You Know Me

O LORD, you have probed me and you know me;
you know when I sit and when I stand;
you understand my thoughts from afar.
My journeys and my rest you scrutinize,
with all my ways you are familiar.

Even before a word is on my tongue,
behold, O LORD, you know the whole of it.
Behind me and before, you hem me in
and rest your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
too lofty for me to attain.
(Psalm 139:1-3, 4-6)

Scripture Study

139:1–6. All actions are included in these references to opposites—sitting down and getting up, walking and lying down (vv. 2–3). Behind these actions are thoughts (v. 2), and God knows these even before they become words (v. 4). The psalmist cannot understand God’s actions in his regard (vv. 5–6). He feels the presence of God all around him, and senses that everything that happens to him comes from God, but he cannot fathom its underlying meaning. The passage deals with feelings somewhat similar to those expressed by Job in Job 13:27.

139:1 you have probed me God has examined the psalmist very closely and knows him in detail (see Prov 18:17).

139:2 thoughts The Hebrew word used here, rea’, is one of the most common Hebrew words in the ot for thinking.

139:3 all my ways A common way to refer to someone’s habits.

139:5 You hem me in It is unclear what connotation the psalmist intends when using the Hebrew word tsur here; it can mean “to bind,” “encircle,” or “lay siege to.”

139:6 the psalmist indicates that he accepts close scrutiny from God, but that he does not understand it.

Scripture Reflection

This is the most personal expression in Scripture of the Old Testament’s radical monotheism. It is a doctrinal classic because it portrays human existence in all its dimensions in terms of God’s knowledge, presence, and power. It reflects an understanding of the human as enclosed in divine reality. The psalm is even more a devotional classic, because used as prayer it bestows and nurtures an awareness of the LORD as the total environment of life. It teaches and confesses in the fullest way that “my times are in your hand.”

The psalmist confesses that he is never free of God in his total existence, but the relation is described in such a way that neither is a prisoner of or mere function of the other. The psalmist is free for and to God. God is the limit of his existence, yet he is himself a real person to God—accountable, confronted, known. God is free for and to the psalmist. The motions of God’s relation to the psalmist transcend the psalmist’s understanding. What he knows, he knows he does not know. His knowing is an unknowing; its achievement is wonder, and its only certainty is “I am with you.”

The composer of this psalm seems to have meditated on the vision of the LORD as the righteous judge who knows, searches, and tests the hearts of human beings. The psalm is composed of the implications of that vision for the existence of the psalmist, voiced as praise and prayer. The vision of God to whom every aspect of one’s life from conception is present can be terrifying.

The psalm shows that the vision inspires wisdom and trust for those who want nothing else than to be led in the way everlasting. The apostle Paul once said of himself, “Now I know only in part; then I will fully know even as I have been fully known.” Perhaps this psalm is a knowing only in part, but it is a knowing that knows already that it is fully known by God. It is a prayer that will lead all who make it their own into that knowing.

– James Mays

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.

 

 

Do I?

Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples:
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites.
You lock the Kingdom of heaven before men.
You do not enter yourselves,
nor do you allow entrance to those trying to enter.

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites.
You traverse sea and land to make one convert,
and when that happens you make him a child of Gehenna
twice as much as yourselves.

“Woe to you, blind guides, who say,
‘If one swears by the temple, it means nothing,
but if one swears by the gold of the temple, one is obligated.’
Blind fools, which is greater, the gold,
or the temple that made the gold sacred?
And you say, ‘If one swears by the altar, it means nothing,
but if one swears by the gift on the altar, one is obligated.’
You blind ones, which is greater, the gift,
or the altar that makes the gift sacred?
One who swears by the altar swears by it and all that is upon it;
one who swears by the temple swears by it
and by him who dwells in it;
one who swears by heaven swears by the throne of God
and by him who is seated on it.”
(Matthew 23:12-22)

Scripture Study

23:13 You lock the kingdom of heaven: cf. Mt 16:19 where Jesus tells Peter that he will give him the keys to the kingdom of heaven. The purpose of the authority expressed by that metaphor is to give entrance into the kingdom (the kingdom is closed only to those who reject the authority); here the charge is made that the authority of the scribes and Pharisees is exercised in such a way as to be an obstacle to entrance. Cf. Lk 11:52 where the accusation against the “scholars of the law” (Matthew’s scribes) is that they “have taken away the key of knowledge.”

23:14 Some manuscripts add a verse here or after Mt 23:12 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You devour the houses of widows and, as a pretext, recite lengthy prayers. Because of this, you will receive a very severe condemnation.” Cf. Mk 12:40; Lk 20:47. This “woe” is almost identical with Mk 12:40 and seems to be an interpolation derived from that text.

23:15 In the first century a.d. until the First Jewish Revolt against Rome (a.d. 66–70), many Pharisees conducted a vigorous missionary campaign among Gentiles. Convert: literally, “proselyte,” a Gentile who accepted Judaism fully by submitting to circumcision and all other requirements of Mosaic law. Child of Gehenna: worthy of everlasting punishment; Twice as much as yourselves: possibly this refers simply to the zeal of the convert, surpassing that of the one who converted him.

23:16–22 An attack on the casuistry that declared some oaths binding (one is obligated) and others not (it means nothing) and held the binding oath to be the one made by something of lesser value (the gold; the gift on the altar). Such teaching, which inverts the order of values, reveals the teachers to be blind guides; cf. Mt 15:14. Since the Matthean Jesus forbids all oaths to his disciples (Mt 5:33–37), this woe does not set up a standard for Christian moral conduct, but ridicules the Pharisees on their own terms.

Scripture Reflection

The Lord’s indictment of the Pharisees should lead us, especially those involved in Christian leadership, to a sober examination of conscience. What is most alarming about the Pharisees is their total unawareness of their dire condition. Given this human capacity for spiritual blindness, we have every reason to pray for the grace of self-knowledge.

The questions that follow are based on Jesus’ reproof of the Pharisees. Using them to examine ourselves, we can strive to avoid the conduct that Jesus found so displeasing:

  • Do I practice what I preach?
  • Do I help others live by God’s standards, or do I simply instruct them on what those standards are?
  • Do I perform religious actions to impress others or to obtain God’s approval?
  • Do I desire salutations of honor?
  • Do I relate to people in a way that welcomes them to conversion, or do I imply by my actions that they are not welcome in the kingdom?
  • Do I evade responsibilities by legalistic reasoning?
  • Do I emphasize lesser matters to the neglect of justice, mercy, and fidelity?

These questions identify the typical faults of people who are trying to live the Christian life on their own strength. To rise above them—and so avoid the failings of the Pharisees—we need the grace that God wants to give us through prayer and regular confession.

– Curtis Mitch

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.