01/11/2017: Psalm 130 | A Favourite Psalm | Richard Ashton

What is the background of Psalm 139?


Psalm 139 celebrates the omniscience and omnipresence of God. It is ascribed to David.

The Psalm is divided into four paragraphs of six verses each. In each paragraph the psalmist faces a question about himself in relationship to God.

  1. “How well does God know me?” The first sentence gives us his answer:
  2. “How near is God to me?” In the second paragraph the writer explores this question.
  3. “How he knows all this?” In the third paragraph, the psalmist tells us how he knows.
  4. How well does God know me?

You have searched me, LORD, and you know me. (Psalms 139:1 NIV)

You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from afar. (Psalms 139:2 RSV)

That is, “Lord, you understand and know me in my conscious life. You know when I sit down (my passive life) and when I rise up (my active life).

You search out my path and my lying down,
and are acquainted with all my ways. (Psalms 139:3 RSV)

Before a word is on my tongue
you, Lord, know it completely.  (Psalms 139:4 RSV)

That is, “You understand my language. Every word that I utter, you know and understand.” Then God is active, the psalmist discovers, in his past, his future, and his present.

You hem me in behind and before,
and you lay your hand upon me.
 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain. (Psalms 139:5-6 RSV)


  1. How near is God to me?

Where can I go from thy Spirit, (Psalms 139:7 NIV)
or where shall I flee from your presence?

If I ascend to the heavens, you are there! (Psalms 139: 8 NIV)

 If I make my bed in the depths, you are there!

The presence of God is not a fearful thought. The writer goes on to say that no distance can separate him from God.


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. (Psalms 139:9-10)

What do you think he means by the “wings of the dawn”? This is a beautifully poetic expression. Remember, Jehovah Shammah – God is there.

  1. How the psalmist knows all this;

11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide m me and the light become night around me,”
12 even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you. (Psalms 139:11-12 NIV)

First, because of what we see in the design of the body.

13 For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; our works are wonderful,
I know that full well. (Psalms 139:13-14a)

Then he is struck by the process that is necessary in the forming of a human being.

15 My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. (Psalms 139:15 NIV)


That phrase, “intricately wrought” is one word in the Hebrew. It is really the word for “embroidered.”

The psalmist simply says, “I am astonished when I consider the fact that my inward parts are knit together and embroidered together, and are so necessary one to the other.”Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. (Psalms 139:16a NIV)

The third thing that convinces him then follows;

17 How precious to me are your thoughts God! How vast is the sum of them!
18 Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand—
when I awake, I am still with you
. (Psalms 139:17-18 RSV)

That is also what this psalmist says: How precious are God’s thoughts! How vast is the sum of them! How wide is the range of fact that God comments upon in his revelation. Even if you come to the end, says the psalmist, God is still more.

  1. Search me O God

O that thou wouldst slay the wicked, O God,
and that men of blood would depart from me, (Psalms 139:19 RSV)