Psalm 139:1-12

To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David.

   O Lord, you have searched me and known me!

   You know when I sit down and when I rise up;

you discern my thoughts from afar.

   You search out my path and my lying down

and are acquainted with all my ways.

   Even before a word is on my tongue,

behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.

   You hem me in, behind and before,

and lay your hand upon me.

   Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;

it is high; I cannot attain it.

   Where shall I go from your Spirit?

Or where shall I flee from your presence?

   If I ascend to heaven, you are there!

If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!

   If I take the wings of the morning

and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,

10    even there your hand shall lead me,

and your right hand shall hold me.

11    If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,

and the light about me be night,”

12    even the darkness is not dark to you;

the night is bright as the day,

for darkness is as light with you. [1]


Have you ever heard something that blew your mind and got you incredibly pumped, but you couldn’t explain it to someone else? Worse, when you told it to them, they weren’t that excited. Maybe you thought to yourself, “what aren’t they getting?” or “did I explain it wrong” only to find out that you just got caught up in the moment, and it wasn’t that big of a deal? The opposite problem is when people have terrific things to share, but they do it in such a boring way that no one listens. Well, the same thing can be done in theology. I know, shocker! People can have the most terrific presentations and messages in the world, and you go away pumped for Jesus. But the next day, ask yourself, “what was actually communicated?” On the other side, people can communicate a whole lot. But you miss out on the heart of what is being said because of the presentation.

In this Psalm, you have the perfect marriage of head and heart. Some of the most profound theology, yet it is incredibly personal. I hope to capture the essence of what the Psalmist is trying to do. We will look at the personalized theology, but for us to fully realize these beautiful truths, we need to be in covenant with God, and that happens through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

God Knows You

First, God knows you. Have you ever thought about that? The Psalms are full of truths for us not only to hear but for us to meditate on. Psalm 1 begins by discussing the importance of meditating on God’s truth. By that, we don’t mean emptying our minds and humming. But filling our minds with truth and thinking about what that means for our lives and those around us.

The Searching Knowledge of God

The idea that God knows us is where the Psalmist first turns. This person is going through some difficulty, as we will see later, but the first place they turn is that God knows them. This isn’t just a superficial knowledge, but it is an intimate knowledge. The imagery of opposites used to include knowing all things. This consists of both edges and everything in between. But this leads to the question, is that a good thing? It’s hard to tell if this is a comfort or a challenge. In other words, is God’s all-encompassing presence, something that is positive and uplifting, or is it something that seems suffocating?

Michael Wilcock offers an answer,

“…it could be either; and it would depend on him which it was. There is only a step from one to the other—or rather the two steps it takes to perform the about-turn that the Bible calls repentance. So long as I am looking to my own self-pleasing and away from God, I shall feel his overwhelming knowledge of me as a threat. As soon as I turn from sin and back to him, it becomes a comfort”.[2]

The same is true for us today.

God is with you

The next section continues this either/or type of discussion. This time, it is centered on God’s presence. It appears that the Psalmist answers the first question with “God, knowing me, that freaks me out. What should I do? Maybe run away from him!”. The answer lines up with what Jonah tried to do. God wanted him to reach those at Ninevah, so what did he do? He got outta there!

Can’t Outrun God

But, he explains that he can’t outrun God. This reminds me of trying to be a parent and eat something. It is like a magnet. I can’t get away from my kids fast enough with food; they will be on me no matter what. I mean, sometimes you just want to eat alone. Well, it would be pretty scary if everywhere I tried to run with a snack, my kids were already sitting in the room with their hands out, saying, “can I have some.” This is kind of how the Psalmist feels. They can’t outrun God, not merely because God can follow, but because there isn’t any place where God isn’t already present.

Omnipresence in Real Life

The theology term for this is “omnipresence’. God is present everywhere at all times. But, notice that in this Psalm, that isn’t an abstract reality that doesn’t make a difference in real life. In real life, it’s driving him crazy! He uses the same language of here and there, of in Sheol or the heavens.

This second truth, that God is with us, is again something that is either crushing and terrifying or a great source of joy and assurance. For those who are rebelling against God and unwilling to bow their knee, this is tragic. For those who are in a positive relationship with God – through faith in Christ – this is terrific news. I pray that this is you. Find comfort in the God who knows you and is with you.


Check out another recent Psalm 139 post.

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ps 139:title–12.

[2] Michael Wilcock, The Message of Psalms: Songs for the People of God, ed. J. A. Motyer, vol. 2, The Bible Speaks Today (Nottingham, England: Inter-Varsity Press, 2001), 258.