“O LORD, you have searched me and known me!” (Psalm 139:1, ESV).
It is extremely important to notice and acknowledge the fact that David here calls upon YHWH, the I AM of Exodus 3, and not upon any other god. The raging Mount Sinai is here acknowledged by the Psalmist where he worships and bows down to no other god but the LORD. David goes on to point out a very important attribute of God that is part of what comprises His Sovereignty: His omniscience; He knows everything completely and perfectly. However, although it is true that the LORD has perfect knowledge of everything, the psalmist is specific concerning God’s omniscience of him. He doesn’t negate the fact that the LORD perfectly knows all things, but here, contrary to common Jewish corporate prayer, the Psalmist calls upon the LORD to praise Him for His omniscience of him. Spurgeon comments on this point,
“It is ever our wisdom to lay truth home to ourselves. How wonderful the contrast between the observer and the observed! Jehovah and me! Yet this most intimate connection exists, and therein lies our hope. Let the reader sit still a while and try to realize the two poles of this statement,—the Lord and poor puny man—and he will see much to admire and wonder at.” 1
As Spurgeon further comments on this verse, we must be careful not to make this verse say something it does not in our efforts to study God’s omniscience. God does not have perfect knowledge of His creatures because He searches them and knows them; it does not take an action from His part for Him to come to know us perfectly and intimately, for that suggests a measure of ignorance on His part that is corrected at a point in time in His searching us to know us (notice the order of the words in the Psalm). Let me quote Spurgeon once again,
“This infallible knowledge has always existed—”Thou hast searched me”; and it continues unto this day, since God cannot forget that which he has once known. There never was a time in which we were unknown to God, and there never will be a moment in which we shall be beyond his observation.” 1
All the psalmist wants to convey is that the LORD knows us as if He was ever looking deep into our beings with His flaming eyes and uncovering everything we think we can hide.
As Hebrews 4:13 (ESV) says,
“And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.”
Let’s look at four verses that will help us understand what the psalmist is saying:
“But you, O LORD, know me; you see me, and test my heart toward you.” (Jeremiah 12:3, ESV).
“Oh, let the evil of the wicked come to an end, and may you establish the righteous – you who test the minds and hearts (Heb. “hearts and kidneys”), O righteous God!” (Psalm 7:9, ESV).
“You have tried my heart, you have visited me by night, you have tested me, and you will find nothing…” (Psalm 17:3, ESV).
“Would not God discover this? For he knows the secrets of the heart.” (Psalm 44:21, ESV).
There is an overarching reality that encompasses these four (and many more) verses, namely, there is an intimate, personal, eternal searching of the soul of the elect by the LORD that the wicked do not take part on. Furthermore, this intimate searching of the soul is directly linked to God’s knowing of the soul so that there is no confusion as far as God needing to search in order to know. This reminds me of what we have already discussed in Psalm 1, that the way of the blessed is known by God, meaning, the blessed themselves are known by God.
What does this knowing mean? To give you an idea of how intimate this is, the same word used in Genesis 4:1 for Adam consummating marriage with his wife Eve is used in this verse. That is how searching, examining, burning, and intimate God’s knowing of us is. The fact that His perfect knowledge of His elect is not dependent on an action on His part, but has been so from eternity is even more mind-blowing. Why should the ruler of all the Earth ordain for such an intimate knowledge of His own? What’s more, does this merely mean “to have knowledge of”? Why would the psalmist dedicate an entire Psalm to praise God for this if this merely meant “to have knowledge of”?
For a more in-depth discussion on God’s intimate foreknowledge of His own, see the following entries on Psalm 1:
Does Christ Know YOU? – Part 1
Does Christ Know YOU? – Study of John 10
The LORD knows us as thoroughly and intimately as a man does his wife. Fittingly enough, this is the exact imagery God uses of His church. We are His bride, being purified and sanctified through His Word until He comes for us to “present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish” (Ephesians 5:27, ESV).
The eyes of our husband are a “flame of fire” (Revelation 1:14, ESV) that “run to and fro throughout the whole earth” (2 Chronicles 16:9, ESV). Christian, let your meditation be on the fact that this majestic God searches you and knows you as intimately (and infinitely more) as a husband does his wife. You are His sheep because He knows you (please refer to the links above for a deeper study of this wonderful truth), and there is nothing you can hide from Him. What a wonderful and sanctifying truth for those of us who are His, and what a terrifying truth for those who are not His. The same eyes that lovingly chasten, comfort, strengthen, and sanctify His elect are the same eyes that will one day burn the wicked for an eternity. Stop for a minute and think about that!
Next week we will look at verses 2-4 and see the psalmist expanding on what he said in verse 1 (remember the chapter/verse division was added later, and we must look at the Bible in context). Stay tuned!
1 Spurgeon, Charles H. “Treasury of DavidPsalm 139.” The Spurgeon Archive. Philip R. Johnson. Web. 21 Jan. 2012. <http://www.spurgeon.org/treasury/ps139.htm>.