The Bible teaches us, and this is important for us to understand, that God is a God who is near; and He is a God who is far off at the same time. When the Scripture talks about God being far off, like David does here, it’s usually doing so to emphasize a particular facet of His character – one theologians like to call His transcendence.
Transcendence is a big word to describe the fact that God is King; He is set apart from Creation; He rules this Universe; He is high; He is lifted up above all things; He is more important than anyone or anything in the universe; Everything else pales in significance when compared to Him; He is absolutely Unique.
When David says that God understands our thoughts from afar; he’s highlighting how amazing it is that God, the God of Glory, the Sovereign Lord, the One who is seated upon the heavenly throne, the Ruler of this Universe; the One person more important than anyone or anything else, stoops down to care enough about you to know and understand even your very thoughts.
God knows you personally. How well? He knows what you do, and He knows what you want.
Third, David continues, he knows the direction you are taking in life.
He’s broadening his thought. God you don’t only know when I sit and when I stand, you know the path I am traveling in life. You know the way I am going with my life. In fact, you scrutinize it.
I like that word scrutinize.
You get the picture of someone looking at something very, very carefully. In my mind’s eye when I hear the word scrutinize I think of some antique collector looking at a piece they are going to buy, he doesn’t just glance at it and put it down, he turns it round and round, looking at every nook and cranny, carefully, thoroughly inspecting it.
That’s the idea here. The word scrutinize is actually a difficult Hebrew word to translate. It literally means to scatter; and some say it was used to describe the way a farm would winnow grain. To winnow a farmer would throw grain into the air, and the wind would blow away the chaff. And so here in this context, the idea is that God has winnowed David’s path; he has carefully and thoroughly examined and searched him out.
David sums it up, God is intimately acquainted with all our ways.
When you say someone is intimate, you are saying they are as close as they can get. And so here again David is emphasizing the totality of God’s knowledge. You, and I like this, are intimately acquainted with all my ways.
God knows us so well, that He doesn’t only know what we said; He knows what we are about to say. That’s pretty awesome, because most of us don’t know what we are going to say before we say it.
I like how David ends this verse, Behold, O Lord You do know it all. It’s like he is saying, Wow, God. Wow. Behold, You know absolutely everything about me. There’s nothing I can hide from you.
“You have enclosed me behind and before…”
The picture is of God pressing in on David. You could picture the way an army lays siege to a city, shutting up every way out. That’s what the word enclose means, it means to shut up or to confine. Whether you go forward, or whether you go backward, you are hemmed in and unable to flee from God. He completely surrounds you.
“And” David continues, “you have laid your hand upon me…” You can imagine as someone has put it, “the outstretched palm of God placed over David so that he is held down and cannot escape.”
In the Old Testament, when someone’s hand is laid upon you, that means you are in their power, you are under their authority. And so as one commentator explains, “Wherever David turns, he is confronted by the all-seeing eyes of God. As a result, God has David under his control as the second line implies. All David can do is yield. And neither way can David’s enemies touch him unless God allows it.”
Think about how many people there are in the world. Billions. The fact that God is omniscient means God knows absolutely everything about absolutely everyone of them. That’s awesome. That’s frightening. Look around you, we’ve probably got around 80 people here today. In comparison to a couple billion that’s not too big a group. But if somebody could know everything about just 80 people you’d be in awe of that person. You’d be amazed by him.
Sometimes on talk shows they’ll have someone come in who has an amazing memory, and they’ll have a group from the crowd stand up and tell him their names at the beginning of the show. Then later on, he’ll recite their names back to them. And you know what, people think that is absolutely amazing. Their jaws drop. They are like how did that guy do that? Man, that guys knowledge, it’s amazing.
Listen, that’s nothing, that’s less than nothing compared to God. If you are amazed by some guy who can remember people’s names, if that makes you shake your head, then you’ve got to drop flat on your face when you start to consider the knowledge of God.
You can see why David responds by saying such knowledge is too wonderful for him.
He’s thinking about how much God knows, and you can almost picture his brain starting to smoke. It’s like he lays down his cards, and says it’s too much. Your knowledge God, it’s too wonderful or marvelous for me. It’s beyond my capabilities. I’m astonished by it. This is not the kind of knowledge I’m used to, it’s not like a really, really smart human being. This knowledge is transcendent, it’s of a totally different character, this knowledge is divine. God your knowledge is too wonderful for me.