Psalm 139 Says What Needs Saying

Pastor Joel C. Gerlach

A noted Scottish churchman, Erskine of Linlathen, once said that Psalm 139 was one bit of writing he would choose to have on hand on his deathbed. Perhaps not your choice, nor mine either for that matter. But not a bad choice. Not because of what it says about death, which is precious little. But because of what it says about life, which is a whole lot. Especially about life’s beginnings. On that score, in fact, Psalm 139 says all that needs saying.

David is meditating in this Psalm on the omniscience and the omnipresence of God. Those are impressive words, omniscient, omnipresent. They tend to impress on us the transcendent aspect of God’s being. He’s way out there somewhere; high, holy, majestic, far removed from little me lost in “the lonely crowd.”

But God is not just transcendent. He is also imminent. He is close enough at hand so that you can reach out and touch Him. You can walk through life knowing that He has His arm on your shoulder. That’s what David is contemplating. If God knows all, He knows about me. If God is everywhere, He’s wherever I am.

David says it so much better. “O Lord, you have searched me and you know me, … when I sit,…when I rise.” You even know my thoughts before I think them. And before I open my mouth to say something, you know what I’m going to say. “You are familiar with all my ways” because you are omniscient.

There’s more. “You hem me in behind and before.” Not to fence me in. Not to coop me up. Not to take the fun out of living. But because you want to “lay your hand upon me.” Not a scolding hand, an upholding hand. Wherever I go, “to havens,… in the depths,…the far side of the sea,” yes, wherever, “your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.” I’m secure; I’m safe; because you are omnipresent.

But why? Why should a majestic, infinite God who inhabits the whole of the heavens single out me from the billions and billions of people on little planet earth and make me a special object of his personal interest and concern? Yes, why?

Here’s why, “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.” Mere chance? Nonsense! Nothing but tissue? More nonsense! From the moment my father’s sperm penetrated my mother’s ovum, your knitting needle was at work to “knit me together.”

“My frame was not hidden from you… Your eyes saw my unformed body when I was woven together…in the secret place.” That’s because omniscient eyes are penetrating eyes, x-ray eyes, and because your deft hand did the weaving.

Fools may protest and say, “But God’s a spirit. He doesn’t have any hands, and people aren’t put together with knitting needles.” They are fools because they deny the power of God’s Word. “Be fruitful and multiply,” God said. He only had to say it once. The power of the procreative process has been operative ever since, knitting human beings together in mothers’ wombs.

Human beings? Persons? Yes, of course! What else? What’s in the womb is alive. It is life; it is human; it is personal. “You knit me together in my mother’s womb.” “I was made in the secret place… Your eyes saw my unformed body.” I didn’t become me after I left my mother’s womb. I was me in my mother’s womb.

Even if that were not so, consider this! If God is doing the knitting and the weaving, who am I, or you, or anyone else, to say to him, “Stop the knitting! Stop the weaving!” Who does God think He is anyway to use someone else’s womb for His sewing room? What presumption! Even if abortion were not killing, who gives creatures the right to tell the Creator where and when He can (or can’t) knit?

Mother-to-be, don’t deny your baby the chance to say someday, “All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them can be.”

Mother-to-be, give yourself the chance to say someday, “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.”

Jesus is that Way.


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