430. BECOMING OPEN TO GOD. (PSALM 139. A prayer based on the character of God.) Core Teaching Stage 1. Topic 3.

What is God like? The Bible says that humans are made in His image. The problem is that all too often, humans make God in their image and do Him great injustice by thinking of Him as having the same faults that they see fellow humans possessing. They see Him as being a God who is angry with the human race and who has to be appeased by sacrifices they need to make. They see Him as being inconsistent like themselves and ultimately untrustworthy. Some even express their anger at Him by declaring that He doesn’t even exist.

Where then can we get a reliable description of Him? It has to come from His revelation of Himself in His word, the Bible. One of the best descriptions of His attributes is to be found in Psalm 139, a Psalm of David.



1 “O LORD, you have searched me and known me! “

God knows everything about every human. There is nothing hidden from Him. 

The word for “searched” in the Greek version of the Old Testament [the Septuagint known as the LXX ] is [dokimazō; δοκιμάζω] meaning to put to the proof, examine, to approve after proving. 

“Known” is from [ginōskō: γινώσκω] meaning to understand, to perceive. David is saying that God had done a thorough search on him and had come to know everything about him. He is the God who continually knows everything about everyone. David is expressing this in a confident manner knowing that God never misunderstands anything about anyone. 

2 “You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar.” 

God knows the actions of everyone. He also knows what they are thinking. Nothing is hidden from Him. He can never be fooled nor deceived.

3  “You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways.” “Search” here is a different word. It is from [exichniázō; ἐξιχνιάζω] meaning to explore, to trace, to track out.  God traces out our paths and understands what lies ahead. How comforting for us to know that God knows even our future. 

4  “Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O LORD, you know it altogether.”

How strange to know that God knows everything we are going to say, before we say it. That may explain why it is that some believers receive a check in their spirit as they are in the process of saying something and then don’t feel free say it. Later on they-realise that what they were going to say could have caused hurt or harm in the lives of those who heard it.

5  “You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me.”

This literally is “Back and front, you enclosed me.” David is saying that he was hemmed in by God and that God’s hand was on him. It speaks of God’s nearness to him and of His protection of him. 

6  “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it.” 

David sums up these few verses by saying that God’s omniscience was beyond his comprehension. There was no way he could grasp it fully. 

It is liberating to know that God knows everything about every person on earth. That means that He understand our hidden motives and can see our innocence even when others see us as guilty. It also means that He is not deceived by us when we claim to be innocent when in fact we are guilty. He can convict us by His Holy Spirit to show that we need to repent and confess that sin to Him. As we do so He cleanses us from that sin and we become more humble, inviting Him to be the Lord and Master of our lives. 


7 “Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence?”

King David had come to realise that God was not confined to just being present at different times in the tabernacle. He could be experienced anywhere at any time. So these words in verse 7 expressed that belief in David. He could think of no place where God would not be present. So there was chance of fleeing from Him. 

8 “If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!”

David thought of all the possibilities of trying to find a place where God was not. He knew that even if he ascended to heaven, God would be there. If he descended into Sheol, the place of the dead, He would be there also. If God existed in the heights and the depths, then could an extreme remote place on earth be a place where God would be absent? He answers that in the next verse. 

9 “If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea”

David was saying that if he could go to the extremities of the earth and dwell in the deepest sea, “even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me.” Verse 10. It is interesting that David not only saw God as being present in those places, but He would be there for David. God’s hand would lead Him and His right hand would hold Him. These words seem to express God’s care for him if he were able to arrive at those places. [Note 1].

11’ If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night, 12 even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you.”‘ The final place David imagines himself to be  is in darkness where there is no light.  But David’s confidence is in God’s ability to see in the darkness as though it was still daylight. It might be darkness to a human like David, but nothing, not even darkness, could hide David from God.

It is as though David is saying in these few verses that God is omnipresent, present everywhere, and that this was nothing to be feared but to be rejoiced in. God is present in any situation in which any human can be placed at any time. 


David now moves from thinking about God in the world “out there” to reflecting on God in relation to him as an individual, “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.” Verse 13. 

He sees that God had created him as an individual in his mother’s womb. He fashioned him in the womb to be the person God created him to be. It means that every individual is an individual creation by God Himself. 

These truths lead David to express his praise to God for being created by God, “I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.” Verse 14. 

The Greek Old Testament version [LXX] has the word [exomologeō; ἐξομολογέω] at the beginning of the sentence. It means to acknowledge or to give praise to. So David is praising God for being created by Him. He recognises that he has been fearfully and wonderfully made, even as all God’s works are wonderful. He added that his soul knows that very well. [Note 2].

God saw David in the womb as he was being made

“My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth.” Verse 15. What was happening in his mother’s womb after he was conceived was a secret to humans but was not hidden from God. David described his growth in the womb as being “intricately woven. “ God creates every individual with great care even giving them unique finger prints. 

God saw all David’s life before he was born

“Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.” Verse 16.

How great it is to know that God knows all the days of our lives. It means that He has a plan and purpose for each one of us in life and we need to come to know Him and submit our lives to Him in order to find that plan. Imagine the joy and the sense of fulfilment when people come to know God’s will for them and are doing it to His glory.

God’s knowledge is far beyond human knowledge. Verses 17-18

“How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! 18 If I would count them, they are more than the sand. I awake, and I am still with you.”

David had already shown that God is omniscient.  He considered it impossible to count the number of God’s thoughts. More than the sand. Innumerable. He could go to sleep still pondering them and when he awoke God would still be with him. 


David now thinks of all those who reject this magnificent God. Surely they deserve to be punished for their sin in rejecting Him.He affirms his own allegiance to God as he asks God to deal with those evil-doers. 

19 “Oh that you would slay the wicked, O God! O men of blood, depart from me!”

David sees these people as being wicked, as shedding perhaps innocent blood. He wants nothing to do with them. God should slay them.

20 “They speak against you with malicious intent; your enemies take your name in vain.” David tells God about those who reject Him. He sees them as speaking malice against God and taking His name in vain.

David is angry as he writes these words, 21 “Do I not hate those who hate you, O LORD? And do I not loathe those who rise up against you? 22 I hate them with complete hatred; I count them my enemies.” His anger is expressed in strong language. He hates them. He loathes them. He hates them with complete hatred. Because they have made themselves enemies of God, then they are David’s enemies as well. It is David’s way of saying to God, “You can count on me Lord. I am on your side!”

In the above we have seen David’s description of God as being omniscient [knowing all things], omnipresent [being everywhere] and omnipotent [all-powerful, able to do everything He wishes to do.] He wants to walk in God’s ways without having any hidden sin. So he turns this Psalm into a prayer as he asks the searching God to search him 


v. 23. “Search me O God and know my heart.”          

“Search” here [dokimazō; δοκιμάζω] is the same as in verse 1 where David wrote “O LORD, you have searched me and known me!” He asks again for God to search him and to know his heart. He turns the truth about God he expressed in the first verse of the Psalm into a prayer to Him. He wants God to reveal the result of His search to him so that he can deal with anything that may be amiss in his life. 

“Test me and know my anxious thoughts.“ “Test” here is [etason; ετασόν from ἐτάζω] meaning to examine. David wanted God to examine his [tribos; τρίβος] which in the  LXX means a beaten or worn path. It may be a reference to the battered path of his mind or to his anxieties. 

v.24. “See if there is any offensive way in me” (Any path in me that brings You grief)

In the LXX the meaning is “See if there is any unlawful or sinful way in me.”

“And lead me in the way everlasting.” The word for lead here is the same [hodēgeō;  ὁδηγέω] as in verse 10, where David wrote, “even there your hand shall lead me.” Here David is saying that he wants to be led in the everlasting way, in God’s way. 

Through our openness to God, as we pray the words of verses 23 and 24, we can cooperate with Him as He searches us and reveals to us the things we need to know for our healing and for our empowering. As we repent of anything amiss in our lives, we can become more and more the people He wants us to be, to do His will, to His glory. 

Through our openness to God, we can cooperate with Him as He searches us and reveals to us the things we need to know for our healing and for our empowering. 

Thus we can become more and more the people He wants us to be, to do His will, to His glory. That is what God demands of every human.


[Note 1].       “Lead” is from [hodēgeō;  ὁδηγέω] means to act as a guide or to lead.

“Hold”is from [katechō; κατέχω] meaning to hold securely

[Note 2].       “Well.” From [sphodra;  σφόδρα] meaning exceedingly, or very well.

Blog No.430 posted on Saturday 24 September 2022

About Jim Holbeck

Once an Industrial Chemist working for the Queensland Government but later an Anglican minister in Brisbane, Armidale and Sydney. Last position for eighteen years before retirement in 2006 was as the Leader of the Healing Ministry at St Andrew's Cathedral Sydney.
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