Scripture: Psalm 139:1-6;13-18
The first thing I noticed, with delight and curiosity, is that the psalm begins with a note: For the director of music. Of David. A Psalm. I then found this note attached to many of the psalms, and of course, it is a reminder that the psalms are poems, or songs, meant to be sung both in worship and in celebration. A little research linked several well-known hymns with the verses listed above, including: O For a Closer Walk With God, I Was There to Hear Your Bornin’ Cry and Be Thou My Vision. The research also turned up, to my amusement, a hymn beginning: Who Put the Hop in the Kangaroo?
So many psalms also seem to be personal devotions, and speak of a very personal relationship between the writer or singer and God. They run the gamut in emotion from hope to despair, from celebration to anger, from self-condemnation to the assurance of God’s love.
My first reaction to the opening verses of Psalm 139 is that they are scary. You have searched me, Lord, and you know me…you perceive my thoughts from afar. When I was a child, we had on the walls of our home a motto to the effect that Jesus was the unseen guest. I found it very disturbing to think of being not only constantly watched by a higher power, but under critical surveillance too. To feel as if every thought, word and deed is seen and known.
Even one’s inner “critic on the hearth” pales beside this concept. Before a word is on my tongue, you, Lord, know it completely…You hem me in behind and before…. To a shy, sensitive child, and to the introverted adult with a strong need for solitude and privacy that I have become, these are not comforting words. They can be the ultimate guilt trip.
But the psalm goes on to say that God made me from the very beginning, and from the inside to the outside. That I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Well, if God planned and made me, made me as and who I am, then that’s a good thing. I’m a good thing. Everyone and everything is a good thing because God planned and made everything. The world, and they that dwell therein as it says elsewhere in scripture.
The love of God is with me always. When I awake, I am still with you. There is great comfort in that. And I am called to love all of God’s world, God’s people and God’s creatures because God loves them. That’s not scary, that’s just a challenge.
By Ann Farebrother
Prayer: (from the hymn)
O for a closer walk with God,
A calm and heavenly frame,
A light to shine upon the road,
That leads me to the Lamb!