Psalm 139:23-24                  Search Me, O God, and Know My Heart             5/23/2004     ßà

 

 

 

 

 

#1.            Jehovah, the Shepherd of His People (Isa 43:11, Psalm 139:1-6, 51:5, Phil 2:13, Heb 4:13)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#2.             Jehovah’s Providence (Psalm 139:13-16, Matt 1:21, Rom 9:8, Job 10:11)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Please open your Bibles to Psalm 139:1 (2X). Today we remember that Annie Rollema passed away 6 days ago on Monday evening. A faithful servant of the Lord Jesus Christ went to meet her Savior in person. She was a faithful servant was because God, in His unfathomable wisdom, decided to give her grace to remain faithful until the end of her earthly life. One of Annie’s favorite passages in the Bible was Psalm 139. And since I never preached on Psalm 139, I decided to do so today. Come, let us see and discover why this Psalm was so beautiful in Annie’s estimation. The title of this sermon is taken from verse 23 of this Psalm, Search Me, O God, and Know My Heart (2X). This is a heart searching Psalm. And even though this is a memorial service to Annie, we keep in mind the words from 1Thess 4:13, “Concerning them which are asleep, that we sorrow not, even as others which have no hope”. Annie is in heaven, and we should rejoice with her that her being in the presence of Christ is her greatest joy. Let us now hear and read these words of Psalm 139.

Ps 139:1 ¶ << A Psalm of David.>> O LORD, thou hast searched me, and known me.

Ps 139:2  Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, thou understandest my thought afar off.

Ps 139:3  Thou compassest my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways.

Ps 139:4  For there is not a word in my tongue, but, lo, O LORD, thou knowest it altogether.

Ps 139:5  Thou hast beset me behind and before, and laid thine hand upon me.

Ps 139:6  Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain unto it.

Ps 139:7 ¶ Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence?

Ps 139:8  If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there.

Ps 139:9  If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea;

Ps 139:10  Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me.

Ps 139:11  If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me; even the night shall be light about me.

Ps 139:12  Yea, the darkness hideth not from thee; but the night shineth as the day: the darkness and the light are both alike to thee.

Ps 139:13  For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my mother's womb.

Ps 139:14  I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.

Ps 139:15  My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.

Ps 139:16  Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them.

Ps 139:17 ¶ How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God! how great is the sum of them!

Ps 139:18  If I should count them, they are more in number than the sand: when I awake, I am still with thee.

Ps 139:19  Surely thou wilt slay the wicked, O God: depart from me therefore, ye bloody men.

Ps 139:20  For they speak against thee wickedly, and thine enemies take thy name in vain.

Ps 139:21  Do not I hate them, O LORD, that hate thee? and am not I grieved with those that rise up against thee?

Ps 139:22  I hate them with perfect hatred: I count them mine enemies.

Ps 139:23  Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts:

Ps 139:24  And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

In the way everlasting”. We find in verse 1, “O Lord, thou hast searched me”. And we read in verse 23, “Search me, O God”. In other words, Lord, Search me again, and give me assurance that I am “in the way everlasting”. Let us now consider the first 6 verses of this Psalm, which I have titled,

#1.            Jehovah, the Shepherd of His People (Isa 43:11, Psalm 139:1-6, 51:5, Phil 2:13, Heb 4:13)

Why did I mention “Jehovah”? Do you know what the Tetragrammaton is? I have written this word on the board for the children. Children, write this word in your sermon notes. Tetragrammaton, what is it? When you see the word LORD in the Bible, with all four letters capitalized, L O R D, this is the Tetragrammaton. It means that in the original Hebrew text you read in this place “Jehovah”. Every- where you see “The LORD”, the Hebrew text says “Jehovah”. Psalm 139 begins with this word,

Ps 139:1 ¶ << A Psalm of David.>> O LORD, (O Jehovah) thou hast searched me, and known me.

And who is Jehovah? We read in Isa 43:11, I, even I, am the LORD (Jehovah); and beside me there is no Saviour”. But we know that the Lord Jesus Christ is the only Savior. Therefore, the Lord Jesus Christ is Jehovah. But since all three Persons of the triune Godhead are One God, we can conclude that God the Father is also Jehovah, and God the Holy Spirit is also Jehovah. The general theme throughout this Psalm is this, “The LORD is my Shepherd”; Jehovah is my Shepherd; Christ is the Shepherd of His people. But look again at the words in verse 1, “O Jehovah, thou hast searched me, and known me”. What does God find when He searches me? For instance, what did God see when I was conceived in my mother’s womb? The answer is in Psalm 51:5, “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me”. What did God see? God saw a baby serpent. Already from my mother’s womb, before I could have done any good or evil, I was in bondage to sin and Satan. I was conceived and born as a slave in Satan’s kingdom, allied with Satan, and a hater of God. How would I dare to say to God, “Please God, search my heart and know me, and see if there be any wicked way in me”? Would this not be utterly hypocritical? Yes, indeed. God knows that the entire human race consists of such serpents. But God knows that He has chosen to save some of these miserable serpents, and to give them a new heart, and to give them faith. We also know that, because we have read this in the Bible, in Eph 1, and in other chapters in the Bible. And we believe that the Bible is true, and that God Himself dictated the Bible to His servants the prophets. Therefore, since we have received faith, we can ask God to reveal Himself to us, and to confirm what we have understood in the Bible. And that is what God did here in the verses of this Psalm. God declared in the following verses that He is a sovereign God, that He is a righteous God, that He is an omnipotent God, and that He is a preserver of His chosen people whom He loves intensely. We read in verse 2,

Ps 139:2  Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, thou understandest my thought afar off.

This indicates the omniscience of God, which means that God sees everything and God knows everything long before it comes to pass. Do we believe God is omniscient? Absolutely! But does God know what is going to happen because He is omniscient? Absolutely not! God knows what will come to pass because He causes it to come to pass. The following verses show this clearly. Verse 3,

Ps 139:3  Thou compassest my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways.

The KJV says that God encircles our path, as if God has put a hedge around each one of His chosen people. This means that God is in control of things around here. But the Hebrew text says it even more intensely, “Thou hast sifted my path and my lying down”. It is as if God has taken a large sieve, and from all the possible plans for my path of life God has sifted out the best plan for my life path that brings Him the greatest glory. Now, this shows God in a far greater degree of control than we have seen thus far. But God gave us faith to trust everything that God does and is going to do with us, for we know that it is always to our benefit. God gave us faith to trust His irresistible grace in all the affairs of those whom God has called and will call according to His purpose. Now, verse 4, 

Ps 139:4  For there is not a word in my tongue, but, lo, O LORD, thou knowest it altogether.

A word in my mouth would be a word that I have already spoken. But a word in my tongue would be a word that I am about to speak. And God already knows what I am going to say, because “It is God which worketh in me, both to will and to do according to His good pleasure” (Phil 2:13). It is in this way that God knows altogether what I am going to say and do. We read in verses 5 and 6,

Ps 139:5  Thou hast beset me behind and before, and laid thine hand upon me.

Ps 139:6  Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain unto it.

Paraphrased verse 5 says, “Thou hast closed me in on all sides, and Thou hast laid Thy hand on me so that I could not move without Thy knowledge and approval”. This specifies the constant presence of God in my life. It means then that all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of Him with whom we have to do (Heb 4:13). And although He dwells in the highest heavens, He observes not only the outward acts of man, but He also sees the very hearts and imaginations of man upon the earth. Therefore we cry out, “Such knowledge is too wonderful to me; it is set on high, so high that I cannot reach unto it”. I can read it and I believe it, but I do not understand such great love for me. It is amazing that God, who is so holy and so almighty, still wants anything to do with me, even after knowing me inside and out. But so great is the love of God that He sent His only begotten Son into the world, to take our place before the judgment throne of God, and to endure the sentence for our sins in our place while He hung on the cross, and to endure even the 2nd death in our place, since the 2nd death was the penalty we had to pay for our sins, and to impute on us the righteousness He had before He came to earth. Moreover, after suffering for our sins in our place, He bestowed on us the honor of being the Bride of Christ, and thereby make us acceptable to the Father so that we became adopted sons and daughters of God, and to make us joint heirs with Christ in the NH&NE. This is a love that is set too high for me to reach. Actually, the constant awareness of God’s presence in our lives would be the simplest way in the world to deter sin. The saints in heaven who cannot sin are always in the presence of God and behold the face of God. Let us now look at the following verses:

We understand that God’s omnipresence and God’s omniscience are not even the greatest of His attributes. We know, and God knows, that in this body we are always inclined to sin. But God’s presence is a deterrent to sin. So, can we go some place where God does not see us committing our little secret sins? No! That is impossible! We cannot hide from God. God is omniscient, which means He sees everything; He sees even the thoughts and intent of our hearts.  We read verse 7,

Ps 139:7 ¶ Whither shall I go from thy spirit? Or whither shall I flee from thy presence?

Ps 139:8  If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there.

Hell is not a popular subject these days, even though these are the words of the Lord Jesus. People claim that they adore the Lord Jesus, but if they reject His words then essentially they have denied Christ, and by their actions they have declared Christ a liar. Looking at verse 8, Hell is here the Hebrew word “Sheol” and Sheol is “the abode of the dead”, down there where the dead bodies go, a deep and dark place. Sometimes Sheol is translated as Hell, but the concept of Hell was not well developed in the OT time. This is understandable, because Hell was still far away in the future. Hell becomes a reality at the end of the NT period, when Christ shall come for the 2nd time. That is why the Lord Jesus spoke of Hell many times. But here in Psalm 139:8 Hell is not in view, but the grave. We should read this as, “If I make my bed in the grave, behold Thou art there”.  Whither shall we go? Heaven is the seat of God’s glory, all creation is the scene of His providence, and even the grave itself will be the scene of His power. Even in our mind we cannot escape His inspection. God is omnipresent, which means He is present everywhere. We read in verse 9,

Ps 139:9  If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea;

Ps 139:10  Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me.

Even there shall thy hand lead me”. Can you se that this is the prayer of a Saint? It is the prayer of one of God’s elect, because only God’s children will recognize that God is continually leading them in this life, every step of the way. Awesome! Even though I have a wicked bent, and even though I am not fully aware of His presence all the time, God is determined to lead me in the way everlasting. This is the wonderful irresistible grace of God, and the love of God, for those who are His elect. But for those who are not His elect God does not have any love. If they want to go astray into another gospel than the Gospel of the Bible, God will let them go their own way. Essentially God says to them, “Have it your way”. But God loves His elect and will not allow them to go astray forever. We read in verse 11

Ps 139:11  If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me; even the night shall be light about me.

Ps 139:12  Yea, the darkness hideth not from thee; but the night shineth as the day: the darkness and the light are both alike to thee.

Can God see in the dark? Of course! God’s vision is not hindered by darkness. Remember, before the foundation of the world, before God created light and before God created the stars, this entire universe was dark. Therefore, the darkness of the grave is no hindrance to God when He resurrects our bodies on the Last Day. For our sakes God caused His Son to descend from heaven to the lower parts of the earth, and from there to ascend to heaven again. Therefore He will watch over us, and preserve us, and recreate our glorified bodies, even in the darkness of the grave. A dying servant of God, like Annie Rollema, may remember this psalm and recite it as follows, “Whither can I go from thy spirit? Or whither can I flee from thy presence? If, in my spiritual part, I ascend up into heaven, thou art there to receive me. If, in my body, I make my bed in the grave, behold, thou art there to make my resurrection absolutely certain. Thou shalt preserve me for a joyful resurrection at the time appointed” You see, the same consideration of God’s presence, which should restrain us from sin, should also encourage us to work righteousness, and comfort us under all our sorrows; namely, the conviction that we are never out of the sight and protection of our Maker. Think of this when we are laboring in pain on the bed of sickness. Let us go on now to the next section, verses 13-16, which is titled,

#2.             Jehovah’s Providence (Psalm 139:13-16, Matt 1:21, Rom 9:8, Job 10:11)

What do we understand God’s providence is? God’s providence represents the hands of God. In reality God does not have hands, because God is a Spirit. But when we say, “the hands of God” we realize that we are speaking about those powers of God that create, uphold, and guide all the affairs in this world according to the good pleasure of His will. God’s providence is carrying out what God has planned to do in the first place. God made His plans long before the foundation of the world. This is called the counsel of God. The counsel of God represents the mind of God. Humanly speaking, God counseled Himself when the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit worked out the plans of God concerning all creation, both in heaven and on earth, and they nailed down the principles concerning salvation and concerning the Bride for the Son. This is just humanly speaking, because God is infinitely wise, and therefore God does not become wiser when time progresses. Therefore the counsel of God was in existence from everlasting past. It had no beginning. Then God broke into time, and from the beginning of time God’s providence was at work in all His creation and in all His creatures, and salvation of certain of His creatures was in progress. Therefore we read in verse 13,

Ps 139:13  For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my mother's womb.

  Actually the Hebrew word translated “possessed” literally means “purchased”.   That is the literal

meaning of the Hebrew word here. Verse 13 should read, “For thou hast purchased my inward parts: thou hast woven me in my mother’s womb”. Think about this now. When Christ, on the cross, paid for all our sins, what did He pay, or what did He purchase? He purchased the entire field, the world, and particularly He purchased all His elect, the treasure in the field, and He purchased us body and soul. But while we still live on this earth only our soul has experienced salvation. Therefore the words, “Thou hast purchased my inward parts” refers to our belief that Christ has purchased our soul on the cross, and the salvation of our bodies shall follow later. Whom did He atone for? He did not atone for everyone in the world. Certainly He did not atone for all the unrighteous people who died in the Flood in Noah’s days. God’s wrath was upon them; men, women, children, and even babies in the womb. They all died unsaved. He did not atone for all the people who died when God rained fire and brimstone on the cities of Sodom, and Gomorrah, and Admah and Zeboiim. God called them unrighteous. God’s wrath was upon them; men, women, children, and even babies in the womb. They all died unsaved. Whom did Christ atone for? God says it so plainly in Matt 1:21, “Thou shalt call His name Jesus, for He shall save His people from their sins”. Whom did He save? His people? All those for whom Christ died are His people. Don’t misunderstand: “His people” does not mean the Jews, because that would leave most of us outside God’s plan of salvation. God says in Rom 9:8, “They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God”. The Lord Jesus Christ atoned only for the sins of those whom God elected in His counsel from before the foundation of the world. Not one can be added, and not one can be missing. And then, after the cross, God’s providence was harvesting all the NT Saints who heard the Gospel and believed, since God the Holy Spirit changed their hearts and gave them faith. This is the meaning of, “Thou hast purchased my inward parts”. V.14

Ps 139:14  I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.

The word “wonderfully” in Hebrew is not an adverb, but it is a verb, meaning “to be separate”, or “to be distinct”. This is pointing to the elect of God who are distinctly made as “vessels unto honor”. Even though in the beginning of our life we were by nature “children of wrath”, God knows who are His “vessels unto honor”, and God will see to it that at some point in our life we will get to know that we were “fearfully and distinctly made”. God separated us from the rest of mankind by declaring to us His marvellous works, and by giving us the faith to believe what we read in the Bible. That is why we read here, “I will praise thee”. We will praise Him now, and after our body dies we will still be praising Him in heaven forever more. Why will we praise Him? We praise Him for who He is, the Almighty, and Sovereign God of heaven and earth. And we praise Him for what He has done for us. He stooped to save us, wretched sinners, from the awful destiny of eternal damnation. That is why we read in this verse, “marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well”. We read in Job 10:11, “Thou hast clothed me with skin and flesh, and hast fenced me with bones and sinews”. This work of God is so astonishing. The best scientific minds have still not been able to understand how God made us. The best they have been able to do is copy some of the principles we find in nature. Then we read in:

Ps 139:15  My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.

We were “curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth”. The idea in this sentence is that in the womb we were formed like a piece of artistic needlework, or like a heavenly embroidery. And where are the lowest parts of the earth? In this context it is not only representing our mother’s womb, but it also refers to the minerals and vitamins and enzymes that she ate, and the variety of proteins that she ate, and the style of life that she led, and the genes that she contributed to us, and so on, and so on. God only knew what bodies He produced under the direction of God the Holy Spirit. Our parents were not fully in control, because we were “made in secret” and intricately we were produced in our mother’s womb. But all the while “our substance was not hid from God”. Then we read in V.16,

Ps 139:16  Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when (as yet there was) none of them.

God’s eyes were upon me from the moment I was conceived in my mother’s womb, before I even looked like a human being. My substance was still unperfect, which is a word that not only refers to the physical form of the embryo in the womb, but it also refers to the sinful nature that I inherited from my parents, and that I was inclined to all kinds of evil from the moment I was conceived. Remember, that a baby viper is still a viper, and vipers are under the wrath of God. But God had mercy on me. God wrote in this verse (and this is the literal translation out of the Hebrew), “Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, the days they were formed, and not one was among them”. When were they written in Thy Book? They were written before any of the days came in view when my substance was formed. What was written? Not only the members of my body were written, and all the defects in my body were written, but also my soul and all its inclinations to evil were written. And all my sins were written, because the Lord Jesus Christ could not forget one of them when He atoned for my sins on the cross. Where were they written? They were written in God’s Book. It means that they were written in God’s mind, because God does not need pen and paper to remind Himself, so that He does not forget. God does not forget anything. God had mercy on me. The little serpent became a big serpent, and God had mercy on me when I was about 40 years old. But God did not decide that at the spur of the moment. God decided that before the foundation of the world. And God decided that I shall give to Him all the glory and all the honor, and all the credit for my salvation. I did not choose Him. I did not accept Him. He accepted me and gave me the faith to believe that I had nothing to do with my salvation. I had nothing to do with my 1st birth, and I had nothing to do with my 2nd birth. It was all an act of God. God’s providence made it come to pass, so that He will receive all the glory. But what does God do after my salvation?

Here we see again the continuing love of God for those He saved. We read in verses 17 and 18,

Ps 139:17 ¶ How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God! How great is the sum of them!

Ps 139:18  If I should count them, they are more in number than the sand: when I awake, I am still with thee.

 When I awake, I am still with thee”. When this body dies, my last breath is as if I am falling in a deep sleep. The next moment, however, my soul awakes and “I am still with Thee”. And God will take my soul up in heaven where there is no more the pain and suffering I experienced when I was dying. What a wonderful news for those who are in the process of dying. Some die on their deathbed, some die in the street in a car accident, some die on the battlefield. But everyone dies and everyone experiences the pain of dying. But God gave us the faith to believe that when our body dies it is not all “over”. From that moment our life in eternity is just beginning. What a glorious message, and what a glorious faith that we can believe this. We believe this because it is in the Bible. Therefore, the death of one of God’s Saints, like Annie Rollema, is not an event to weep and wail about. It is an event to celebrate. Although she is no longer around us to help us in various things that we need, she is now in glory, and that should be a joyous occasion to us. Remember, “we sorrow not, even as others which have no hope”. But let us see what is meant by, “How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God!” What are God’s thoughts to me, and why are they precious to me? We know from the Bible that God will make sure, when my body dies, I will still be faithful to Him. The Lord Jesus said in John 10:28, “And I give unto them eternal life, and they shall never perish”. Those whom He has saved He will never allow them to perish. They will never die in a false gospel. They will never die as an apostate. This is precious. God Himself is our shepherd, and God will move heaven and earth, but He will not move our faith in Him. Therefore God says in Psalm 116:15  Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints”. Why precious? It is because God loves me. I know this from the signs of life in my soul that He has given me. Moreover, precious is His plan of salvation. I know from the Bible that I was an unworthy sinner whom He has transformed into a Saint. Also, precious is the Word of God. Who would think that Almighty God would stoop down to have His words written in front of us so that we can be saved? But He did! And most of all, precious is my Savior who made atonement for my sins and who endured my penalty for my sins in my place. And therefore, “Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints”. What death is this? Of course, this is the death of the body, which is only a shadow of God’s curse on Adam after he sinned. We all have to endure this curse because Adam is our representative in the flesh. But what did the Lord Jesus mean when He said in John 11:26, “And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?” Shall never die? What death was Jesus speaking about? Jesus spoke about the 2nd death, of being condemned to the Lake of Fire. Whosoever believeth in Him shall never end up in the Lake of Fire.

We are running out of time, so let us drop down to verse 23.

In other words, we are coming full circle, back to the subject matter of the 1st verse of this psalm.

Ps 139:23  Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts:

After we have proclaimed to God and to the world what wonderful things God has done for us, and after we have expressed our confession that we believe all this, can we now come near to God and say, “Search me, O God. Search me again”. Why did Annie like this psalm so much? Did she not know that even our best works are tainted with sin? What if God finds out those secret sins? Did she not know that even our work of accepting Christ is full of sin? What if we were not sincere enough when we accepted Christ? And what if we did not love God enough when we accepted Christ? And what if we were just short of the full measure of faith when we accepted Christ? Then it was all a hoax and we are still in the uncertainty whether we are saved or not. And don’t we see so many around us who also accepted Christ but now they have fallen away? How could this happen? Well, you see, all these considerations are focused on our actions. But it does not depend on our action. Salvation is God’s action altogether. We are only observers of God’s actions. First of all, do we have faith? This is an action of God, because faith is a gift from God. I am not glibly talking about just any kind of faith. I am talking about faith in the Name of Jesus. And His Name is the Word of God (Rev 19:13). It means, if you believe on the Name of Jesus you believe the whole Word of God, from cover to cover. Do you indeed believe this, or are you deceiving yourself? Do you harmonize everything you read in the Bible including those chapters you do not like? For example, do you believe Rom 9, and John 6, and Eph 1 and 2, and so on. This kind of faith is a gift from God, because God says in Eph 2:8, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that (faith) not of yourselves: it is the gift of God”. If this is the faith we see in ourselves, then we know that God has done a wonderful work within us. It means that Christ has washed all our sins away. It means that in God’s sight we are clean. And therefore, only when we know that we have been saved can we say this, and only when we know what God has done in us can we say, “Search me, O God, and know my heart, try me, and know my thoughts”.

Ps 139:24  And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

In other words, “Lord, confirm my observation that I am saved. Please give me the assurance that I so desperately need”. Lead me, O Lord, for without Your Sovereign leading I can do nothing. Lead me, O Lord, in Your wonderful Book, the Word of God, for without Your leading I can understand nothing. Lead me, O Lord, in my daily life, for without Your leading I will fall away in an instant. “O Lord, lead me in the way everlasting”.

AMEN.                 Let us turn to the Lord in prayer.