Psalm 139:23-24 (NIV)
Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.
Our verse today continues to point us toward the pursuit of holiness in our lives; however, in full context we find a focus on the glory and power of God. I often go to this Psalm to remind myself that God is ever presence … no matter where I go … no matter what I am doing or saying. He is there observing … listening … knowing the thoughts of my heart. As David asserts, we cannot hide from God … there is nowhere to run from His presence … because He fills all things and knows all things. We deceive ourselves if we think or entertain otherwise….
I have reprinted the entire Psalm here for your reference so that you can consider the context of the prayerful petition David presents:
1 You have searched me, Lord, and you know me.
2 You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar.
3 You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.
4 Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely.
5 You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.
can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?
8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide 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.
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; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
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.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.
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.
only you, God, would slay the wicked! Away from me, you who are bloodthirsty!
20 They speak of you with evil intent; your adversaries misuse your name.
21 Do I not hate those who hate you, Lord, and abhor those who are in rebellion against you?
22 I have nothing but hatred for them; I count them my enemies.
23 Search me, God, and know my heart;test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.
Besides the introspection we find here, I feel that David conveys a calm, “surrendered” tone in his discourse. He seems to find delight in the fact that God knows him … and knows him intimately. David does not seem fearful of this knowledge because in Verses 23-24 we see David inviting God to search him and test him. Why? Because David desired to correct anything displeasing to God. David sought accountability from God … and knew God would tell him the truth in love. He sees the rebellion in the hearts of others and despises it. He sees their evil intent and knows it offends God. David wants no part of their iniquities and asks God to cleanse his own heart. All of this meditation is within the context of God’s omniscience and omnipresence.
So what are the implications for us and our walk with God? Very much the same…. If we know that God sees all (and He does), how should that affect our conduct, our conversation, our confession, and our commitment? Should we not be more self-aware of God and His presence? Should we not fear (have great reverence) for the Creator who formed us and gave us the breath of life? We are living beings and God delighted to create us and have fellowship with us. Why do we run or try to hide from His presence? It is futile … and David makes the case here right.
I asked that question, but the answer is obvious. Did not the first human beings flee from the presence of God in the Garden of Eden? Adam and Eve were disobedient and knew it … and “hid themselves” because of their guilt and shame. (Cf. Genesis 3:10) It happens to us all. Each of us has separated ourselves from God because of our sin. So we need both His forgiveness and reconciliation. And God in His great love, compassion, and mercy, provided us with His forgiveness and reconciliation. It is found in the life of His Son, Jesus. Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” (Cf. Acts 4:12)
As I ponder this Psalm, I thought about what the Apostle John wrote along these lines. Why do people run from God instead of to Him? I love how John frames this concern within the context of God’s tremendous love us:
John 3:16-21 (NIV)
16 For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.18 Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. 19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.
In his Psalm, David sought the light of God for his heart and for his life. He wanted to know the truth and follow the ancient way (Cf. Jeremiah 6:16) David had figured out that God, being who God is, already knows everything about us anyway. He already knows the truth because He formed us. We are not going to hide anywhere from the presence of God. It is impossible. So we might as well submit to Him … be cleansed by Him … be redeemed and reborn through His Son as God made provision. Yes, we need to join David and ask God to search our hearts … to test and refine us … to remove any offensive attribute or character flaw … and to lead us in the way, the truth, and the life. Otherwise, like the world, we will show that we love darkness more than light. Like the world, we will deceive ourselves into thinking God does not hear our words or observe our deeds. Like the world, we will become indifferent to the presence of God and His love – indifferent to the cross and the atoning blood of His Son shed upon it.
So, let this be our prayer … each of us. Let us pray like David: Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. Amen.