PSALM 140 TALK:   A SONG FOR THE PERSECUTED

PSALM 140 TALK:   A SONG FOR THE PERSECUTED

 (The third Psalm of a collection of eight Psalms attributed to King David in the fifth and final book of Psalms. This Psalm features the idea of how God’s enemies always seek to bring down God’s people one way or another and therefore persecute God’s people sometimes in vicious and cruel ways. This is because we are all caught up in a great spiritual battle against the forces of evil but God promises through his mercy and love to help and protect his persecuted followers and ultimately bring them into his eternal presence in heaven.)

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INTRODUCTION

You will not see this on the news or read it in the newspapers or on the internet but Christians today are the most persecuted people in the world. If you don’t believe me let me share these statistics I found on a site called “Open Doors”,

Every month:

  • 255 Christians are killed
  • 104 are abducted
  • 180 Christian women are raped, sexually harassed or forced into marriage
  • 66 churches are attacked
  • 160 Christians are detained without trial and imprisoned.

I don’t want to hit you with more statistics but simply point out that no matter where you live as a Christian you will face some kind of opposition for simply believing in the Lord Jesus Christ and his word.

In the west Christians are verbally attacked by non-believers as people who believe in fairy tales and hold dangerous ideas that lead to people into false hope in a God who simply does not exist. This opposition in the west can lead to loss of jobs or job promotions, verbal abuse and as I have felt the butt of many people jokes.

In communist countries like China and North Korea Christians suffer much worse physically and socially with imprisonment and even death.

In Muslim countries things get even worse for Christians as many Muslims see Christians as their number one enemies who in their belief system are under God’s judgement and deserve not just death but painful death.

I could tell you many incredible true stories of what I call acts of courage’s love that demonstrate Christians loving their enemies and praying for those who persecute them as Jesus commands his followers to do in passages like Matthew 5: 43 – 44. I will share just one to show how Christians have acted towards their persecutors and how powerful their witness is. The story I would like to tell comes from an internet blog page called “Daily Focus” in 2017.

In the war -torn country of Syria during the time of the extreme Muslim IS persecutions of many Christians there Pastor Farid and his family received many death threats and over 30 of these were spray painted on the front of his house.

Some of these spray- painted death threats went like this, number one how they would kill the Pastor, two how they were going to kill his wife and three how they were going to kill his children.

Pastor Farid chose to show love towards the people who made these death threats and pray for his persecutors. He got death threats from one Muslim man named Rashid by text messages on his phone. Pastor Farid did not replace his phone but continued to pray for Rashid and eventually working out where he lived and one day Pastor Farid knocked on his door and gave him a copy of the bible.

The story goes that Rashid and his family some weeks later found themselves trapped in their home during a time of intense bombing and Rashid finding no comfort in the Quran decided to read the bible Pastor Farid had given him. Rashid found the bible message so helpful and it is said he fell in love with the Jesus he found there. Rashid and his family became Christians and Rashid now is so committed to his new church in Syria he writes beautiful Syrian hymns for worship.

Psalm 140 is another Psalm of David that I have called “A Song for the Persecuted” as David sings a song that is also a prayer to God asking for protection and help against his enemies who seek to kill him, verses 4,

“Keep me safe, Lord, from the hands of the wicked; protect me from the violent, who devise ways to trap my feet”.

 David speaks of his problems with his persecutors as being like a war (vs. 2) or a battle (vs. 7) and this reminds me of the words of St Paul in Ephesians 6: 10 – 12,

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armour of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms”.

 We cannot tell exactly when David wrote this Psalm but this Psalm is similar to the next four Psalms and Psalm 142 Hebrew heading speaks of it being written or inspired to be written when David was on the run from King Saul and hid in a cave. This could indicate that Psalm 140 and the other three Psalms were also written some time during the eight years that David was on the run from Saul when he faced serious persecution from Saul and his many followers.

 In this Psalm talk I will treat this Psalm as “A Song for the Persecuted” as David gave this Psalm to “The director of music” and features all through it encouraging teaching for any Christian who is facing persecution.

My outline for this Psalm talk illustrate this:

  1. (1 – 3)   RESCUE FOR THE PERSECUTED
  1. (vs. 1) A call for God to rescue the persecuted
  2. (2 – 3) A description of the persecutors

      2   (4 – 5)   PROTECTION FOR THE PERSECUTED

  1. (vs. 4) Keep the persecuted safe and protected
  2. (vs. 5) The arrogance of the persecutors

       3   (6 – 8)  MERCY FROM GOD FOR THE PERSECUTED

  1. (vs. 6) A call for God’s mercy for the persecuted
  2. (7 – 8) May God’s mercy shield the persecuted

       4  (9 – 11)   VINDICATION FOR THE PERSECUTED

  1. (vs. 9) Vindication for the persecuted by God turning the tables
  2. (10-11) Vindication for the persecuted by God’s judgment

       5  (12 – 13)  ASSURANCE FOR THE PERSECUTED

  1. (vs. 12) God upholds the persecuted
  2. (vs. 13) The persecuted will praise God in his presence

 Let’s then have a close look at this “Song for the Persecuted” using these headings:

  1. (1 – 3) RESCUE FOR THE PERSECUTED
  1. (vs. 1) A call for God to rescue the persecuted

This song for the persecuted starts with a desperate call to God for rescue from violent persecutors,

“Rescue me, Lord from evildoers; protect me from the violent”.

 Allan Harman points out that the Hebrew word for rescue,

“Occurs quite often describing rescue of his people from distress”

 Like Psalm 81: 7,

“In your distress, you called and I rescued you, I answered you out of a thundercloud;

 I tested you at the waters of Meribah”.

 Note how David describes his persecutors in this opening verse as violent evil doers and this is a good description of King Saul and his followers and a good illustration of this is when David first escaped from King Saul and went to a place called Nob and sheltered with a group of priests in a place of worship there. The head priest was a man named Ahimaleck who gives David and his men shelter, food and the sword of Goliath.

King Saul learns of David’s stay with Ahimelek and goes there to question him and then his evil and violent attitude towards the God fearing and God honouring David is described this way in 1 Samuel 22: 17 – 19,

 “Then the king ordered the guards at his side: “Turn and kill the priests of the Lord, because they too have sided with David. They knew he was fleeing, yet they did not tell me.”

But the king’s officials were unwilling to raise a hand to strike the priests of the Lord.

18 The king then ordered Doeg, “You turn and strike down the priests.” So Doeg the Edomite turned and struck them down. That day he killed eighty-five men who wore the linen ephod.19 He also put to the sword Nob, the town of the priests, with its men and women, its children and infants, and its cattle, donkeys and sheep”.

 David knew the gory details of Saul’s violent persecution at Nob because one son of Ahimelek named Ahitub escaped and joined David’s small band of followers. David tells Ahitub this recorded in 1 Samuel 22: 23,

“Stay with me, don’t be afraid. The man who wants to kill you is trying to kill me. You will be safe with me”.

 Psalm 140 could well be a Psalm David wrote after this tragic persecution of the priests of Nob but many more tragic acts of persecution were performed by King Saul and his followers over the next eight years before King Saul took his life in the midst of a losing battle with The Philistines and then David became king.

Even if David was a traitor to King Saul and his homeland Israel, which he wasn’t the reaction of Saul was grossly over the top and we see today the reaction to Christians in our world today is often grossly over the top. They are treated in many countries with such evil violence that not even the worse of criminals in their countries receive and yet all they seek to do is live peacefully and show love to their neighbours.

The problem is of course King Saul and those who persecute Christians today are not operating on a rational level but are motivated by dark and evil spiritual forces set on pulling down the people of God. Peter pin- points that it is the devil who is behind these attacks and when he gives us this word of warning and encouragement about the operation of the devil in this world as we as Christians seek to live for Christ, 1 Peter 5: 8 – 9,

“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings”.

 So, David prays for God’s protection from these evil violent persecutors something we will see him develop even more in this Psalm 140.

  1. (2 – 3) A description of the persecutors

David then goes on to describe his evil and violent persecutors in much more detail in verses. 2 and 3 which says,

“Who devise evil plans in their hearts and stir up way every day. They make their tongues as sharp as serpents; the poison of vipers is on their lips”.

 David gives us three vivid poetic descriptions of his evil and violent persecutors and they are:

  1. Devisers of evil plans
  2. War mongrels
  3. Sharp poison speakers

Let me flesh these three poetic descriptions out a bit:

  1. Devisers of evil plans

David describes his persecutors as those,

“Who devise evil plans in their hearts”.

 Albert Barnes believes the phrase “evil plans” is better translated, mischiefs” or “evil wickedness” and says this,

“It was not a single purpose, the plan embraced many forms of evil – doing him wrong in every way possible”.

 So, in his persecutors hearts lay the idea and plan to bring evil upon David and his faithful followers. David spent up to eight years on the run from King Saul and as we saw previously even innocent people who simply showed care and hospitality to David and his men were treated in a most vicious cruel manner showing that king Saul and his faithful followers of like Doeg were motivated by a very evil and Godless force.

Today many Christians like those in North Korea face the same “evil plans” from the Godless leaders of their country. 

  1. War mongrels

David describes his persecutors as those who,

“Stir up war every day”

 In verse 7 David uses war type imagery again when he writes,

“Sovereign Lord, my strong deliverer, you shield my head in the day of battle”.

 In my introduction, I quoted Pauls words in Ephesians 6: 10 – 12 that tell us that in this life before Jesus returns to totally over – throw all evil we are all caught up in a great spiritual battle or war,

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armour of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms”.

Paul goes on to speak of the spiritual armour and weapons God equips us with to fight in this war of “spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms”. So, the war we are all caught up in is very real and at times violent and disturbing but as followers of the Lord Jesus Christ Paul says in Romans 8: 37 – 39 that we are more than conquerors,

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord”.

Some non-believers say that religions have caused most of the world wars in history and of course this is a very broad sweeping claim but there is some truth in it as behind all wars, I believe from what the bible says there is a spiritual dimension and the devil has used the sin or rebellion of man to God to raise up evil leaders like Adolf Hitler who forced the world into war by his wilful invasions of peace loving countries in Europe in the 1930’s and 40” s.

War could be described as sin and rebellion to God on a national level as greed, power and racial prejudice’s cause many counties to go to war with other countries with devastating consequences.

David and his small band of followers were forced into a kind of war with his own country when King Saul accused David of national treachery and even though David wanted to pursue peace Saul stirred up war every day as verse 2 tells us.

Jesus predicted that before he comes again there will be wars and rumours of war in Matthew 24: 6 – 8,

“You will hear of wars and rumours of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains.

 Note how Jesus both speaks of wars and rumours of wars before he comes again but does not say that they will be the indication of his coming but part of the age we live in which I like to call The Gospel Age as he goes on to speak of persecution and an increase in wickedness but then the preaching of the Gospel to the whole world and then the end will come in verses 9 – 14,

 “Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. 10 At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, 11 and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. 12 Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, 13 but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. 14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come”.

 Also note how Jesus predicts persecution of his followers before he returns as well.

 So, as Christians what should we be noted for in times of war?

I believe what we should be noted for in times of war in the Gospel age is:

  1. Preaches of the Gospel (Matthew 24: 14)
  2. Promoters of love and peace (Matthew 5: 7 – 9)

Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of heaven”.

 Even if God leads a Christian to serve in the military his or her service should also reflect Gospel witness, love and the promotion of peace. I have read of great Christians who served in the military who manged to be seen as both a great witness for Christ and also demonstrators of love and peace.

  1. Sharp poison speakers

David then speaks in verse 3 of his persecutors use of what he calls, “their tongues” and he writes,

“They make their tongues as sharp as serpent’s; the poison of vipers is on their lips”.

 David speaks a lot about what I call “The Battle of Words’ which is the title of my Psalm talk for Psalm 12 and I like what David says about this battle of words or the tongue in verses 3 and 4 of that Psalm,

“May the Lord silence all flattering lipsand every boastful tongue—those who say, “By our tongues we will prevail; our own lips will defend us—who is lord over us?”

 David was a great warrior but he seems to have had just as much attack by what his enemies said to him or said about him. Here in verse 3 of this Psalm his persecutors tongues are described as a sharp weapon like a sword and like the poison a snake injects into its victims.

It is the persecution of verbal attacks that seem to feature from here on in the Psalm and it is verbal attacks that many Christians suffer today from their non-believing God of the bible persecutors.

Jesus speaks of verbal persecution in the context of general persecution in Matthew 5: 10 – 12 and tells us it will happen and how we are to react to it when it comes,

“Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you”.

 Note how Jesus says we are to rejoice and be glad when we are verbally persecuted and this lies in the idea that we are proving we are truly Jesus disciples when we are verbally persecuted and our reward is in heaven because we belong to Christ.

      2   (4 – 5)   PROTECTION FOR THE PERSECUTED

  1. (vs. 4) Keep the persecuted safe and protected

David continues to ask God for rescue and protection from his persecutors in verse 4 and puts that this way,

“Keep me safe, Lord, from the hands of the wicked; protect me from the violent, who devise ways to trip my feet”.

 David escaped or was rescued and kept safe from his chief persecutor in his early life, King Saul on many occasions and I think David never took this help he received from God for granted. Saul went out of his way to trap and capture David but over and over his attempts to do this failed and David sometimes in the nick of time escaped the clutches or as it says in verse 4, “the hands of the wicked”.

 Today many Christians, as I pointed out in my introduction face constant threats of death at the hands of many vicious persecutors but I have read of many miraculous interventions of our Lord on their behalf saving many from traps their persecutors had set for them to trip them up and take their lives.

Some of course are caught by their persecutors and killed for their allegiance to the Lord Jesus Christ but as Jesus said in Matthew 10: 28,

 “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell”.

 The one who can destroy both soul and body in hell is of course God who this verse is referring to as the Judge and the judgment that comes on those who oppose God and his people but as we read in the last section Jesus also said in Matthew 5: 10,

“Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”.

 The persecutors of Christians cannot stop those they persecute going to heaven and if of course they do not repent and turn to Christ as their Saviour they one day will fall into the hands of the God who can, “destroy both soul and body in hell”.

  1. (vs. 5) The arrogance of the persecutors

 However, in this life usually the persecutors of Christians are like how David describes his persecutors in verse 5 as “Arrogant”, he writes,

“The arrogant have hidden a snare for me; they have spread out the cords of their net and have set traps for me along my path”.

 Arrogance or Pride lies at the heart of rebellion to God and is mentioned along with other sinful activities that comes from our rebellion to the rule of God in our lives, Romans 1: 28 – 32,

“Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. 29 They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31 they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. 32 Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them”.

 David then uses a favourite poetic image for the way these arrogant persecutors act towards him, namely the image of a hunter’s trap, he writes,

“They have spread out the cords of their net and have set traps for me along my path”.

 H.C Leopold picks up four other times David speaks of his persecutors setting traps for him, Psalm 31: 4, 57: 6, 64: 5 and 142: 3 and as I said before Saul sought to trap David many times but failed and as Psalm 57: 6 says Saul often found his trap only caused him to fail.

They spread a net for my feet— I was bowed down in distress. They dug a pit in my path—

 but they have fallen into it themselves”.

 On two occasions when Saul sought to trap David he ended up in a cave where David could have easily killed him but David refused to do so as he believed he could not kill the Lords anointed King only God could do this. Interestingly Psalm 142 has the Hebrew Heading of, “Of David. When he was in the cave” and verse 3 of that Psalm is the final David reference to his persecutors setting traps for him.

Christians today are often set up to fail or be caught by their persecutors but they too often experience these traps being foiled by the Lord working through the events of these incidents.

Paul was so confident the Lords protection he speaks of it in his second letter to the Thessalonians this way, 2 Thessalonians 3: 3,

“But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one”

       3   (6 – 8)  MERCY FROM GOD FOR THE PERSECUTED

  1. (vs. 6) A call for God’s mercy for the persecuted

 Other religions like Islam seem to present the idea that martyrdom or being persecuted earns a person the right for God to help them or even reward them in heaven but the Jewish / Christian faith says something very different as we see in verse 6 of David’s Psalm 140, which says,

“I say to the Lord, ‘You are my God’. Hear, Lord my cry for mercy”.

 David has asked God to rescue and protect him against his persecutors violent and their arrogant threats but he asks for this according to this verse on the basis of God’s mercy or in New Testament terms, grace which is undeserved love which the God of the bible has much to give. As David points out in Psalm 57: 3,

“He sends from heaven and saves me, rebuking those who hotly pursue me – God sends forth his love and his faithfulness”.

 Even David realised he did not deserve God’s mercy or love and faithfulness but God gave it to him because that’s who God is, a God of love and faithfulness. Paul speaks of God’s grace over and over again in his letters to the churches and this amazing grace of God is especially spelt out in a passage like Ephesians 2: 4 – 9,

“But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast”.

 Note how Paul makes it clear that our salvation is not a result of our works in any way but comes totally from the undeserved love of God he calls “God’s Grace”.

So, when Christians today are rescued and or protected from their persecutors it is not because of their acts of bravery or good works but it comes because the God they trust in is a God of mercy or grace.

  1. (7 – 8) May God’s mercy shield the persecuted

 So, David wants God to rescue and protect him from his persecutors on the basis of his mercy or in New Testament terms, grace and now in verses 7 and 8 he spells out even clearer what God’s mercy needs to provide for him, he writes,

“Sovereign Lord, my strong deliverer,you shield my head in the day of battle.Do not grant the wicked their desires, Lord; do not let their plans succeed”.

 I see two things David wants God’s mercy to do for him:

  1. Deliver and Shield him
  2. Fraught the plans of his persecutors

Let’s have a closer look at each of these two things David wants God’s mercy to do for him:

  1. Deliver and shield him

David makes an appeal for deliverance using a very strong name or expressed characteristic of the God of the bible in the words,

“Sovereign Lord my strong deliverer”

 I turn to a commentator who knew Hebrew to explain the full implication of this description of Gods character here at the start of verse 7, Albert Barnes, who writes,

“Literally, “Yahweh, Lord, the strength of my salvation” The word rendered “God,” in the original, is יהוה Yahweh The, address is to Yahweh as the Lord; that is, as the supreme Ruler – who presides over all things. Him the psalmist acknowledged as “his” Lord and Ruler. The phrase “the strength of my salvation” means the strength or power on which my safety depends. I have no other hope of deliverance but in thee”.

 David wants this powerful and mighty God to be his deliverer and shield and remember he can only hope for such a powerful God to help him because he is also a great God of mercy or in New Testament terms grace – unmerited love.

The term, “shield my head in the day of battle” is also a very interesting term and I like Leupold’s explanation of this,

“It is as if a man held a sturdy protection over the head of the other”.

 Here David wants God to hold a shield over his head as he faced his vicious persecutors. The head in ancient times had lots of special and strong protection and in Paul’s picture of our spiritual armour the head is protected by our salvation, Ephesians 6: 17,

“Take the helmet of salvation”

 As we saw in the previous section we are saved by God’s grace alone, Ephesians 2: 4 – 9,

“But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast”.

 So, the only thing that can fully protect us against the attacks of our persecutors is our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ for he alone has saved us no matter what any persecutor might say or do to us. This is why Paul can say in Romans 8: 37 – 39 that we are more than conquerors,

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord”. 

  1. Fraught the plans of his persecutors

The second thing David wants God in his mercy to do for him is expressed this way in verse 8,

“Do not grant the wicked their desires, Lord; do not let their plans succeed”.

 Of course, the plans or some commentators translate “Schemes” are to hurt and bring down the faithful followers of the God of the bible so David appeals to that God, he calls Lord to interfere with these plans so that they do not succeed. I have read of Christians in badly persecuted countries praying similar types of prayers and God has answered them with the way things have not worked for the persecutors and many Christians have been saved.

Spurgeon makes a very balanced comment on this when he writes,

“The Lord may allow success to attend the policy of the wicked for a time for wise reasons unknown to us. But we are permitted to pray that it be not so. The petition “Deliver us from evil” includes and allows such supplication”.

 No matter what plans or wicked persecutors might succeed with we as true believers can rest in the comforting words of Paul in Romans 8: 28,

“And we know that in all things God works for good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose”.

 Note how this wonderful verse indicates that God has a purpose or plan for those who love him and sometimes that might not always seem obvious especially when I read of the terrible things Christian persecutors have done to believers in some parts of the world today but God has a plan and this verse says that this plan is,

“That in all things God works for good”. 

       4  (9 – 11)   VINDICATION FOR THE PERSECUTED

  1. (vs. 9) Vindication for the persecuted by God turning the tables

We come then to the imprecatory prayer or prayer for God’s judgment to come on our enemy’s part of this Psalm. I have spoken many times on how we as Christians are commanded by The Lord Jesus Christ to treat and pray for our enemies and persecutors and the verses I have often shared on this are Matthew 5: 43 – 48,

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect”.

 This change of attitude to that found in many Psalms on how we treat our enemies and persecutors like we find here in Psalm 140 and other places where we have imprecatory prayer or prayer for God’s judgment to come on our enemy’s is mainly because with the coming of Jesus we have a much clearer offer of the grace of God or the mercy of God to fallen wicked men and women. Jesus then wants us to offer the same grace we have received from God to all other sinners including those who seek to persecute us.

In verse 9 David is praying an imprecatory prayer or prayer for God’s judgment to come on our enemies for his enemies or persecutors but it could also be seen as a kind of vindication as well, he writes,

“Those who surround me proudly rear their heads; may the mischief of their lips engulf them”.

 Allan Harman strikes this note of vindication with these words,

“He (David) is a loyal covenant servant who wants God to vindicate him by turning the evil of the enemies back upon them”.

 Albert Barnes explains the phrase, “proudly rear their heads” with a quote from Luther,

 “Luther renders this, “The calamity which my enemies design against me must fall upon their own heads.”

 While other translations like the English Standard Version translate the phrase, “engulf them” to “overwhelm them”.

 Again, David is seeking vindication from God in that as God’s faithful servant trusting in his mercy and love he wants his proud and cruel persecutors to have what they want done to him actually happen to them.

For us a Christians I must point out two important realities here:

  1. Jesus wants us to love and pray for those who persecute us
  2. God’s ultimate judgment will fall on those who refuse to turn to Christ and continue to persecute believers.

Let me now comment on these two realities”

  1. Jesus wants us to love and pray for those who persecute us.

As I pointed out Jesus a number of times calls on all of his followers to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us (Matthew 5: 43 – 48). I’m sure that is what many early Christians did for Saul who became Paul who Acts 9: 1 and 2 says,

“Was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem”.

 We all know what happened to Saul on the way to Damascus as this proud and cruel persecutor of Christians in the days of the church was engulfed or overwhelmed by a wonderful vision of the Lord Jesus and through this Saul was soundly converted to Christ and became Paul one of the greatest Christian missionaries and writer of a great part of the New Testament.

In my story of persecution in Syria of recent times I spoke of Pastor Farid who loved and prayed for one of his persecutors named Rashid and put this into action by giving Rashid a copy of the Bible and this led to Rashid’s conversion to Christ and his total transformation into a faithful servant of the church he once persecuted.

  1. God’s ultimate judgment will fall on those who refuse to turn to Christ and continue to persecute believers.

I have said on a number of previous occasions when imprecatory prayers before that these prayers remind me of the bibles teaching that God’s judgment is certainly coming.

If those who persecute Christians and the churches they belong to don’t turn to the love and forgiveness of God they will face certain judgment as we read in John 3: 17 – 21,

“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”.

 I think it was Martin Luther who pointed out that every time we pray the word’s in the Lord’s prayer, “Thy kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven” we are praying for God’s judgment to come and that means that those who do not believe in the Lord Jesus for their salvation will fall under the judgment of God when Jesus returns.

2    (10-11)  Vindication for the persecuted by God’s judgment

David gets even more into the praying for God’s judgment to come upon his persecutors in verses 10 – 11 and verses 10 says this,

“May burning coals fall on them; may they be thrown into the fire, into miry pits, never to rise.

 This verse has to me the feel of prophecy for verse 10 not only relates to the persecutors of true God believers in David’s day but is in fact is a kind of prophecy of the future judgment to come for all who do not turn to Christ and who oppose him and his faithful followers.

Two very scary and sobering passages come to mind in the New Testament that mirror verse 10 for me and the first comes from the lips of The Lord Jesus Christ himself in Matthew 13: 49 – 50,

“This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous 50 and throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth”.

 The second comes from one of the final chapters of the book of Revelation, Revelation 20: 10 – 15,

“And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulphur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever.

 11 Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. The earth and the heavens fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. 12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. 

 13 The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what they had done. 14 Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death.15 Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire”.

 This frightening prophecy of what will happen to all non-believers including those who persecute Christians and the churches they belong to should cause us to pray and witness to them so that they might like us escape this terrible day of judgment through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and his death for our sins on the cross.

 So far as verse 11 which says,

“May slanderers not be established in the Land; may disaster hunt down the violent”.

 Again, I think David is seeking vindication through God’s judgment of his persecutors in that they will not prosper and be established in his country, Israel but rather have disaster hunt them down and with verse 10 in mind be done away with forever.

David Guzik sums up this verses with these words,

“These evil men hunted David. David prayed that the same would be returned to them, that the hunters would be hunted by their very evil”.

 Israel is God’s Covenantal Promised land for his people in the Old Testament and is replaced in the New Testament by the New Covenant and the eternal home of heaven and that eternal home is only offered to those who have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as Paul speaks about in terms of eternal glory or heaven and how it is obtained when writing to Timothy in 2 Timothy 2: 10 – 12,

“Therefore, I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they too may obtain the

salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory.11 Here is a trustworthy saying:If we died with him,we will also live with him;12 if we endure,we will also reign with him.If we disown him, he will also disown us”.

 The writer to the Hebrews speaks of heaven to come for all true believers in Old testament terms of an eternal inheritance and New Covenant that God offers to all true believers in Hebrews 9: 15,

“For this reason, Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant”.

 So, again I see David’s imprecatory prayers or prayers for God’s judgment to come on our enemies as a reminder of the certain judgment of God to come when Christ returns which also reminds me of the great hope of heaven that all who turn to Christ in repentance and faith have that also fully comes at the return of Christ.

       5  (12 – 13)  ASSURANCE FOR THE PERSECUTED

  1. (vs. 12) God upholds the persecuted

Once David finished asking for God’s judgment to come on his persecutors which he saw as a kind of vindication for his faithfulness to the God of merciful deliverance he turns to a word of assurance for all who are persecute.

In verse 12 he claims that God upholds the persecuted in the face of the unjust and often violent persecutions, he sings in verse 12,

“I know that the Lord secures justice for the poor and upholds the cause of the needy”.

 We need to understand who David is speaking about when he sings of God securing justice and upholding the cause of the “poor” and the “needy”.

Who are the poor and the needy then?

David not only referred to himself as poor and needy when he was on the run from King Saul but also in later life as the king of his country Israel.

So obviously being poor is not simply lacking in material possessions and I found a very helpful explanation of the bible and indeed David’s use of poor and needy in theological word by a man named John W. Riteubaugh called “The Beatitudes, Part two: Poor in Spirit” which is obviously a lengthy explanation of Jesus words in Matthew 5: 3,

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”

Riteubaugh writes,

 “At first “poor” simply indicated to be in material need, to be in poverty. Gradually, its usage spread to other areas besides economics to indicate people in weakness, frailty, feebleness, fragility, dependence, subservience, defencelessness, affliction, and distress. The poor were people who recognized their utter helplessness before what life had dealt them. They recognized that nothing within their power solved their weak state, thus they would eagerly reach out to others for assistance in rising out of their situation, as a beggar would”.

 Riteubaugh goes on to define what poor and needy actually meant in the bible and applies this to David’s usage of these terms in his Psalms in the book of Psalms,

“Eventually, the word took on spiritual overtones because some began to perceive that these afflicted people often had no refuge but God. Thus David, a person we would not consider as defenceless, nonetheless says of himself in a situation where he felt only God could deliver him, “This poor man cried out, and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles” (Psalm 34:6)”.

 This broader definition of Riteubaugh applies then to God believers who are material poor as well as people like King David who was rich in material wealth but poor spiritually and when faced with persecution in great need and help from God who alone could secure justice for him and uphold his cause in the face of such overwhelming opposition.

This word of assurance would offer great comfort to anyone facing over-whelming persecution.

I believe in in death the truly poor and needy person has great victory over death and evil as Paul boldly proclaims in 1 Corinthians 15: 54 – 56,

When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”[ 55 “Where, O death, is your victory?Where, O death, is your sting?”[ 56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.

These are great words of assurance for anyone facing even death at the hands of cruel and merciless persecutors.

  1. (vs. 13) The persecuted will praise God in his presence

I have referred before a couple of times in past Psalm talks to a special guest speaker we had at our church a few years back wo was a prominent representative of an organisation that seeks to support Christian churches in countries that are heavily persecuted today. He spoke of just visiting a church somewhere in North Africa that was considered one of the most persecuted churches of that time.

The speaker said that he attended a night service at this church and expected to find a very sad and dejected small huddle of Christians who were constantly afraid of rebels breaking into their church services with guns and bombs. To his surprise he said he found that the church was full of people loudly praising God in a way that completely overwhelmed him.

He asked some of the members of that church who spoke English why they were so full of praise when they had experienced recently beatings, imprisonment of some of their church leaders and even death when some of the congregation had been dragged from their homes and cruelly executed.

Their reply was something like, “but the Lord Jesus is with us so we must praise him”. It seems the more Christians are persecuted the more they have to look to and rely on The Lord Jesus Christ and he is so much more real to them then to us in the west where our lives are not under constant threat by our persecutors.

This is the reality of the assurance David has for himself and anyone else who faces persecution and he puts that this way in verse 13, the last verse of this Psalm,

“Surely the righteous will praise your name, and the upright will live in your presence”.

 David in this verse as he has done many times before speaks of “the righteous” and of course he could not be saying that he is righteous like God especially when he would have had for many years of his life the painful memory of his many sins like adultery and murder in the Bathsheba affair.

Paul makes it clear that no one is righteous but God on many occasions like Romans 3: 23 so how could David refer to himself as righteous? And who are the righteous then in David’s mind?

I found this very good explanation of who the righteous are on an article on the net by Jean. E. Jones,

“However, Scripture calls some people the righteous: these are those whose faith in and love for God causes them to order their lives according to God’s laws (Psalm 1:2; 1 John 3:7); God bestows righteousness on them because he counts faith as righteousness (Genesis 15:6; Philippians 3:9)”.

 I think that last quote, Philippians 3: 9 sums this us so well I will fully quote it here,

“And be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith”.

 David did not know the righteousness that comes from Christ and his death for our sins on the cross but he, like Abraham before him looked to the mercy of God and had faith in God and his mercy to forgive his sins, somehow and make him therefore righteous by faith before God as David expresses so well in Psalm 51: 1 – 2,

“Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions.Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin”.

 We might say that David and all of the Old Testament believers looked forward to, by faith the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ the Messiah who would as Isaiah put it in Isaiah 53: 5,

“Was pieced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed”.

 By the way the expression here of “by his wounds we are healed” is in spiritual terms of being made righteous before God when we are nothing more than sinners, spiritually sick and dying.

So, people of faith who trust in the mercy or love of God will praise God like that church in the northern African country even in the midst of suffering caused by terrible persecution.

Finally, the Psalm finishes with a further word of comfort and triumph with the words,

“And the upright will live in your presence”

 The speaker who visited our church years ago who shared with us the joy and praise he witnessed by severely persecuted Christians in a country in North Africa spoke of how these people could not do anything but praise The Lord Jesus Christ because they felt so close to him. I call this living in the presence of the Lord and David is saying that the upright which is a term like righteous as people who trust in the mercy of God and seek to go his way and live as he wants them to live are people who live in God’s presence.

Even when we here of martyred Christians who die at the hands of their wicked persecutors we hear of so many of them experiencing visions and comfort by the Lord Jesus Christ in their dying moments.

I remember another story that came out of Syria not so long ago where a woman who was about to be beheaded by extreme violent Muslim IS men looked up and smiled and cried out the name of Jesus who she seemed to be saying she could see in heaven and many in the crowd who witnessed her death were so influenced by her witness and faith they sought out Christians privately and came to the Lord themselves.

Jesus words ring true here when he said in Matthew 10: 28,

Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell”.

 Christians have it both ways, by faith they live this life in the presence of Jesus and after death they are transformed into the actual full presence of the Lord.

As Paul proclaims in 1 Corinthians 13: 12,

 “For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known”.

 SUMMARY AND CONCLUSION

 I found no better summary and conclusion to this Psalm than that offered by Albert Barnes so I will quote it fully as my understanding and summary of this 140thPsalm written by David,

The general idea of the psalm is, that the poor, the persecuted, the afflicted, if righteous, shall enjoy the favour and protection of God. God is on their side, and not on the side of the wicked who oppress them. But then, people “should be righteous” in order that they may find the favour of God and dwell with him. There is no reason why a “poor” wicked man should enjoy the favour of God any more than why a “rich” wicked man should. It is not poverty or riches that commend us to God; it is faith, and holiness, and love, and obedience, in the condition of life in which we are placed, be it in a cottage or a palace”.

I close as usual with another original poem / song this one goes to the old folk tune of “The Streets of Lerado” and the last verse is the first verse of a Gospel song I wrote and sang many times in my early twenties to this same tune when I was in Bible College. This last verse is my New Testament application of the Psalm.

A SONG FOR THE PERSECUTED

(Based on Psalm 140 and the tune of “The Streets of Lerado)

Rescue me Lord from my enemy’s slander

Save me O Lord from their vicious tongues

Keep me safe from the hands of the wicked

Protect me O Lord from their fists and their guns.

 

The arrogant Lord hide and seek to entrap me

They spread out a net on the path that I’ve trod

But even if find that my way is dangerous

I’ll just call on the mercy of my wonderful God.

 

Sovereign Lord be my strong deliverer

Shield my life every day of this war

For Satan and his forces seek to destroy me

May their evil plans be dashed to the floor.

 

Those trouble makers now do surround me

May they drown in their poison words and games

And if they don’t turn back to the true God of heaven

They will be thrown into hells great flames.

 

I know that the Lord is on the side of the victims

And upholds the cause of those who know God’s love

And surely God’s people will praise God forever

As they live in the presence of the God above.

 

So where would I be if I hadn’t seen Jesus

Where would be if I hadn’t seen him

For Jesus is with me both now and forever

O where would I be if I hadn’t seen him.

 

By: Jim Wenman

 

PRAYER:

 Father in heaven we look to you always in both good and bad times, in times when people love and support us and especially in times when we face persecution form those who oppose you and your love for us. When we face opposition help us to remember that your promise, Jesus is that you are always with us and so armed with this knowledge help us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. May many of our enemies be like St Paul who came to a clear vision of The Lord Jesus and turned from being a persecutor to a great witness of your love and eternal presence in our lives, In Jesus name we pray, Amen.

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PSALM 139 TALK:   SEARCH ME O GOD

PSALM 139 TALK:   SEARCH ME O GOD

 (The second Psalm of a collection of eight Psalms attributed to King David in the fifth and final book of Psalms and this Psalm features the idea of how God is a God who is all knowing (omniscient), always present (omnipresent) and all powerful (omnipotent). This God searches after us and knows us intimately and we cannot avoid him even though some openly do try to do so and go even further by opposing him and his faithful followers and for this they will face the judgment of God.)

(THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide”.

INTRODUCTION

“Search me O God,

And know my heart today

Try me, O Saviour,

Know my thoughts I pray,

See if there be

Some wicked way in me

Cleanse me from every sin

And set me free”

 This is the first verse of a hymn written in 1936 by a Baptist evangelist, James Edwin Orr after he was the main speaker at an Easter evangelistic campaign in New Zealand. It has been said that James Edwin Orr, an expert in the history of Christian Revivals saw for himself first hand a wonderful revival of God through his Holy Spirit at that Easter evangelistic campaign in New Zealand.

Apparently before James Edwin Orr left the area he had been working in for that evangelistic campaign some local Maori girls sang a local Maori song of farewell and James Edwin Orr immediately fell in love with this beautiful tune and wrote the first verse of a new hymn also inspired by the last two verses of Psalm 139 (verses 23 and 24).

Orr believed that these two verses from Psalm 139 and the rest of his hymn (another 3 verses) reflected the heart of the revival he had seen taking place in that evangelistic campaign he had conducted in New Zealand that Easter. You can see his theme of Christian revival in the rest of his hymn and particularly the last verse and the rest of Orr’s hymn goes like this,

“I praise, Thee, Lord, for cleansing me from sin;

Fulfil Thy word and make me pure within;

Fill me with fire, where once I burned with shame;

Grant my desire to magnify Thy name.

 

Lord, take my life, and make it wholly thine;

Fill my poor heart with Thy great love divine;

Take all my will, my passion, self and pride;

I now surrender, Lord, in me abide.

 

“O Holy Ghost, revival comes from The

Send a revival, start the work in me;

Thy Word declares Thou wilt supply our need:

For blessing now, O Lord, I humbly plead”.

Orr’s “Search Me O God” hymn only reflects the last two verses of Psalm 139 and I see those two verses as the climax to that Psalm and because they are the climax to that Psalm you cannot both fully understand the message of that Psalm unless you come to terms with the 22 verses of Psalm 139 that proceed it.

The Psalm was written by David during his reign and given to his director of music at that time (see Hebrew heading) featuring the idea of God searching us as it starts with God searching us and ends with a plea by David for God to search his heart and lead him on the path of everlasting life.

So far as when it was probably written we cannot tell but it was obviously written at a time when David faced grave danger of death from some kind of enemies who were also the enemies of God as he writes this in verses 19 and 20,

“If only you, God would slay the wicked! Away from me, you who are bloodthirsty! They speak of you with evil intent; your adversaries misuse your name”

 These verses are a good description of David’s rebellious son Absalom and his followers.

However, David faced bloodthirsty enemies all through his reign and before his reign so this Psalm could fit into a number of known situations in David’s life.

So, I will seek to open up this Psalm with the main theme of “Search Me O God” and my Psalm talk outline reflects this:

  1. (1 – 6)   GOD’S SEARCHING OF US CANNOT BE AVOIDED
  1. (1 – 4) God’s thorough searching of us
  2. (5 – 6) How wonderful is God’s searching of us

      2    (7 – 12)  WHY GOD’S SERACHING OF US CANNOT BE AVOIDED

  1. (vs. 7) Where can I go to avoid God’s searching
  2. (8 – 12) Nowhere to hide from God’s searching

      3    (13 – 18)  WHY GOD CAN SEARCH US

  1. (13 – 16) God created us so he can search us
  2. (17 – 18) How precious is God’s searching of us

      4    (19 – 22) WHAT HAPPENS TO THOSE WHO OPPOSE GOD’S SEARCHING

  1. (19 – 20) God’s judgment on those who oppose him
  2. (21 – 22) Have nothing to do with those who oppose God
  1. (23 – 24) SEARCH ME O GOD
  1. (vs. 23) Search me O God
  2. (vs. 24) Search and lead me on God’s way

 Let’s then have a closer look at this Psalm with this outline in mind:

  1. (1 – 6)   GOD’S SEARCHING OF US CANNOT BE AVOIDED
  1. (1 – 4) God’s thorough searching of us

David opens this Psalm with a clear statement of how God has searched him,

“You have searched me, Lord, and you know me”.

 Most commentators speak of this Psalm as a deeply personal Psalm and is in fact an example of David sharing with us in this Psalm how he has experienced the searching and deep work of God in his life. Albert Barnes picks us the meaning behind these opening words of this Psalm this way,

“The word rendered searched, has a primary reference to searching the earth by boring or digging, as for water or minerals”.

 Barnes refers to another example of the same Hebrew word or term in Job 28: 3,

“Mortals put an end to the darkness; they search out the farthest recesses for ore in the blackest darkness”.

 So, God’s search, David is saying went deep within his inner self or heart and therefore he can say because God has probed so deep he knows him. We might say God knows us better than we know ourselves. Paul speaking about the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives says this in Romans 8: 27,

“And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God”.

 David goes on to speak of the thoroughness of God’s search and uses what Tremper Longman 111 calls a series of merisms to express this and Longman describes merisms as,

“Pairs of opposites that denote everything in between”.

 This Psalm contains four examples of these merisms and the first is in verse 2 that says,

“You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar”.

 This merism describes simply and beautifully the attribute of God we call omniscience or God’s all – knowing ability Arthur Pink in his book, “The Knowledge of God” sums up the whole bibles teaching on God’s attribute of omniscience with these words,

“God is omniscient. He knows everything: everything possible, everything actual; all events, all creatures, God the past, the present and the future. He is perfectly acquainted with every detail in the life of every being in heaven, in earth and in hell. ‘He knoweth what is in the darkness’ (Dan. 2: 22). Nothing escapes his notice, nothing can be hidden from Him, nothing is forgotten by him”.

 So, every part of David’s day when he sits and rises God perceives or knows his,

“Thoughts from afar”.

 God’s searches man’s hearts and sees and knows everything as even the Apostle John declares in 1 John 3: 20,

“If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything”.

 Jesus says that God’s knowledge of us is so complete and detailed that,

“Indeed, the very hairs of your head all numbered” by God, Luke 12: 7.

Then in verse 3 contains the second merism when it says,

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

 Spurgeon explains the first part of this verse so well with these words,

“I am encircled within the bounds of thy knowledge. Waking or sleeping I am still observed of thee. I may leave thy path, but you never leave mine. I may sleep and forget thee, but thou dost never slumber, nor fall into oblivion concerning thy creature”.

 God’s searching and probing mind sees and knows our day to day lives and walk through life made clear by David’s words in the second part of verse 3 that says,

“You are familiar with all my ways”.

 The writer to the Hebrews puts it this way in Hebrews 4: 13,

 Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.”

 A few years back I was involved in a special evangelistic outreach program where nonbelievers in the area I live where invited to a series of dinner meetings where the basic Christian message was explained over a meal and table discussions. These proved to be an effective program for introducing and explaining the Christian message to non- believers and the program was called “Christianity Explored”.

One night we were discussing our certain judgment day and our study guides pictured that day being like standing before God and around him was in full colour a movie re-run of our lives in every detail. We were asked how would we like God and everyone in heaven seeing our detailed re-run of our lives like this?

Our answer was of course we would not like to experience this but God does not need a movie to run of our lives on the day of judgment as he knows every day, hour and second of our lives and armed with this he will judge all of us.

I went home a bit freaked out by this but of course my source of comfort was what I know as the Gospel message which Paul expresses so well in Romans 6: 23,

“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord”.

 God knows our every sin but in Jesus our every sin is paid for and covered by his death on the Cross as Peter declares in 1 Peter 3: 18,

“For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit”.

 Finally, in this first part of the first section of Psalm 139 David declares,

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

 This verse completes David’s thoroughness of the searching omniscient or all- knowing mind of God as God knows,

“All that I say; all that I have power to say; all that I am disposed at any time to say” (Albert Barnes).

 And when David said this he must have realised that God knew both the good and bad things he had said and would say and yet he believed God still loved him as we learnt from verse 2 in the previous Psalm, 138,

“I will bow down toward your holy temple and will praise your name for your unfailing love and your faithfulness”.

 We know this love even more than David would have known as we as the writer to the Hebrews puts it in verse 9,

“We see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for a little while, now crowned with glory and honour because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone”.

 It is that grace of God or unmerited love of God that makes the difference between God hearing and knowing our not so good words and the judgment we deserve because of them and his loving hand still being on us, as Paul speaks of in Ephesians 1: 6 – 10,

“To the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding,9he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, 10 to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfilment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ’.

 Another evangelistic approach I have heard of involves asking people two questions and the first question is,

“If you died tonight and you stood before God and he asked you why should I let you into my heaven, what would you say?”

We could not say, well I basically lived a good life as David has just said God knows every word we have said and will say and we all know we have said things we know we should not have said. Later in this Psalm 139 David says in verse 20b,

“Your (God’s) adversaries misuse your name”.

 We all are guilty of that one way or another and so our only answer to the all- knowing heart-searching God to the question of why he should let into his heaven is because we have put our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ who died on the cross for our sins which include the careless and sinful words from our lips on many occasions.

In this Psalm talk I want to share with you my own verses for the James Edwin Orr hymn, “Search me O God” that are not just based on the last two verses of Psalm 139 but follow the teaching of Psalm 139 all through it and climax with Orr’s first verse of “Search me O God”. Here is my first verse which is a summary of this first part, verses 1 – 4 and of course they can be sung to the old Morori tune called “The Morori Farewell”.

You have searched me Lord

You surely do know me

You see when I rise

And all my thoughts you see

And everywhere I go

You surely do know

Even the words I speak

Before I speak you know.

  1. (5 – 6) How wonderful is God’s searching of us

We come then to two verses in this first section of this Psalm 139 that declare that David did not dislike God’s all – knowing searching eye and ear in his life but rather he saw its benefits and thanked God for it. He starts this with these words in verse 5,

“You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me”.

 This hemming him in by God could be seen as a negative fact only that we can see from a verse like Job 1: 10 how this could also be seen as a positive thing,

“Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land”.

 This hemming him in or hedge around him by God could well mean that David sees this as God’s protection and help which was something he experienced and spoke about in many of his Psalms like Psalm 31: 1 – 5,

“In you, Lord, I have taken refuge;let me never be put to shame; deliver me in your

righteousness.Turn your ear to me, come quickly to my rescue;be my rock of refuge,

 a strong fortress to save me.Since you are my rock and my fortress, for the sake of your name lead and guide me.Keep me free from the trap that is set for me,for you are my

refuge.Into your hands I commit my spirit; deliver me, Lord, my faithful God”.

 David knew through real life experience the hemming in of God and because he knew it and had experienced it he continually asked God for it again and again as we see him doing in Psalm 31. Paul speaks of our sure hope in God’s protection and help in 2 Thessalonians 3: 3,

“But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one”.

We know that David saw the all- knowing searching mind and hand of God hemming him in as a positive thing as he goes on to say in verse 6,

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

 Allan Harman writes,

“Called ‘wonder’ actions that by their nature are beyond human ability or ‘Marvellous deeds”.

 He gives then three bible cross references, Psalm 71: 17, Psalm 72: 18 but I will quote directly here Psalm 86: 10,

“For you are great and do marvellous deeds; you alone are God”.

 God’s help and protection which David came to know by living in the presence of his God who searches and knows us intimately is something he marvels at and in the end he simply cannot fully understand as David expresses in the words,

“Too lofty for me to attain”.

 When I was in Bible College many years ago now I came upon the expression, “Mind blowing” and I used it on many occasions when I came across marvellous truths about God and his ways and deeds. Maybe David is saying here that God’s searching mind and hand of protection is to him something that is simply mind blowing.

In 1 Corinthians 13 verse 12 Paul makes a mind- blowing statement about the difference between what we know and understand in this life to what we will know when we get to heaven and he puts it this way,

“For now, we see only a reflection as a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known”.

 This is even more of a mind-blowing statement as mirrors in Pauls day were nothing more than highly polished brass dishes.

So, I will now share my second verse of my version of James Edwin Orr’s “Search me O God” hymn to the tune of “The Morori Farewell” tune that covers verses 5 and 6 and the next verse, verse 7 which I will deal with next.

You have hemmed me in

Your behind and before

Such is your knowledge that

It’s to wondrous to explore

Where can I go

To flee away from you

For your Holy Spirit Lord

Has me within your view.

      2    (7 – 12)  WHY GOD’S SERACHING OF US CANNOT BE AVOIDED

  1. (vs. 7) Where can I go to avoid God’s searching

David in this Psalm uses the literary devise of the rhetorical question and that is exactly what we have here in verse 7 that asks two rhetorical questions,

“Where can I go from your Spirit?

Where can I flee from your presence?”

 Some commentators have suggested David is for some reason or another seeking to get away from God so he asks these types of questions and the famous “Hound of Heaven” poem seems to have been written by a back slid den Roman Catholic poet named Francis Thompson in 1893.

I found this explanation of the poem on an internet high school study guide called “Cummings Study Guides”,

“Francis Thompson was a devout Roman Catholic who led a tortured life. After abandoning studies to become a priest and later a physician, he drifted and fell into financial hard times.

So, poverty-stricken was he in London, where he was pursuing a career as a writer, that he sold matches to earn money and borrowed paper on which to write poems. His troubles increased when he developed neuralgia. To relieve the acute pain of this condition, he began taking laudanum, a concoction of opium and ethanol. He became an addict’.

 This study guide goes on to explain the message of this famous poem,

 “In “The Hound of Heaven,” the speaker runs from God in order to maintain the pleasures of his dissolute life. One can imagine the speaker’s real-life counterpart, Thompson, doing the same as he pursued the groggy pleasures of his opium habit. Meanwhile, he contracted tuberculosis. Though he fought his drug habit, he eventually succumbed to TB, dying a month short of his forty-eighth birthday”.

 So, is David because of great sins like his adultery and murder in his affair with Bathsheba seeking to run from God like Francis Thompson sought to do?

I believe there is another better explanation of what David is seeking to communicate in this second section of his 139 Psalm. H.C. Leupold explains this other explanation of David’s words with this,

“David is not attempting to flee from God but rather visualize what might happen if one were to attempt to get beyond the reach of God”.

 So, David’s rhetorical questions in verse 7 are hypothetical and they present a wonderful simple presentation of the omnipresence of God or the fact that wherever we might go or be God is there as God’s searching eye and mind is everywhere. This means God’s searching or awareness of us cannot be avoided.

Jeremiah speaks clearly of God’s omnipresence or God searching eye and awareness is everywhere in Jeremiah 23: 23 – 24,

“Am I only a God nearby,”declares the Lord, “and not a God far away?24 Who can hide in secret places so that I cannot see them?”declares the Lord. “Do not I fill heaven and earth?”
declares the Lord”.

 Or even in the New Testament Paul speaks of God’s omnipresence or God searching eye and awareness is everywhere in his speech to the Athenians in Acts 17: 27,

“God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us”. 

  1. (8 – 12) Nowhere to hide from God’s searching

 David continues his use of rhetorical questions and his use of what Longman describes as merism’s,

“Pairs of opposites that denote everything in between”.

 In this second part of the second section of Psalm 139 he uses these rhetorical questions and merisms to spell out much more the God’s omnipresence or God searching eye and awareness is everywhere. Let’s have a look at each of these verse by verse starting with,

Verse 8,

 “If I go up to the heavens you are there; if I make my bed in the depths you are there”.

This merism Allan Harman says,

“The extremities are used to signify the totality of the universe”

 Harman then gives us two bible cross – references (Job 11: 7 – 9 and Amos 9: 1 – 4) and I really like Job 11: 7 – 9,

“Can you fathom the mysteries of God? Can you probe the limits of the Almighty?
They are higher than the heavens above—what can you do? They are deeper than the depths below—what can you know?Their measure is longer than the earthand wider than the sea”.

 Nothing in all of creation Job is saying goes unnoticed by the God of the bible, the one true God of the universe. This, as I said before is another example of a mind- blowing concept as our finite minds cannot fathom how this is possible but clearly God is so wonderful and so different than us that he can and does operate like this.

Verse 9,

 “If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea”.

 Albert Barnes explains this verse so well I will directly quote him here,

“Literally, “I will take the wings of the morning.” That is, I will take this as a supposable case; I will imagine what would occur, should I be able to take to myself the wings of the morning, and endeavour to escape “by flight” from the presence of God, or go where he could not pursue me, or where he would not be. The “wings of the morning” evidently mean that by which the light of the morning “seems to fly” – the most rapid object known to us. It is not to be supposed that the psalmist had an idea of the exact velocity of light, but to him that was the most rapid object known; and his language is not the “less” striking because the laws of its flight have become accurately known. The word rendered “morning” refers to the dawn – the daybreak – the Aurora – the “first” beams of the morning light. The beams of light are in fact no swifter then than at any other time of the day, but they seem to be swifter, as they so quickly penetrate the darkness”.

 So, even if I could escape from God at the speed of light his omnipresence is so powerful he could still see me or anyone just as he could see us on some far of sea the light might take us to.

Verse 10,

 “Even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast”.

 The key term in this verse is the last phrase, “will hold me fast” and it is similar in meaning to verse 8, “You hem me in”, according to Allan Harman and like “You hem me in” the phrase, “will hold me fast” is not a negative thing but a very positive reality for all true believers for the right hand or the strongest and most powerful hand of the God of the universe is with us anywhere we go or go through.

Paul had this kind of confidence in God and the Lord Jesus Christ for from his prison cell he wrote these words to the Philippians in Philippians 4: 12 – 13,

“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength”.

Paul could do all things that God wanted him to do for Christ who sits at the right hand of God is with him through his Holy Spirit as the writer to the Hebrews says about what Jesus did and where he is now in Hebrews 1: 3,

“The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven”.

 Then in chapter 4 verses 14 – 16 the writer to the Hebrews speaks of holding fast because Jesus is there at the right hand of God in heaven for us, Hebrews 4: 14 – 16,

“Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven,Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. 16 Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need”.

 Verse’s 11 – 12,

 “If I say, ‘Surely the darkness will hide me and the light becomes 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”.

 So, distance and speed, the speed of light cannot be used to hide from the searching eye and mind of God so maybe darkness can do it?

I mentioned earlier the famous poem “The hound of Heaven” by Francis Thompson who used drugs and living a dark life of debauchery to try and get away from God but he found God to be the hound of heaven who searched him out in his darkness like a hound chasing after its prey as the first verse of that famous poem says,

“I fled him, down the nights and down the days;

I fled Him, down the arches of the years;

I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways

Of my own mind; and in the midst of tears

I hid from Him, and under running laughter.

Up vustaed hopes I sped;

And shot, precipitated,

A down Titanic glooms of chasmed fears,

From those strong Feet that followed, followed after.

But with unhurrying chase,

And unperturbed pace,

Deliberate speed, majestic instancy.

They beat – and a Voice beat

More instant than the feet –

‘All things betray thee, who betrayed Me”.

The reality of life so many people today live their lives like Francis Thompson speaks of in his tragic poem thinking that darkness will be where they can hide from God but to God who is like pure light,

“Darkness will not be dark to you (God); the light will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you (God).”

 This reminds me of the words of John in John 3: 19 – 21,

“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”.

 Even the darkest places of human existence and experience like Francis Thompson sought to go to hide and run away from God was not successful for God searches after us even in those dark places of sin and hopelessness and offers us his love as Paul indicates by his words in Ephesians 5: 13 – 14,

“But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light. 14 This is why it is said:“Wake up, sleeper,rise from the dead,and Christ will shine on you.”

 I close this second part of the second section of Psalm 139 with two more verses of my version of James Edwin Orr’s hymn, “Search me O God”,

If I go on high

Lord I know that your there

Or to the depths of the sea

Lord your every where

Even if I fly

To parts unknown to me

You are there to help and guide

And surely set me free.

 

Even if I say

Darkness please hide me

Darkness is not dark to you

For you will help me see

For you O Lord

Are this world’s great light

Nothing can hide from your

Great power and might.

      3    (13 – 18)  WHY GOD CAN SEARCH US

  1. (13 – 16) God created us so he can search us

When we consider the number of people even in the world today and the vast distances across the earth we live we might ask how is it at all possible that anyone even the God of the universe can know and see the deeds, thoughts and intensions of every human being?

David’s answer to that important question is verses 13 – 16 and the key answer to this question is verses 12 and 14 where David says,

“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”.

 When you consider the miracle of life expressed in the beauty and wonder of it all then what could God not do. David expressed this thought in another way in Psalms 8: 3 – 4,

“When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?”

 I was at a church lunch the other day and a good friend of mine and I were having a discussion about the wonder of God’s creation and I made particular mention of how incredible involved and amazing is the design of our human bodies. I then made the point that the only other alternative to a great and powerful designer God as what lies behind this is that we and all creation is a miraculous accident or series of complex amazing accidents.

My friend said that the evolution non- believing God explanation for creation needs even a greater amount of faith to believe in than believing in a great designing God being behind it all.

David like me in my conversation with my good friend picks up the design and creation of the internal workings of a human being evidence of God’s ability to be able to search us and know us all,

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb”

 Here David also points us to the wonder of human birth and the complex and amazing biological process of our creation in our mother’s womb. This process also is in the hands of God and David goes on to conclude that we are fearfully and wonderfully made as is all of God’s works of creation, verse 14,

“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well”.

 So, if God is so clever and powerful to make us and all creation why can he not be so clever and powerful to be able to search out and know every human being on earth that he has made?

David’s continues to meditate of his creation as a human being in his mother’s womb in verses 15 and 16 and again picks up the twin God attributes of omniscient – all knowing and omnipresent – present everywhere and these verses and the two before them forces us to also think of God being omnipotent – all powerful and supreme as David says,

“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”.

 Allan Harman explains the phrase,

“Woven together in the depths of the earth”,

 With these words and other phrases about the womb,

“Share the idea of separation from the normal realms of life”.

 The other interesting and to sometimes puzzling phrase is,

“Written in your book before one of them came to be”.

 Harman explains this phrase well with these words,

“God does not need written record, but the idea of a book is used in the Old Testament as a reassuring way of speaking of God’s knowledge of, and care for his people (Exodus 32: 32, Psalm 56: 8, Psalm 69: 28 and Malachi 3: 16)”. 

  1. (17 – 18) How precious is God’s searching of us

So, God knows us all intimately from the time of our conception and into our lives and his searching eyes and ears see and hear all we say, do and even think and so David armed with this insight turns to praise and wonder again in verses 17 and 18,

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”.

 David praises the very thoughts of God that he states in two ways, they are precious and they are vast.

They are actually precious because they are so vast and the analogy of their vastness is that they are more numerous than the grains of sand upon the seashore. This is an uncountable number and the last phrase of verse 18 seems to suggest he has fallen to sleep trying to count them yet when he awakes no matter how horribly he failed to count the thoughts of God for him God is still with him,

“When I awake, I am still with you”

 As another Psalm writer Asaph says in Psalm 73: 23,

“Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand”.

 Jesus makes a special promise to always be with those who take his Gospel to the world in Matthew 28: 19 – 20,

Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely, I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

 Jesus promises his church his special presence in Matthew 18: 20,

“For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them”.

 So, God’s ability to see and hear everyone’s lives and thoughts comes from his mighty creative ability that did not stop after the universe was first made but continues even today and if we, like David look to him in faith we too can know and appreciate his special presence always with us to help and guide us in this life.

Here is another new verse for “Search me O God” that covers the last six verses we have just looked at:

“Lord you created me

So, wonderful we’re made

Before I was born you knew

What days I was ordained,

Precious are your thoughts

They are so vast to me.

I could not count them Lord

Like the sands of the sea.”

      4    (19 – 22) WHAT HAPPENS TO THOSE WHO OPPOSE GOD’S SEARCHING  

  1. (19 – 20) God’s judgment on those who oppose him

 David then turns this beautiful Psalm about the searching, ever- present, all knowing and all-powerful God on its head as he writes four verses of what we have come to know as imprecatory prayer or prayer for God’s judgment to come on his enemies.

We have seen a number of examples of these types of prayers right throughout the book of Psalms and I have made many comments on these before. Basically, my line of biblical thought is that with the coming of the Lord Jesus a greater more loving approach has been given to us through Christ in how we should act towards our enemies.

This greater way of dealing with our enemies who are also God’s enemies is to love them and pray for them as Jesus commands us to do in passages like Matthew 5: 43 – 44,

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you”.

 Jesus goes on to give what I believe is the main reason why we must do this which is that God loves us, who before we came to know the love of God through The Lord Jesus Christ we were enemies of God yet God did not do this to us. Therefore, if we are children of God, Jesus argues, we must love others just as he has loved us, Matthew 5: 45 – 48,

“That you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect”.

 So, with this in mind we have in verses 19 – 20 what I have called, “God’s judgment on those who oppose God”.

“If only you, God, would slay the wicked! Away from me, you who are bloodthirsty! They speak of you with evil intent; your adversaries misuse your name”.

 We must note that David is actually praying for God to judge those who oppose him and in opposing him oppose God. We see this in the way these wicked God opposing people speak of God,

“They speak of you with evil intent; your adversaries misuse your name”.

 There are many people in my country and other western countries today who use the name of Christ as a swear word and I have often thought why do they choose to use the name of God or the names of God as a way of cursing or a way of letting go frustrations?

My thought is that they are in such rebellion to any idea of a God that they are choosing any name or idea of God to denounce and ridicule any thought or idea of his existence. They also know that God believers hold the name or ideas of their God in high esteem so to put them down and attack their beliefs they hold dear to them they misuse the name of God to upset them.

David also tells us in verse 19 that these wicked God haters are also murderers as in verse 19 he says,

“You who are bloodthirsty”

 To understand what David might be saying here we must look at a time when he faced wicked God haters who sought to kill him and a great example of this is in the time of his oldest son Absalom rebellion and we read these words of David to his officials in Jerusalem when Absalom turned the hearts of the people against David and his faithful followers in 2 Samuel 15: 14 – 18,

“Then David said to all his officials who were with him in Jerusalem, “Come! We must flee, or none of us will escape from Absalom. We must leave immediately, or he will move quickly to overtake us and bring ruin on us and put the city to the sword.”

15 The king’s officials answered him, “Your servants are ready to do whatever our lord the king chooses.”

 16 The king set out, with his entire household following him; but he left ten concubines to take care of the palace. 17 So the king set out, with all the people following him, and they halted at the edge of the city. 18 All his men marched past him, along with all the Kerethites and Pelethites; and all the six hundred Gittites who had accompanied him from Gath marched before the king”.

 Albert Barnes explains the term, “You who are bloodthirsty” another way with these words,

“The Hebrew is, “Men of bloods;” that is, men who shed blood. The language is used to denote wicked men in general. The idea here is not that the psalmist was in danger from them at that time, but that he desired to be separate from that class of people; he did not wish to be ranked with them, to partake of their conduct, or to share in their fate. He had no sympathy with them, and he desired to be separate from them altogether”.

 So, whether this term, “You who are bloodthirsty” refers to actual enemies of God David faced at the time like Absalom and his many followers or is a general term for the wicked who oppose God like Albert Barnes suggests we cannot tell but in both cases God revealed to David in Psalm 2 that those who oppose David, the Lord’s anointed oppose God, verse 2 and for this they will face the certain judgment of God verse 5.

The ultimate, “Lords Anointed” king is The Lord Jesus Christ and those who oppose him, if they do not repent and turn to him will also face the certain judgment of God as we read in a verse like Revelation 21: 8,

“But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulphur. This is the second death.”

 So far as those misuse of the name of God Jesus says this about that and the coming day of judgment in Matthew 12: 36 – 37,

“But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken. 37 For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.”

 How does Jesus command to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us fit in with David’s words in the two verses we have just looked at?

My answer to this is the wonderful example of the great Apostle Paul who before he came to see and experience the love of God through Christ was called Saul and Acts 9: 1 says this about him,

“Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem”.

 It was on that road to Damascus that Saul who became the great apostle Paul came to the know the love of God through the Lord Jesus when Jesus appeared to him and said in Acts 9: 5 – 6, Jesus tells Saul who he is with these words,

I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”

 It was the apostle Paul who years later told the Roman church this in Romans 5: 8,

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us”.

 My point here is it is only the love of God through Christ that can save anyone even a former great persecutor of the early Christian church so we must pray for and offer this love of God to all our enemies and maybe God will use this to save some of them from the certain judgment to come.

Recently a non-Christian person I know on Facebook had a go at my Christian faith by posting a picture of Roman Catholic inquisitors torturing probably protestant believers in the middle ages and saying Christians and Christianity is no better than extreme Muslim believers who torture and kill Christians today.

My answer was that this was so called Christians who had lost sight of the teaching of the bible especially the teachings and example of Christ himself and this is why the church needed to have a reformation to get back to the way Jesus wants us to treat others including our enemies who might even seek to kill us for our faith in Christ. Thankfully today Christians around the world especially in the many persecuted countries show love to their enemies not hatred and bloodshed.

  1. (21 – 22) Have nothing to do with those who oppose God

 David continues his imprecatory prayer or prayer for God’s judgment to come on his enemies in verses 21 – 22 and does this with even stronger words,

“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”.

 David, in this part of the imprecatory prayer makes his elegances clear with his words in verse 21,

“Do I not hate those who hate you, Lord, and abhor those who are in rebellion against you?
Allan Harman points out that David is pledging his loyalty or elegance to the Lord,

“In a manner, customary in the ancient near east”.

 Harman gave me a very interesting cross reference of Psalm 5: 8 – 12, interestingly more than likely written by David during the Absalom rebellion when his own son and his many followers turned away from trusting in the God of the bible and became an enemy of David when they sought to kill him and all his family and faithful followers,

 “Lead me, Lord, in your righteousness because of my enemies—make your way straight before me.Not a word from their mouth can be trusted; their heart is filled with malice. Their throat is an open grave; with their tongues they tell lies.10 Declare them guilty, O God! Let their intrigues be their downfall.Banish them for their many sins,for they have rebelled against you.11 But let all who take refuge in you be glad;let them ever sing for joy.
Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you.

12 Surely, Lord, you bless the righteous; you surround them with your favour as with a shield.

 We might not express our allegiance to the Lord Jesus Christ the same way that David did in these two verses but Jesus still demands our allegiance and his words in Matthew 12: 30 express this well as an indication that passive non – allegiance is a bad as aggressive opposition to Jesus and his faithful followers,

“Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters”.

 David’s words in verse 22 says,

“22 I have nothing but hatred for them; I count them my enemies”.

 I find particularly jarring to my Christian ears or thought processes that know those commands of Jesus like Matthew 5: 43 – 44,

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you”.

However, I read David’s words in verse 22 and even 21 as a way of him expressing his desire to have nothing to do with those who oppose God, those in the context of this Psalm try to shut out or shut down the searching eye and mind of God. People like Francis Thompson who wrote “The Hound of Heaven” who for many years sought to run away from God but discovered God was like a hound not giving up on its prey.

Francis Thompson like all non-believers were and are in rebellion to God. That means they don’t not recognize God’s rule in their lives and are either running away from God like Francis Thompson was or are directly opposing God like David’s enemies were seeking to do.

So, we to must not let those who are running away and rebelling the rule of God in their lives drag us way from God. We must hate the sin they do because of their rebellion to this ever-searching God but because of the love of God we should love the sinner not the sin they commit. Love the sinner like God loves us, saved sinners when he brought us out of our darkness into his glorious light through the message of his Sons death and resurrection for us.

So, my new verse of the hymn “Search Me O God” for these verses is,

Lord save me from

Your enemy’s O Lord

Judge them for their wickedness

They hate you and your word.

Help me to love

And pray for them O Lord

So, they could be saved like me

By your life -giving word.

  1. (23 – 24) SEARCH ME O GOD
  1. (vs. 23) Search me O God

We come then to the two verses that James Edwin Orr wrote the first verse of his famous hymn, “Search Me O God” and the question I have been toiling with all through my study and reflection of this Psalm is,

Why does David speak so clearly on how God has searched him and knows him as he searches and knows everyone yet here in verses 23 and 24 he closes his Psalm with the request for God to search him?

He starts this request for God to search him in verse 23 with these words,

“Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts”

 So, he is praying for God to search him to know him and I think there are three reasons for David praying this prayer that answers my question above:

  1. David wants to make sure he has not got a wicked wayward heart like God’s enemies have.

2. David is applying his theological understanding of God’s all- knowing (omniscient), ever-        present (omnipresent) and all- powerful (omnipotent) nature to his own life and experience.

  1. David wants to know himself as God knows him as God knows us better than we know ourselves.

Let me now explain these three reasons why David prays search me O God:

  1. David wants to make sure he has not got a wicked wayward heart like God’s enemies have.

The immediate context of this prayer request for God to search him is David’s imprecatory prayer or prayer for God’s judgment to come on his enemies. In that prayer, he has pinpointed many of the characteristics of the wicked:

  1. Bloodthirsty
  2. Speak of God with evil intent
  3. Misuse God’s name
  4. Hate God
  5. Rebel against God
  6. Are God’s enemies

So, David is saying to God, “Search Me”, “Know me”, “Test Me” and in verse 24, “See if there is any offensive way in me”. David knew he was a sinner after all he at one point of his life committed two big sins, adultery and murder. Stephen J. Cole puts it this way,

“David no sooner mentions the wicked and his hatred for their irreverence than he quickly realises his own need for God’s cleansing”.

 I said before that one way of describing and non-believer is that they are in rebellion to God and his rule of their lives and David as we should must ask God to deal with any sin or rebellious attitude to God he might have.

The apostle John puts it this way in 1 John 1: 8 – 10,

 

“If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us”.

  1. David is applying his theological understanding of God’s all- knowing (omniscient), ever- present (omnipresent) and all- powerful (omnipotent) nature to his own life and experience.

David started this Psalm 139 with a clear statement of God’s omniscient nature or all – knowing nature with the words,

“You have searched me, Lord and you know me”.

 He goes on in the Psalm to speak of God’s omnipresence or ever – present nature like verse 7,

“Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence”?

 Then he also speaks of God’s omnipotence – all – powerful nature like verse 14,

“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well”.

 So, in verse 23 David is applying what he knows about God to himself in the prayer,

“Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts”

The writer to the Hebrews speaks of applying our faith in Christ in a deeper way in our lives in what he says in Hebrews 10: 22- 24,

“Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds”. 

  1. David wants to know himself as God knows him as God knows us better than we know ourselves.

David Guzik in his commentary on this Psalm writes,

“David knew that he could not know his heart at its depths, so he asked God to know it”

 We might think we know ourselves but I believe the bible says we don’t fully know ourselves but God does and Paul speaks of this and why it is so in Romans 7: 15 – 24,

“I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18 For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 

20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.

 21 So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?

 These words of Paul sound like that we don’t only know the depths of sin within us but that there is no answer to the terrible situation we have within us but then at the start of verse 25, the next verse that follows this passage Paul declares,

“Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

 Paul goes on to say how God has delivered us from the bind of our sinful nature by the Lord Jesus Christ in the opening two verses of the next chapter,

“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death”.

 So, we should be like David and the Apostle Paul and acknowledge we do have anxious thoughts and offensive ways deep in our hearts and ask God to search our hearts and minds by his Holy Spirit and do a work of recreating us from within as Paul says God does do when we truly do believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and what he has done for us, 2 Corinthians 5: 17,

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”

 This recreation of our hearts and minds is an ongoing process so we must continually ask God to search our hearts and minds and cleanse and renew us day by day as James Edwin Orr so well put it in his first verse of his hymn “Search me O God”,

“Search me O God,

And know my heart today

Try me, O Saviour,

Know my thoughts I pray,

See if there be

Some wicked way in me

Cleanse me from every sin

And set me free” 

  1. (vs. 24) Search and lead me on God’s way

I have already commented on the first part of this last verse of Psalm 139 that says,

“See if there is any offensive way in me”.

 This is a continuance of David’s prayer for God to search him for the three reasons I gave in the last part of this concluding fifth section of this Psalm 139.

However, in this last verse David adds a final request to God that simply says,

“And lead me in the way everlasting”.

 David knew God as the Lord or “Yahweh”, the great “I am who I am” or eternal, everlasting God so what he is asking for here is to be led God’s way. David believed that going God’s way led to the everlasting God or was a path that would lead to eternal life with God.

In both the book of Psalms and book of Proverbs, ‘the road” or “the way” is referred to a lot like Psalm 27: 11,

“Teach me your way, Lord; lead me in a straight pathbecause of my oppressors”

 Or Proverbs 2: 20,

“Thus, you will walk in the ways of the good and keep to the paths of the righteous”.

 Note the way of the Lord or the way of everlasting is in complete contrast to the way of sinful man and death as we see in Proverbs 14: 12,

“There is a way that appears to be right,but in the end, it leads to death”.

 So, again David could have in mind here his words in verses 19 – 22 when he spoke of those who are in rebellion to God and his way which he makes clear in these verses lead to the judgment of God and therefore death.

 Jesus came to make the way back to God and his gift or eternal life as Jesus makes clear in John 14: 6,

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me”.

 So, as we join with David in asking him daily to search our hearts and minds to continue his remaking of us within we are looking to go the way or path of everlasting which is the way Jesus is speaking about in John 14: 6.

CONCLUSION

 We have seen through this Psalm how David believed that his God the God of the bible was a God who could and does search us because he is an all -knowing God – omniscient, all – present God – omnipresent and all – powerful God – omnipotent and he knew all this from his experience of God in his life.

Then he declares his hatred of those who oppose and rebel against God who are God’s enemies. These people are bloodthirsty people, intent on evil who misuse the name of God and therefore are denying or running away from the searching eye and mind of God.

Finally, because David knew what God was like as the great searching God who we cannot escape from he asked God to search his heart and mind (thoughts) to cleanse him from the sin he knew we all have so that he and we can avoid being like the God haters who are in rebellion God’s rule in their lives. This means we can experience day by day God’s recreating power and by doing so go God’s everlasting way.

I close as usual with my poem / song and final prayer:

SEARCH ME O GOD

(New words based on Psalm 139 and James Edwin Orr hymn search me O God that was written to the Maori “Song of Farewell)

You have searched me Lord

You surely do know me

You see when I rise

And all my thoughts you see

And everywhere I go

You surely do know

Even the words I speak

Before I speak you know.

 

You have hemmed me in

Your behind and before

Such is your knowledge that

It’s to wondrous to explore

Where can I go

To flee away from you

For your Holy Spirit Lord

Has me within your view.

 

If I go on high

Lord I know that your there

Or to the depths of the sea

Lord your every where

Even if I fly

To parts unknown to me

You are there to help and guide

And surely set me free.

 

Even if I say

Darkness please hide me

Darkness is not dark to you

For you will help me see

For you O Lord

Are this world’s great light

Nothing can hide from your

Great power and might.

 

Lord you created me

So, wonderful we’re made

Before I was born you knew

What days I was ordained.

Precious are your thoughts

They are so vast to me

I could not count them Lord

Like the sands by the sea.

 

Lord save me from

Your enemy’s O Lord

Judge them for their wickedness

They hate you and your word.

Help me to love

And pray for them O Lord

So, they could be saved like me

By your life- giving word.

 

Search me O God,

And know my heart today

Try me, O Saviour,

Know my thoughts, I pray,

See if there be

Some wicked way in me

Cleanse me from every sin

And set me free.

 

By: Jim Wenman

 

PRAYER:

 Lord I pray that you will search my heart and mind and find the sin I have within so that through the blood of your Son shed on the cross for me you can cleanse me and remake me into the person you want me to be. I thank you Lord that you are all – knowing, ever present and all -powerful God and therefore I can trust in you and your love to search and change me. Help those who are still in rebellion to your love to come to the realisation of your love and help me to show them your love by the way I seek to pray and love them. I Jesus name I pray, Amen.