Monday, August 6, 2012

Psalm 139

I had the privilege of filling the Riverview pulpit this morning where it was my task to preach on Psalm 139. This psalm is considered by many to be the greatest of all of the psalms penned by David (although I can't guarantee the same for my sermon!).  You can listen to the sermon on my Sermons Page.

This was a difficult text for me to preach.  Not in the sense that it was difficult to exegete or interpret, but more in the sense that there is so much going on in this text it's difficult to have to decide what to material to include in the sermon and what to leave out.  There was so much that I had to say but couldn't.  In fact, I actually ended up writing to separate and unique sermons on this text.  It wasn't until about 8:00 this morning that I decided which one to go with.  This is the first time in my preaching career (having preached more than 100 original sermons) that I can remember having written to unique sermons on one text with the ability to only deliver one of them.  I guess that's what blogs are for: you can post the sermon you didn't get to preach!

The sermon I decided not to preach was a bit less exegetical and had a bit more application to it.  Why didn't I go with that one?  I don't know, I guess I feel like exegesis is important.  Anyway, I'm sharing the other sermon here (at least portions of it) so it won't go to "waste."

Psalm 139 is perhaps one of David's most famous psalms because it gives such a detailed and specific description of God's omniscience (meaning he is all-knowing) and his omnipresence (meaning he exists everywhere).  There is a significant relation between the two concepts, in that God knows all things because he is everywhere.  He can't help but know everything.  He just does, because he exists in all places at the same time.  Therefore he has a perfect platform from which to observe all events.

Psalm 139 makes this information about God personal, though, in that David applies God's knowledge and presence to his own personal being.  What does God know about me?  Answer: everything.  David shows this by talking about how God knows the most mundane details of his life, all the way to the most specific things: God knows when he gets up and lies down, he knows the words he says before he says them, and God can even read his thoughts "from afar."  In short, God knows all of the most intimate details of David's existence.  Not only does he see David's actions, but he sees the purpose, desire, and will of David that inspires what he does, thinks, and says.  That's pretty intimate.

I got to thinking about the implications of verse 1 of the psalm - what it means that God has "searched me and known me," and how that plays out in real life, and two very specific examples came to mind.

The first one I've blogged about before.  It's a story about some friends of Betsy and me, and their search for a house to live in.  They're kind of country folk, so they found a house way out in Northfield (about a 50 minute drive from their current location, one way).  When they were thinking about the house, they knew that it would be challenging to maintain their current relationships and keep up with their church and small group participation, but they committed to staying in touch for the sake of their spiritual growth.  Long story short, the house in Northfield fell through and the family ultimately found a place in South St. Paul (about 5 minutes from their current location).  After they had a chance to reflect on the whole process, they became convinced that the house in Northfield fell through based upon God's knowledge of them - because God had "searched them and known them."  Although they committed to continue to attend Riverview and stay connected with their small group relationships, they say that, upon further reflection they knew that those were commitments they would not be able to keep living so far away.  They attribute the Northfield house falling through to the sovereignty of God so that they would stay in the immediate area, close to their church and their Christian friends.  God saw their physical needs (verses 2-3), their emotional needs and desires (verse 2), and their spiritual needs (verses 23-24).  Based on God's knowledge of all these things, he acted in his sovereignty by taking away one house and providing another - meeting their physical, emotional, and spiritual needs in one fell swoop.  Pretty cool.

The second example comes in the way of an article I read just this weekend about God's involvement in creating children with disabilities.  Psalm 139 has one of the greatest descriptions of God's involvement in the process of creating life in verses 13-16.  If we affirm that God is involved in the creation of life, and that he "knits" children together in their mother's womb, then that must be true for babies who are born "normal" and healthy, and also for those children who are born with disabilities - God "knitted" children with disabilities together in their mother's womb as well.  Why would God do that?

This question was leveled at Kempton Turner, a local youth minister who happens to have a son with Sturge-Weber syndrome, a blood condition that causes glaucoma, seizures, severe mental retardation, among other things.  Turner was interviewed by a local radio station, and during the interview he insists that God not only allowed his son to be born with this condition, but in fact, he he designed him that way.  Why would God "knit" a disability into a child in the womb?  Rather than duplicate the entire interview here, I encourage you to read Kempton's response and reflections about how God is using his disabled son to draw him to himself.  In short, Turner says one of the reasons God gave him a disabled son is because God has searched him and known him, and God knew that a child with a disability was what he needed.

What is most important, I think, about this knowledge that God has about me, is that it is indicative of the kind of Savior that God had to send in order to save me.  That is, the only way God could fully save me from his own wrath toward my sin is to know the full and total picture of the depth of my depravity as a human being.  God had to know just how sinful I truly am in order to send a Savior who's sacrifice could sufficiently atone for my sin.  If God didn't know how sinful I am, then he wouldn't know what kind of Savior to send to save me.  Praise God that he knows me better than I know myself, even if in that process he comes to know my utter depravity and sinfulness.  It's worth it!  In knowing me and my sin, God also knows with the exact proportion of grace and mercy that I need.

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