A Reflection on Psalm 139.12-18 by Canon Rob
14th January 2024, The Second Sunday of Epiphany
Welcome to the first of our Reflections for 2024! I hope that you will find this, and subsequent Reflections, helpful as we journey together through a new year. You may recognise the heading as it is the title of one of ABBA’s songs: not a happy one as it is about the break-up of a relationship: the very opposite of the relationship we have with God, as revealed through His Son, Jesus. It is this revelation which is the theme of the Church’s season of Epiphany which begins with the Visit of the Wise Men, or Three Kings, to the child Jesus. They represent the whole of humanity for Jesus Christ was born to save, or redeem, us all.
The verses of Psalm 139 set for today in Church Services are about our relationship with God. The Psalm begins with the words, “O Lord, you have searched me out and known me.” That might be scary depending on how you perceive God. Jesus taught his disciples the prayer beginning, “Our Father who art in heaven” and your perception of God may be affected by the relationship you have, or had, with your earthly father. As you reflect upon this psalm, it is worth asking yourself, What is it like to realise that God searches me out and knows me completely? Are you happy to know you are so vulnerable? Or is it rather scary realising that you cannot hide anything about yourself from God? Whatever your answer, be assured that God loves you totally and delights in you. The reason for this is partly found in verse 12 of today’s psalm. “For you yourself created my inmost parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.” In this verse “my inmost parts” probably refers to the kidneys, once considered to be the ‘seat’ of the will and our inmost feelings, in much the same way as we refer to the heart today when we might say, for example, “You have my heartfelt sympathy” when we hear that someone is grieving.
As with everything which God has created, He is pleased with the end result. [See Genesis Chapter 1 verses 27 – 31.] Knowing this, the writer of Psalm 139 is also pleased! We see his response to being created in verse 13. “I thank you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvellous are your works, my soul knows well.” Rather than being scared, the psalmist rejoices! For he knows that he and all human beings are God’s creation. That being so, we must be “wonderfully made.” It is our sinfulness which spoils creation, as we see only too often in violence towards one another and the destruction of the natural world. All life is precious and it is when we neglect to acknowledge this truth that we fall short of what God wants for the whole of His creation. However, it is worth a great deal to reflect on verse 13, for within it is much wisdom and love and it can encourage you.
Reading on, God does not need to keep a written record of us, but in verse 15 there is a reference to His “book:” the word used in the Old Testament to reassure its readers that God not only knows His people, but He cares for them too. [See Psalms 56.8, 69.28 and also Malachi (the last book of the Old Testament) Chapter 3, verses 16 – 18 which is about those who are God-fearing being saved.] In verses 17 we read “How deep are your counsels to me, O God.” A better translation is shown in the picture here. God’s counsels are His “thoughts.” As always we should take care when ascribing to God words we use to describe something about ourselves. Yet the word “thoughts” is meant to reveal again something of God’s relationship with each one of us. We are as special to Him, as are children of devoted parents, only more so. Verse 18 makes that very clear for it speaks of us being in God presence even at the end of our lives here on earth.
Heavenly Father, thank you for creating me and loving me
Give me the faith to always know that through life and even in death I am safe in your hands.