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Sunday, January 03, 2021

“Search Me” Psalm 139 [Matt's Messages]

“Search Me”
Lanse Evangelical Free Church
January 3, 2021 :: Psalm 139

Last week, way back in 2020, Joel Michaels said that Psalm 139 was his favorite Psalm. And that got me thinking about how appropriate Psalm 139 would be for us to focus on for the first Sunday of this new year.

Psalm 139 ends with this prayer request: 

“Search me, O 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.”

Isn’t that a great prayer?

So, the title for today’s message is “Search Me.” And that’s not a snide remark like, “I don’t know! Search me!” No, it’s a prayer for God to look into our hearts and to see what is truly there. It’s an invitation for God to know us as we really are and to move us to become who He wants us to be.

Do you see how that’s a great prayer to begin the new year?

“Search Me.”

How did King David get to the point where he could and would ask God to search him in that way?

So 2021 is now upon us. Who knows what this year will bring? I sure don’t.

None of us could have predicted the events of 2020, so maybe prognostication should not be our focus as the new year dawns.

I’m certain that 2021 will have more blessing in it for God’s people. And there are some key things I’m praying for–including the return to close fellowship in-person with other believers. I want shake hands and hug at church! I want to sing shoulder to shoulder with you and not worry that I’m putting you at risk. I want us all to be together and partake of the Lord’s Supper and have a big old fellowship meal in the Fellowship Hall. And I believe that may come in 2021. Lord-willing, it will.

But I’m also sure that 2021 will have more trouble in it for God’s people. Trials and difficulties, some of them bewildering, perhaps more bewildering than last year. I don’t know.

The bigger question is not what is going to happen to me in 2021, but what kind of person am I going to be before God in 2021?

Will I be faithful?
Will I be trusting?
Will I be obedient?
Will I be loyal?

What kind of a person am I going to be before God in 2021? That’s the question.

“Search me.”

And an even greater question, more importantly still,:

“What kind of a God will God be in 2021?” 

Psalm 139 has wonderful answers to that question.


Psalm 139, verse 1.

“For the director of music. Of David. A psalm.”

We don’t know much more about the context of this prayer–many scholars believe that David has been accused by someone else of being unfaithful to the Lord, and he is seeking vindication here. I’m not sure if that’s true. 

I’m not sure at all what the historical setting was for this Psalm. As we’ve been learning in this series, sometimes, it’s better not to know those details because the application feels even more immediate to our lives now.

Regardless of the setting, it’s a psalm of Kings David meant to be sung by others like you and me and applied to our lives today.

David ends the Psalm by asking God to search him, but he begins the psalm by stating that he knows the LORD already has searched him. V.1

“O LORD, you have searched me and you know me.”
Point #1 of 4 this morning.

#1. YOU KNOW ME.

David can end up asking God to search him, because he already knows that the LORD has already done so. You know me.

“O LORD, you have searched me and you know me.”

That word for “search” means “to examine.”

In our computerized world, we use the word “search” all the time these days. Often, we set a computer going to find some piece of information that we lack. We “google” things nowadays. Right? The ubiquitous “search bar.”

But this is not an impersonal search for a trivial piece of information. This is being known. This is being examined. This is a Person taking a close look at another person. It’s more like a trip to the doctor than putting a query in a Google search bar.

“God, You have checked me out. You know me.”

David is amazed at how well God knows him. V.2

“You know when I sit and when I rise;”

Up or down. You know it.

And not just what position I’m in. What I’m thinking!

“...you perceive my thoughts from afar.”

God is a mind-reader. V.3

“You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.”

Whether I get up and head out on a walk in the morning or come home and go to bed, you know all of my doings. My patterns. My ways.

And this is not just impersonal information. It’s not just that God has a database of factoids about me. He knows me. He is familiar with my ways.

Many of you have pets. Do you know the ways of your pet? If you come home and your pet is nowhere to be seen, do you have a good idea where they could be found? You know the ways of your pet. Their comings and goings and habits. It’s not just that you could look it up in an Encyclopedia. “This is what cats generally do.” You know this pet and how he or she acts. You are familiar with their ways. 

How much more is God familiar with our ways? He knows us better than we know ourselves. V.4

“Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O LORD.”

Sometimes my wife knows what I’m going to say before I do. I thought I just came up with that sentence, but Heather was way ahead of me. Not necessarily because we think alike, but because she knows me.

How much more does God know us! Do you see how personal this Psalm is?

David is saying, “You know me.” Completely. And not just as a bunch of facts but personally, intimately, deeply, truly, relationally.

You know me. V.5

“You hem me in–behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.”

“I just can’t grasp how much you know me, God!”

David is filled with wonder that he is known in this way.

Does that same truth fill us with wonder today?

Most people desperately want to be known. I think that’s one of the major reasons for much of what we see, for example, on social media like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

People are saying, “Know me! I’m putting myself out here. Know me!”

You are known! By the One that matters the most. V.6

“Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.”

#2. YOU’VE GOT ME.

That’s what David was saying in v.5 with “You hem me in–behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me.”

You’ve got me. I’m trapped!

There is no escape from behind–no back door.

And there is no escape from before–you’ve arrested me. You’ve laid your hand on me.

It’s not clear whether or not David wants to escape from God. Perhaps, that feeling of being known also gives him a touch of the willies and fosters an urge to escape. Or maybe he’s just saying that even if he wanted to get away, he knows that he can’t. Either way, there is no. hiding. from the Lord. V.7

“Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. 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.”

There is no getting away from God. He is everywhere.

If verses 1-6 were about God’s omniscience, verses 7- 12 are about God’s omnipresence.

But it’s not just that God is there and standing around like some absent-minded professor.

“Oh yes, he’s here, but he’s not all here.”

No, this is saying that God is present. He is relationally with David wherever David would run to.

The sky? Check.
The ocean floor? Check.
Flying at the speed of light? He’s there.
On the other side of the world? He’s there, too.

You can’t get away from God.

You can run, but you can’t hide.

Not even the darkest place. V.11

“If I say, ‘Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,’ even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.”

For the God who is light, there is no place that is dark.

What’s the upshot of that?

Well, at first, it might not seem like good news. Who wants inescapable supervision? Somebody watching you all of the time? Kind of sounds like prison.

But David knows that it is good news. V.10 again.

Wherever I am, “...even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.”

“Hold me fast.” I’ll tell you wants inescapable supervision: sheep do. Or at least if they don’t want it, they need it. Sheep need a shepherd.

You and I are needy people, and we need a good shepherd to keep a guiding hand on us all of the time.

It’s so good to be able to say, “You’ve got me.”

Start your prayers in 2021 off with that phrase.

“Lord, you’ve got me. I know that I can’t get away from you, and that’s  such a good thing! I’m yours.”

Because...

#3. YOU MADE ME. V.13

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”

This is how deep this relationship goes: David knows that he is the Lord’s creation.

God is not just omniscient and omnipresent. He is the Creator. The Maker. God didn’t just come to know David over time. He has known David all along, from the beginning. Because He made him!

This is the verse that we quote every January around Sanctity of Human Life Sunday. And that’s right. It’s all about that. It’s all about how God is intimately involved in making us. He designed us. He designed each of us personally, and that bestows a heaping measure of dignity to every human life.

But David is saying something even more profound. He’s saying that in making us, God knows us and has every right over us. V.15

“My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place [the womb]. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”

I think that David uses the image of “the depths of the earth” to describe the most hidden place that he can think of. The womb was, for David, the most hidden place a person could be live on earth. But God saw into the womb. God was there, and God was directing that new life.

“All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand. When I awake, I am still with you.”

David just lives in amazement.

He can’t hardly believe how fearfully and wonderfully he is made, and he can’t hardly believe how sovereign God is over his life, and he can’t hardly believe how deep and long and wide are the thoughts of God.

Thoughts that make and create. Thoughts that are so awesome they cannot be numbered!

Now, scholars are divided over what that last sentence in verse 18 means.

“When I awake, I am still with you.”

Does that mean that David has been exhausted by these innumerable thoughts and then wakes up at that point? Or does it go back to the first section and mean that even in the mornings when David gets up, there is God? Some scholars even think it means awakening from resurrection. Even when we come back from the sleep of death.

Any way about it, the point is “I am still with you.”

There He is! There God is. God is not absent. God is present.

And I am with Him.

Now, how “with Him” am I?

How with God am I? He’s all here, but am I all his?

I think that’s the point of the next four verses. For many of us, these four verses feel like an intrusion. Like they don’t fit. But they flowed very naturally for King David. V.19

“If only you would slay the wicked, O God! Away from me, you bloodthirsty men! They speak of you with evil intent; your adversaries misuse your name. Do I not hate those who hate you, O LORD, and abhor those who rise up against you? I have nothing but hatred for them; I count them my enemies.”

Now, we tend to stumble over these verses because they can seem so far from our Lord Jesus’ command to love our enemies.

And there is something new about our Lord’s command that at least modifies what is going on here in these verses.

But the emphasis here is not on personal hatred of those who are our enemies. The emphasis is on loyalty to God over against those who are His enemies. David is saying that he does not side with those who side against God.

“Do I not hate those who hate you, O LORD, and abhor those who rise up against you?” 

Another way of saying it would be to say, “I am not on Satan’s side. Not one bit.”

I’m on the LORD’s side!
I’m on Yahweh’s side.
I don’t identify with the enemies of God. I hate them.

Do you see how that works?

It’s not saying that we shouldn’t love our enemies. God loves His own enemies!
But there is a right way to love our enemies and even a right way to hate them.

If the choice is between loving them and their ways or loving God and His, then we side with God every time.

In other words, David is saying:

#4. YOU CAN COUNT ON ME.

How’s that for a declaration for 2021? I’m going to be on the Lord’s side!

“You can count on me, Lord. You know which side of the battle You will find me on.”

I know that you know me.
I know that you’ve got me.
I know that you made me.

And so...I’m yours. I’m completely yours..

So, yes, go ahead–search me. V.23

“Search me, O 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.”

Go ahead, Lord.

I know. that you already know. what you’ll find.

Search me. Know my heart.
Test me. Examine me.
Listen to my thoughts.

Some of them, I admit, are very anxious. Not just anxious in general, but anxious about 2021. 

And if I’m really honest? Yes, I’m anxious about You, too, God. 

Lord, sometimes You worry me. Sometimes, I feel like I want to escape, to hide, to get out of Your gaze.

But I know there is nowhere to go. And when I think about it the right way, I know that there is no place I’d rather be than. with. You.

Make this your prayer as you step into the new year:

“Search me. Lord, You can see for Yourself that I love you and am loyal to you. I am on your side. In 2021, you can count on me. “See if there is any offensive way in me...” and if there is, I turn away from it right now. Point it out to me. And change me. Lead me in the way everlasting. Put me on the path of righteousness that you have marked out for me."

"Search me.”


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People with exceptionally long memories might remember when I preached Psalm 139 on the cusp of 2014 with the same title and many of the exact same words.  I'm thankful that it's all just as, if not more, true and relevant today.

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Fortifying Truth - Psalms - Fall 2020 / Winter 2021

01. Majestic and Mindful - Psalm 8
02. All Our Days - Psalm 90
03. "The LORD on High Is Mighty!" - Psalm 93
04. "The LORD Is My Shepherd" - Psalm 23
05. "Praise the LORD, O My Soul!" - Psalm 103
06. "The Blessing of Aaron's Oily Beard" - Psalm 133
07. "A Dying Thirst for the Living God" - Psalm 42
08. "Our Fortress" - Psalm 46
09. Unrestless - Psalm 131
10. "Sun and Shield" - Psalm 84
11. "With Songs of Joy" - Psalm 126
12. "His Love Endures Forever" - Psalm 136
13. "How Many Are Your Works, O LORD!" - Psalm 104
14. "My Soul Waits for the Lord" - Psalm 130
15. "Remember David" - Psalm 132
16. "My Son" - Psalm 2

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