Psalm 139 - Thine eyes beheld me as an embryo
This psalm tells us how much God knows me and thinks about me.
"It bears the image and superscription of King David, and could have come from no other mint than that of the son of Jesse. Of course the critics take this composition away from David, on account of certain Aramaic expressions in it. We believe that upon the principles of criticism now in vogue it would be extremely easy to prove that Milton did not write Paradise Lost. We have yet to learn that David could not have used expressions belonging to "the language of the patriarchal ancestral house." Who knows how much of the antique speech may have been purposely retained among those nobler minds who rejoiced in remembering the descent of their race? Knowing to what wild inferences the critics have run in other matters, we have lost nearly all faith in them, and prefer to believe David to be the author of this Psalm, from internal evidences of style and matter, rather than to accept the determination of men whose modes of judgment are manifestly unreliable." - C. H. Spurgeon
v1 - A new believer could not say this.
"If we would praise God aright we must draw the matter of our praise from himself--"O Jehovah, thou hast." No pretended god knows aught of us; but the true God, Jehovah, understands us, and is most intimately acquainted with our persons, nature, and character. How well it is for us to know the God who knows us! " - C. H. Spurgeon
v2 - The Lord knows these small things I do of seemingly no consequence.
I think "from far away" means that the Lord has to be far away from me because my motive is not pure. Or, it could mean "before I know it", but that is often the case that we do not realize our motives.
"I am observed when I quietly sit down, and marked when I resolutely rise up. My most common and casual acts, my most needful and necessary movements, are noted by time, and thou knowest the inward thoughts which regulate them. ... This is a fact to be remembered every moment: sitting down to consider, or rising up to act, we are still seen, known, and read by Jehovah our Lord. " - Spurgeon
v3 - The verb "sift out" is what a harvester does to sift out the wheat from the chaff (Ruth 3:2;etc). The Lord sifts my daily life, my thought while sleeping, and my every word, separating the good from the worthless.
The Hebrew verb sachan which I translated "work Your purpose" is the causative form of "to be profitable" (Job 15:3; etc), hence "to cause to be profitable". This causative form is generally mistranslated here as "acquainted with" which has no basis except that it fits the context. Here are all the other the causative instances of sachan as I would translate them (Num 22:30; Job 22:21).
"I may leave thy path, but you never leave mine. ... The Lord judges our active life and our quiet life; he discriminates our action and our repose, and marks that in them which is good and also that which is evil. There is chaff in all our wheat, and the Lord divides them with unerring precision. ... This should fill us with awe, so that we sin not; with courage, so that we fear not; with delight, so that we mourn not. " - Spurgeon
v4 - Lit. for there is not a word in my tongue. Lo! LORD, You know it completely.
I think the meaning is, For there is not a word in my tongue that you don't sift.
Most translate it something like KJV: For there is not a word in my tongue, but, lo, O LORD, Thou knowest it altogether.
I think that translation is wrong because there is no conjunction between the 1st part ending with "tongue" and the 2nd part beginning with "Lo!". The "for" at the beginning of this verse connects the 1st part of the verse to the previous verse.
"What hope of concealment can remain when the speech with which too many conceal their thoughts is itself transparent before the Lord? " - Spurgeon
v5 - It is wonderful that the Lord restricts us both behind and before. He restricts us in our going backward and also restricts us from going forward, that is in the right direction, ahead of the Lord.
The palm of the Lord's hand is gentle. He places His palm over me to protect me.
v6 - Lit. Knowledge too wonderful for me! It has been set on high. I am not able for it.
"Such knowledge not only surpasses my comprehension, but even my imagination. ... Our mind has no line with which to measure the Infinite." - Spurgeon
v7 - lit. Where shall I go from Your Spirit? ...
"Not that the Psalmist wished to go from God, or to avoid the power of the divine life; but he asks this question to set forth the fact that no one can escape from the all pervading being and observation of the Great Invisible Spirit. Observe how the writer makes the matter personal to himself-- "Whither shall I go?" It were well if we all thus applied truth to our own cases. It were wise for each one to say--The Spirit of the Lord is ever around me: Jehovah is omnipresent to me. Or whither shall I flee from thy presence? ... This makes it dreadful work to sin; for we offend the Almighty to his face, and commit acts of treason at the very foot of his throne. " - Spurgeon
v8 - Sheol is the place where all the dead go, both good and bad, equivalent to the Greek Hades in the New Testament. To lay down in Sheol is to die. Behold, the Lord is there (Philip 1:23).
"Whatever Hades may be, or whoever may be there, one thing is certain, Thou, O Jehovah, art there. Two regions, the one of glory and the other of darkness, are set in contrast, and this one fact is asserted of both--"thou art there." Whether we rise up or lie down, take our wing or make our bed, we shall find God near us. A "behold" is added to the second clause, since it seems more a wonder to meet with God in hell than in heaven, in Hades than in Paradise. Of course the presence of God produces very different effects in these places, but it is unquestionably in each; the bliss of one, the terror of the other. What an awful thought, that some men seem resolved to take up their night's abode in hell, a night which shall know no morning. " - Spurgeon
v9 "He who saves to the uttermost would be with us in the uttermost parts of the sea." - Spurgeon
v10 "The exploring missionary in his lonely wanderings is led, in his solitary feebleness he is held." - Spurgeon
We need to be aware that what we think is light could be darkness (Mat 6:23).
'Note well how David keeps his song in the first person; let us mind that we do the same as we cry with Hagar, "Thou God seest me." ' - Spurgeon
v12 "The brightness of this Psalm is like unto a sapphire stone, or Ezekiel's "terrible crystal"; it flames out with such flashes of light as to turn night into day. Like a Pharos [lighthouse], this holy song casts a clear light even to the uttermost parts of the sea, and warns us against that practical atheism which ignores the presence of God, and so makes shipwreck of the soul." - C. H. Spurgeon
v13 - MT and DSS have "You cover me" which is the Hebrew word tesoochani .
LXX has "You helped me", which, I think, would be the Hebrew word teschonani, which literally means "You profit me". The difference in Hebrew is a double letter nun in LXX vs single nun in MT. I think LXX is correct because it expands on the thought, You work Your purpose in all my ways" in v3, which is the same root verb sachan as here.
"The word "reins" signifies the kidneys, which by the Hebrews were supposed to be the seat of the desires and longings; but perhaps it indicates here the most hidden and vital portion of the man; this God doth not only inspect, and visit, but it is his own; he is as much at home there as a landlord on his own estate, or a proprietor in his own house." - Spurgeon
Most translate the verb kana here as "possessed", but it literally means "bought". The meaning is that God paid a price to own my reins. How did God purchase my reins? By searching out and sifting every detail of my living all these years.
v14 "We too seldom remember our creation, and all the skill and kindness bestowed upon our frame: but the sweet singer of Israel was better instructed ...
Marvelous are thy works. These parts of my frame are all thy works; and though they be home works, close under my own eye, yet are they wonderful to the last degree. They are works within my own self, yet are they beyond my understanding, and appear to me as so many miracles of skill and power. We need not go to the ends of the earth for marvels, nor even across our own threshold; they abound in our own bodies. And that my soul knoweth right well .... If we are marvelously wrought upon even before we are born, what shall we say of the Lord's dealings with us after we quit his secret workshop, and he directs our pathway through the pilgrimage of life? What shall we not say of that new birth which is even more mysterious than the first, and exhibits even more the love and wisdom of the Lord. " - Spurgeon
v15 - How did God create us in the lower parts of the earth? Eccl 11:5
v16 - This shows that God cares about the unborn.
What book is this? Could it be the Book of Life, determining who will have eternal life? No. The book here is a book which details the creation of every individual human being. It shows that God planned in detail for every human life. This leads right into the next verse. cf. Ps 56:8; etc
"A great artist will often labor alone in his studio, and not suffer his work to be seen until it is finished; even so did the Lord fashion us where no eye beheld us, and the veil was not lifted till every member was complete.
Much of the formation of our inner man still proceeds in secret: hence the more of solitude the better for us. The true church also is being fashioned in secret, so that none may cry, "Lo, here!" or "Lo, there!" as if that which is visible could ever be identical with the invisibly growing body of Christ." - Spurgeon (Rom 8:29)
v17 - "It is a joy worth worlds that the Lord should think upon us who are so poor and needy (Ps 40:17). ...
What a contrast is all this to the notion of those who deny the existence of a personal, conscious God! Imagine a world without a thinking, personal God! Conceive of a grim providence of machinery! --a fatherhood of law! Such philosophy is hard and cold. As well might a man pillow his head upon a razor edge as seek rest in such a fancy. But a God always thinking of us makes a happy world, a rich life, a heavenly hereafter. " - Spurgeon
v18 "Even could we count the sands on the seashore, we should not then be able to number God's thoughts, for they are "more in number than the sand." This is not the hyperbole of poetry, but the solid fact of inspired statement: God thinks upon us infinitely: there is a limit to the act of creation, but not to the might of divine love.
The Psalmist does not say, "When I awake, I return to thee", but, "I am still with thee"; as if his meditations were continuous, and his communion unbroken. Soon we shall lie down to sleep for the last time: God grant that when the trumpet of the archangel shall waken us we may find ourselves still with him. " - Spurgeon
v19 -A man of blood associated with David was David's chief general, Joab. Joab murdered Abner and Amassa (1Ki 2:5). With the head of the army being such a man, there were probably many who followed Joab's example, so there were other men of blood there with David besides Joab.
"The wicked" is anyone who is wicked, regardless of whether they are for me or against me, including myself if I am wicked.
"God will not always suffer his lovely creation to be defaced and defiled by the presence of wickedness: if anything is sure, this is sure, that he will ease him of his adversaries. " - Spurgeon
v21 - David's descendant, King Jehosophat was a great king, who loved the Lord, but he loved those who hated the Lord and the result was disaster for Israel. (2Chr 19:2)
v22 - lit. as my enemies.
What does it mean that David hated these men of blood completely or to the end or to the completion? He did not hate them because they were his enemies; he regarded them as his enemies because of their murders and deception. Joab was probably the chief one of these men of blood. But Joab was too strong for David (2Sam 3:39). How did David hate Joab completely or perfectly? It seems he did not do much. He committed it to the Lord (2Sam 3:27-34). He did not drop it. When dying, he commanded his son Solomon to do justice to Joab for his murders (1Ki 2:5-6). Thus David hated Joab, the commander of his army, until the completion of justice.
v23 'Our first prayer as parents should be, "Lord, change me!"' - Erwin W. Lutzer in A Practical Guide for Praying Parents
v24 - When we do wrong we feel the pain of it. But often we don't notice the pain and forget it. So it is a wonderful prayer to ask the Lord to search me and see if there is any way that is painful in me.
'O Lord, my God, lead me in the way everlasting. I need it. Thou hast made me to teach others, and my example influences many. Lead me in the way everlasting. And thy servants who gather around me, my beloved deacons and elders, whose example also will be potent for good if they be good, and for evil if they be evil— Lord, hear them as they say, “Lead us in the way everlasting.” And the members of the church, the many hundreds, yea, the thousands who are associated in church-fellowship here, who eat of thy bread and drink of thy cup— O hear them, such of them as are now present who shall now cry unto thee, “Lead me in the way everlasting.” Hear every brother in dilemma and difficulty, every sister in duty and danger, every heart that is weary, every soul that is sick. “Lead me in the way everlasting.” And Lord, hear the unconverted sinner as he breathes this desire towards thy throne of grace. Is there here one that has left the paths of virtue and of honesty, and does his lip tremblingly say, “Lead me in the way everlasting”? Lord, hear his supplication; Lord, hear it for Jesus’ sake. Wheresoever there standeth or sitteth in this Tabernacle one, old or young, rich or poor, learned or illiterate, moral or immoral— if there be such a one here, who in his heart sayeth, “Father, forgive me, and lead me in the way everlasting”— O do thou answer that prayer speedily, for thy dear Son’s sake. And now, once more, for Jesus’ sake we do each of us beseech thee, “Lead me in the way everlasting.” Amen.' - C. H. Spurgeon
- copyright Steve Miller 12/19/2018