Removed From The Wicked
Psalm 139 is one of my favorite psalms. It appeals to the poet in me and to the sense of wonder and awe we discover when we become more deeply aware of the mystery of God and his intimate presence in all of creation, especially in each and every one of us. The language of this psalm is truly beautiful and very powerful. The closeness of God is palpable in this beautiful hymn of thanksgiving.
Right from the very beginning the psalmist speaks in the simple language of awe. It rises out of him with the stunning realization that God knows him intimately. “You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar…Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely…Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.” (verses 1-6) This is followed by the even deeper realization that there is no place on this earth that he could go to escape God’s intimate presence and love. “If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.” (verses 9-10) He realizes that there is no hiding from God. His omniscient presence is everywhere. Indeed, even darkness can not hide us from God, “for darkness is as light to you.” (verse 12)
As Christians, we believe, like the psalmist, that God “…created my inmost being; knit me in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” (verses 13-14) The psalmist is experiencing an ecstatic sense of wonderment here. He has come to know the most important thing a believer can know about God, that is, that his loving presence is both intimate and constant. It is this realization that brings the believer to a true sense of humility. It is the depth and the quality of this insight that brings us not to fear God’s wrath, but to truly see his intimate care and concern for us, even when we fall short of our ideals. When we finally realize this, we begin to desire always to live our lives in the joyful awareness of that compassionate, forgiving, encouraging, and protective presence. Who would want to “escape” this presence. Who would be foolish enough to think that one could?
But there are those who are hostile to God’s presence, even to his love. They are the wicked and the rebellious. They are those who, even in the face of the evidence of God’s love, refuse to bend to anything but their own finite wills. The psalmist prays (as do we) that he be removed from the company of the wicked. For, in their foolishness, they try to lead us away from the knowledge of God’s presence. Some who are wicked are obvious, but others, those who are truly wicked, are masters of disguise. They will make themselves and their ideas appear to be beautiful and “free” of all restraints of any kind, human or divine. The psalmist, instead, turns to God, just as we should, and says, “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (verses 23-24) In this beautiful and poetic way the psalmist is calling us to self-reflection. He is telling us to pay heed to our consciences, not to current fashions, or to false philosophies, but to the knowledge of the good that has been impressed on our hearts by this omniscient, ever present, and loving God from the moment of our creation.
God you know our hearts and our every thought. Help us to keep our minds and hearts focused on your presence, both within ourselves, and within every other person, place and time. Help us to recognize that we are always and everywhere in your loving and intimate presence, so that we may choose more and more regularly to live in ways that give honor and glory to you. Sharpen the clarity of our consciences. Give us the wisdom and the strength to always heed your good counsel. Protect us from all falsehoods and from all those who wish to lead us away from you. We pray this in your name, Jesus. Amen!
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