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JOYFUL JOTTINGS 16
How about a look at Psalm 139 ? Ah, join with me in this spiritual globe trot; for the sights are superb indeed. Further they refresh the soul, invite the heart, stir the faith and call to action.
It is -
How I could ever have failed to realise that it concerned embryonic substance in one of its major pockets of beauty, is now a subject of amazement! It reaches one patience with those who still do not see this or that. It is, I fear, only some 42 years since I caught this, and I am no youth!
Let us then patiently look
within this soaring
SEARCHING, KNOWING, GLORIOUSLY INESCAPABLE,
WHOLLY GOVERNING GOD
This is the topic from vv. 1-12.
David is astonished at the total, searching, dynamic,
never uncontemporary, always up-to-the-minute knowledge which the Lord has of
his body, feelings, thoughts and situation.
It is no leisurely computer-style programmatic, non-emphatic, listless survey. It involves SEARCHING. You see much the same in verses 22-23: "Search me and try me and see if there be any wicked way in me." HERE, at the beginning of the meditation, David is musing with wonder at the depth and breadth, the scope of the knowledge of God, in this intimate personal sense, which nevertheless is also an objective and all-covering, pan-dimensional thing. At the end, he is emphatically WANTING this same searching, he is CO-OPERATING zealously, with feeling and delight in the process.
At the first, the man who always seems to retain something of the shepherd boy in his heart, is feeling almost overwhelmed with the magnitude of being in the hand and mind and heart of God, his Father. It is inescapable. Thus we find him with words like these: " You compass my path, " "There is not a word in my tongue, but behold, O Lord, you know it altogether!"
This knowledge, this KIND of knowledge, the knowledge which is in the heart of God, is altogether too magnificent for David. He acknowledges that it is there; like a stupendous waterfall - Niagara for example - it is splashing down with tons beyond thought, not the rivulets of rain, not the slow moving rivers of quietude, but the appallingly wonderful torrents of surpassing power. It is not a kind of knowledge to which David has access. It is the primal reality of the power of the Creator which has such thoughts as these.
Then comes the sense of being comprehensively, without residue, COVERED, KNOWN, OPEN to God! He begins suddenly to have a sensation of being shut-in!
"Whither shall I go from your Spirit ?" Then the feeling mounts, as if a leopard or lion were lurking: "Or whither shall I flee from Your presence ?"
Yet for all that, it is not a terror but a sense of overpowering presence with a magnitude of mind, a depth of spirit which is limitless, unfathomable, magnificent. TO HEAVEN, then, will David go to find rest from such total comprehension of all that he is ? Not at all, that is the very seat of God. To hell, but this is an outlying area to which there is possible no SIGN as if to say: ACCESS DENIED TO GOD! There is nothing which can limit the Eternal Lord and Prince of all Power.
Geography, can that help ? Taking the wings of the morning, the tendrils of light shining out from the rising sun in its unfettered grandeur, seizing the earth with its light, can David elope from visibility ? Not at all, for there still is God, the same compassionate, shepherding God, who just as David with the stray lamb, knows, hears and acts. Indeed, the perhaps fleeting feeling of being a shut-in develops into a glorying in being never one shut out: never abandoned, never alone, never a lifeless remnant, as it were, a spiritual corpse in the wilderness, a lost child, unadopted, unadapted, lying free among the dead. Vitality and spirituality mix. They have one Father; and David is glad it is God.
But perhaps some sleek thought of burrowing away, self for self, arises: but no! "Surely the darkness shall cover me ?" But no! Or is it merely a thought that perhaps there IS some place unenlightened by the presence of God. Rather the musing seems fluid, liquid, constantly aligning with love and delight, sometimes awe-stricken, and rather like a curious child, he seems to examine possibilities, only to reject them, possibilities open to this or that spirit, but here perhaps overwhelmingly, those of pure investigation, with results such as they would be. Darkness might be sought by the criminal, or by the "I want to be alone" mood of the wounded, or it might be tested by the soldier who considers simply the communication line with his commander. Whatever the ground, the government is the same. Darkness will NOT hide from God.
The prevailing wind of love continues to blow strongly. "The night shall be light about me." This gives the slant: it is the DESIRABLE GOVERNANCE OF GOD which in the end is the refreshing, yes, and relaxing reality.
The sheer extent of this divine involvement, supervisory knowledge, governing presence, as a friend, goes far back. It goes to the very constitution not only of the universe, which consequently He so owns and controls, that no particle is beyond His apprehension, comprehension, survey and oversight. It goes to the constitution of David himself. "By Him, were all things were created", and "without Him was nothing made that was made" (Colossians 1, John 1).
It is the Lord who became flesh - John 1:14. THERE IS NEVER ANY QUESTION OF THERE BEING MORE THAN ONE GOD (Deuteronomy 32:15-21, Isaiah 43:10, 45:22ff., Galatians 3:19-22, Ephesians 4:4-6, see SMR Ch.7, Section 4), SO THAT IN BECOMING FLESH, HE MANIFESTED THE ALMIGHTY DIRECT AND WITHOUT SUBORDINATE INTERMEDIARY, BEING HE). It is He, who is known here, the same yesterday, today, forever (Hebrews 13:8), that LORD to whom every knee shall bow (Isaiah 45:22ff., Philippians 2:1-13), who has sworn BY HIMSELF, there being "NONE ELSE". who has no equal, who shall have it for Himself without addition, who shall have it AS JESUS CHRIST, to whom alone His unique honour can go, since it is His own, the honour OF the Eternal FOR the Eternal.
Besides HIM, Himself, "there is NO SAVIOUR", as it is written in Isaiah and Acts (4:11-12); and thus to Him alone it is due, and to Christ it comes, that shining splendour, the brightness of His glory, who though in the form of God, equality with God His very nature, yet voluntarily took the form of man (Philippians 2). And here, not only is He the Saviour, there is NO OTHER NAME! (Acts 4:11-12). Father and Son, and the Spirit of Truth, one God, have worked all.
It is He whom we have now seen in the flesh, as the Lord Jesus Christ, the same, the only God, expressed in this vulnerable and yet wholly planned way. It is for us as for him. We indeed have the glory that surpasses, in this, that we have beheld Him with the grace and glory as of the only-begotten, the light which shines from the light, the word which expresses the heart of God, infinite with the infinite, but put down to man. WE have seen this breath-taking marvel of humiliation, and sensed the astounding grandeur of His glory, both, also, through His word and Spirit, through which He can manifest Himself.
There is part of the glory
of it. The Old Testament and the New Testament are of ONE GOD. He is the Lord.
He has ever and always been there, available through His covenant, merciful and
mighty, delightful and delicious, awesome and unyielding to all sin, as
pleasant and beautiful as a brother, but pure without alloy, powerful without
defect. He was the same then, and His heart loved the shepherd who in turn
loved the shepherding of the Almighty God. He who so loved, has loved not in
vain, and has come and shown in His Person, the love which was always there,
and in which David had this holy share (cf. Psalm 17:15).
CREATING, MAGNIFICENTLY SCHEDULING SAVIOUR
Psalm 139, then, is here musing on these things, the comprehensive magnificence, knowledge, power, creation, creativeness, control, governance, goodness of God, the God who is available, actual and acting. We are looking at verse13, which is the beginning of a new sequence.
ALL THINGS WERE CREATED BY HIM. David is part of this "all things", both created and made, both brought into any type of existence at all, and formed in the exact format, form, with the precise formulae of the divine designation. Yet for all that, it is a being of spirit who can ponder, who can relate, who can think about these things, who can commune, whose is the light, with whom is the hand of the Governor, the protective, empowering, enabling, caring hand of God: it is this which David now has and uses. It is for all the world like a child beginning to assess the presence of parents; but different in this, that there is both worship - an adoring, worshipping spirit, and comprehension, there is both understanding and delight in this divinely limitless, yet intensively personal God.
"For You have possessed my inward parts; You have covered me in my mother's womb. I will praise You." There is this COVERING. It is physical, in the womb membrane, its fluid buffer; it is mental in the constant surveillance; it is spiritual in the preparatory preliminaries, the movements governing the liberties to come, when David is to be born, to grow and to become a child of none less than the Lord Himself.
(See The Kingdom of Heaven Ch.9, pp. 167ff. for the linguistic and textual details.)
Intricate was the arrangement of properties, precise the programmatic proportions set, and the timing for each phase of the movement from scarcely recognisable, unformed blob (as it might appear to the eye not trained and not microscopically aided) to the delicately organised and integrally purposed being, creation. Step by step it comes, integral in each phase, able to function at the earliest level, though it seems so very diverse from the end product; it does not breathe, but develops lungs; then at birth, it does breath, and uses them perforce, AT ONCE! Preparation is immense, as for a vast and foreseen voyage, as in the discovery of America through the unyielding seas. The result is navigation, and in this case, the arrangements for navigation are precise, purposeful at every point. The VERY DAYS, the TIME for each phase, is set down, it is in its own context sure and sufficient. It is purposed, it is performed. It is written, and it comes. So the shepherd muses on the work of His king in MAKING him!
"Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unformed" (v.16). GOD KNEW it in each stage, was not only aware of it, but caused it to come into being, as something "intricately wrought". Even when there was nothing in the way of an arm or a leg or an organ, yet in the mind of God, it was seen as it was, as it was to be, and in the interstices, what had to go in between. "In your book, all were written." Now of course we see that this is literally true. There is a form of communication of the utmost precision, and intricate indeed is the method by which the orders and and commands are relayed from the information storehouse, inscribed in the DNA, with messenger RNA and various elaborate devices to check and to control. Here is the master's mind which makes the structures which enable the working in this world, of the minds of his creations-called-man.
Just as, when there was "none of them", God saw David's members as embryonic, and to-be-made, all together with an overall comprehensive wisdom of engineering and creation, so of course, and much more, does He see the NOW COMPLETED DAVID in his adult phase, mind and spirit now installed and active, equipment mature. If in this infancy, yes, proto-infancy, God could see and do so well, how much more now that the man is alive to God and able to muse before Him through the equipment thus provided for his spirit, is God able to provide, to superintend and to deliver!
"HOW PRECIOUS ALSO ARE YOUR THOUGHT TO ME, O GOD! HOW GREAT IS THE NUMBER OF THEM! IF I SHOULD COUNT THEM, THEY ARE MORE IN NUMBER THAN THE SAND. WHEN I AWAKE I AM STILL WITH YOU!"
particulars of one's life, be they to the aghast soul, the temporarily
dispirited saint, a very astral panorama of difficulty, yet this is as nothing.
God made the atoms and the cells, the DNA and the contrivances, the means to
put into being itself, then into full operation that trilogy of spirit, mind
and matter which is man. How much more CAN HE guide and control, direct and
protect, undertake and resolve, solve dark and deep issues, undo mysteries and
leave them looking simple, be they theoretical, doctrinal, personal,
professional, financial! They are more in number than the sand. HE KNOWS what
He has made, and with wisdom and power He has made it, who then relates with
that same prodigious availability and energy, understanding and might which He
showed in the creation of the thing in the first place. The 'thing' ? No, the
personal entity, which amazingly is enshrined in flesh, though spiritual in
Now we come to the question of morals very directly, in the special sense of what happens when they are breached, when the Designer is scorned, the Maker is a point of departure, discipline is replaced with deflection. What happens to the wicked, then ?
In the end - and there is an end - they will be slain. You see in Psalm 83:13-17 you see the two phases. First, "So persecute them ... Fill their faces with shame, that they may seek Your name, O Lord!" IF that fails, then "Let them be confounded ; and troubled for ever; yes, let them be put to shame, and perish, that men may know that You whose name alone is the Lord, are the most high over all the earth."
The sheer outrageous impudence, impertinence, folly, vagrancy and moody unreasonableness of BEING WICKED is brought out in this creation psalm. Dealing with the sovereign majesty of God, and His creative prowess, where delicacy and intricacy work with the very modest weakness of man being formed, as he is formed from the womb to this day, yet in TERMS of the PROGRAMMATIC PROCEDURES, unchanged since creation itself! Indeed, "When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have ordained, What is man, that You are mindful of him ? and the son of man, that You visit him ?" (Psalm 8:3-4).
But here in Psalm 139, it is the universe of man-the-created, itself a vast panorama of wonderful rocks and cascades, stars of operation and sunshine of energy: it is man, as created, and still formed on that self-same model of creation, made operational over hundreds of generations, that is the topic, the focus of wonder, the incitement to marvel. "Do I not hate them that hate You!" (Psalm 139:21). Hate! Hate... That is what is written. But how would one hate what the Lord has made ? It is "with a perfect hatred". It is not a personal grudge, vendetta or vilification. It is a detestation of what disjoins from the source of goodness because, by definition, that IS hateful. It is NOT a vain desire for their destruction beyond compassion; it is a desire that if they must depart, then they will do so, for then "shall the righteous shine forth like the sun" (Matthew 13:43). Where ? where ? "in the kingdom of their Father".
What of the weeds, the
dissidents who would not acknowledge the facts, and who would not love the
Lord, but would play games with Him or crucify Him or insist on being equal
with Him, contrary to unalterable fact (we did not exist when He did - this is
a fact) ? They - "the tares are gathered and burned in the fire, so shall it
be in the end of this age." What of this kingdom ? Then, not by human Kosovo horrors,
but by divine knowledge, where truth is a criterion indispensable, "they shall
gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who do
iniquity." You simply CANNOT have things which contradict truth, make
stumbling blocks for those who follow it, lie and deceive, themselves not
least, in the light for ever. The light would be their ruin. They are governed
by darkness, and the light perishes them. It is because of His divine
compassion that the Lord waits so long :
Thus in Psalm 139:20, David, having noted the "perfect hatred", the hatred of the evil with which they are consolidated, not any vindictive or purely or merely personal hatred, hating the virus not the patient, not confusing disease and disaster area, continues to give reason for this essence of detestation. It is because they hate God that David has this alienation from them; alienated from God, they are ipso facto contrary to him also. He is thus "grieved with those who rise up against You" (Psalm 139:21). They "speak wickedly". He will "count them my enemies". So far from presuming into the area of hatred with any personal flesh, any carnal appetite, any vindictive flavour, David is motivated by concern at the invasion of goodness, alienation of truth, rebellion from righteousness; and wholly in terms of this spiritual parricide, this attack and assault on God, is he concerned.
At that, he is not looking at race or face, but at spiritual state. He finds the pathological positions hateful, and would that they might leave them. "Let not a wicked speaker be established in the earth" - he continues in Psalm 140:11. Amen and amen.
Who would not HATE such things; although the agents of it are people themselves, whom one would see likewise delivered from this hateful thing: it is the thing which is hateful, and this IN THEM which is hated, which constitutes the enablement to seek that the discipline to come might lead them to "Seek Your face" as we saw. It is only to the inveterate that THAT does not seem a delight, a deliverance and a relief.
After all, the Lord has not
dealt with us after our sins, and "As a father pities his children, so the
Lord pities those who fear Him ... the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to
everlasting on those who fear Him" - and if they do not enter that door, that simple door,
that open door by faith (Psalm 118:20-24), then it is to their own destruction,
We are not dealing with games. It is a creation by the Creator, and in love He has provided all. Remember David's dealing with Absolam, how he yearned for his son's return, how he sought for him even when he personally was dishonoured and evicted from Jerusalem by a military rebellion led by that same treacherous son. And this, it was a son forgiven much; one who traded on David's mercy to seek to enact his own father's downfall. THAT was the son whom he did not want hurt. He sought to protect son Absolam, even in the battle which could displace himself as king. This is a perfect hatred, a hatred of the evil which yet would delight in the eviction of the same, so that the soul might, being forgiven, be well.
Now of course there is the next question: WHAT ABOUT ME ? AM I GOOD ? Of course it is God who is good, and derivative goodness is achieved not merely by loyalty of heart, sympathy of attitude, even love of spirit: it involves realism. We are all sinners, so all need WASHING (cf. Psalm 51!). We need the achievement of the sacrifice acceptable to God, to cover our sins (Leviticus 4, 16, Hebrews 9, Psalm 51, I John 1-2). In turn we need TO BE SEARCHED BY GOD IN CASE THERE IS ANYTHING RESIDUAL STILL OPERATING CARNALLY IN US! There is situation cleansing and there is dynamic cleansing.
We are cleansed as Christians to begin, and kept in cleanness by the constant governing housekeeping of God. Make no mistake: God is not mocked. The problems of those who yield to the follies of fantasy in the alleged presence of faith are profound. While God does not break the bruised flax, He does not heal it by having it ravaged by a perpetual hurricane, let alone one constantly beckoned by weather-changing devices. Faith is not merely a name, but a dynamic reality (James 2:17). The body of the babe is not bogus, but real, and the life of the saint, the child of God, is not a mere pious fiction, a poetic fantasy, but a child's rearing and safekeeping in the household of faith. The Father is present in the process (cf. John 14:21-23, Colossians 1:27, John 15:26).
We must be "clean who bear the vessels of the Lord"; we must be "perfecting holiness in the fear of the Lord" ( II Cor. 7:1). He who is born of God does not "make a practice of sin" (I John 3:9 'does not practise sin'). Sinlessly perfect WE ARE NOT (I John 1:8-9); but freed from sin's rule we must be (John 8:34-36). Its sovereignty over us must be nil. It is one thing to be a rather poor driver; it is another to obey some voice telling us to find the bottom of the ditch with our front wheels, or to climb a lamp post with our bumper bar as pivot, or slide.
"Search me and try me and see if there be any wicked way in me" (Psalm 139:23).
GOD MADE with all KNOWLEDGE, as we saw earlier in the Psalm; He crafted with all understanding; He protects, guides, corrects with all zest and zeal, we found; so now that same INABILITY to ESCAPE the knowledge of God with which the Psalm started, becomes applied in a special field.
It goes like this. It is as if to say to Him:
YOU HAVE ALL KNOWLEDGE SO USE IT. YOU WHO CONSTRUCTED ME SO COMPREHENSIVELY AND DISCERNS ALL SO PERFECTLY. Check me out. Give me the test. DO NOT let anything pass muster on false pretences. I do not trust even myself; but my intention is pure. Therefore kindly give to me the tests which are apt, adequate and appropriate; and if you DO FIND anything lurking there, rid me of it. So it is for you and for me, peace. Thus,
"Lead me, in the way everlasting," (Psalm 139:24),
which does not finish, which is past all these admittedly wonderful but preliminary formulations and formations, these womb wonders and these working marvels. Lead me where eternity is, where You are, and where I shall be. Is this not to remind us:
"Beloved, what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called the children of God; therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him.
"Beloved, now are we the children of God, and it does not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him for we shall see Him as He is. And every man who has this hope in him, purifies himself, even as He is pure." So I John 3 echoes Psalm 139, and translates the same marvel in the light of our indescribable blessedness, that the Messiah is not merely to come; He HAS COME and has DONE IT!
As Hebrews puts it:
"God who at sundry times and in diverse manners spoke in times past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, by whom also He made the worlds, who, being the brightness of His glory , and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of Majesty on high..." (1:1-3).
What a psalm, what balm,
what beauty, what truth! And how wonderful the Lord is!
In Psalm 139:16,
we saw in our translation on p. 129, reference to a "book’:
Hence when the modern discoveries of DNA, so well set forth in Denton’s EVOLUTION: A THEORY IN CRISIS, for example:
What then ?
When we see
This: there is indeed a book of the Lord. Whether there is in any sense a prototype, and presumably there is for each of these exemplars, some hurt in genetic damage in this way or that; or whether the reference is to its equivalent in His mind, there is such an assemblage of information, and it is present in each cell in a composure of condensed, spread forth information often scientifically compared to a book, or a very large book indeed! The Lord’s book, ‘Thy book’ as David calls it, in that sense, is like a massive set of encyclopedias. In it, indeed, is written not only the phases and forms, but the means and the end… The members, the organic components are all ‘written’ together with the time phases, the days for their exhibition and composition, ‘before as yet any of them existed.’
THIS IS SIMPLY ONE MORE VERIFICATION OF THE DIVINE ORIGIN OF THE BIBLE, PROVEN SEPARATELY, BUT CONSTANTLY PROVIDED FOR TESTING AND CONFIRMATION.
IN TERMS OF SCIENTIFIC METHOD, THIS IS ONE MORE SPECTACULAR VERIFICATION.
For further on Psalm 139, see Ch. 9, The Kingdom of Heaven, Bible Translation, at this point.