“I’m so glad that when I asked the Lord to search my life that He did it with a candle and not a searchlight!” That was the way one person put it. She had prayed the prayer of openness to God in Psalm 139:23-24, asking God to search her life. She wanted Him to show her things that He saw as needing attention. The prayer was answered. She later reflected on what had happened. She realised that God could have shown her a lot more than He had at the time. He had progressively shown more as time when went on, in an ongoing answer to her prayer. What He revealed was never too much for her to handle at any one time.
King David wanted to be right with God. In Psalm 139 he declared the attributes of the God whom he served, YHWH. As we saw in previous articles, he outlined the Omniscience of God (God knows all things). Then he wrote on the Omnipresence of God (God can be experienced by His people everywhere). Then he described the Omnipotence of God (God can do all that He purposes to do). These are the subjects of previous blogs. This is the God whom David worships. In the light of those attributes, David turns those truths into prayer to his God.
Verse 23. Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts!
It is interesting to note the wording David uses in the prayer. He turns the statements in verse 1 about God into a prayer. Psalm 139:1, “O LORD, you have searched me and known me!”
In the prayer in verse 23 he asks God, Psalm 139:23, “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts!” In both the Hebrew text and in the Greek Septuagint text, the words for “search” and “know” are the same as those in verse 1. It’s as though David is saying, “Lord, You are the God who searches and knows. I invite You to search me and know me.” He wants to be the man of God that he is meant to be. He can’t see himself as God sees him, so He asks God to do the searching.
The word for “search” is “chaqar”. This has the meaning to examine, probe, ascertain, to do a thorough search. David has already affirmed that God searches, so why is he asking God to do what He does anyway? The answer is that David wants God to do the search and then to let him know the result of the search. He wants to see himself as God sees him so that he knows what he needs to change in his life.
Similarly in verse 23 he asks God to “try” him and to “know” his thoughts. “Thoughts” comes from the Hebrew “sarappim” which is also translated as “anxious” thoughts. Support for this comes from the Greek text where the word is “καρδιαν” = “heart”. The heart was seen as the seat of desires and feelings. Again David is asking God to reveal to him what he sees in David’s inner-most being, especially in his thought-life.
Verse 24. And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!
What does David mean by a “grievous” way? The word “otseb” has a variety of meanings. It can mean pain, sorrow or even an idol. The focus appears to be on the grief David would cause to God by his wrong behaviour. In the Greek Septuagint text the word is “ἀνομία” (anomia) which can mean lawless, hurtful, grievous, wicked, offensive, way of iniquity. Some folk think that David is writing about the pain he might receive if he was resistant to God. But in this context David seems to be saying that he wants God to show him anything in his life that was offensive to Him. His ultimate aim is to be led by God in the way everlasting (God’s way). Here is the mark of a person who really wants to be open to God by being set free from the negative, and positively walking in His ways. David was seeking to be the leader God wanted him to be in the terms Samuel told Saul, 1Sam 13:14 But now your kingdom shall not continue. The LORD has sought out ‘a man after his own heart’, and the LORD has commanded him to be prince over his people, because you have not kept what the LORD commanded you.” The only way David could become a man after God’s own heart would be to allow God to share His heart with David. That was the motivation behind his prayer. It needed also a willingness to change. David was willing.
On a personal level. Would we be game to let God shine the searchlight of His purity and His love into our hearts? Would we be willing to let Him share with us how He sees us? Would we be willing to change the things in our lives that are grievous to Him? Would we be willing for Him to make us willing to be totally open to Him? Why not pray the prayer and see what God does in your life, to your benefit and to His glory.
Blog No.143. Jim Holbeck. Posted on Sunday 23rd February 2014.