Wednesday, 18 January 2017
Psalm 139 Study: Does God See Me?
When God looks at me, does he see me? or Jesus.
For the past few decades, Christians have reassured themselves with this phrase: when God looks at you, he doesn’t see your sin, he sees his Son. That’s good news if you’ve just been pierced by an awareness of some wrong we’ve done. The phrase was coined to picture the truth of begin “clothed in Christ’s righteousness.”
But a part of me isn’t satisfied with that. I’m hungry to know that God sees me, not just Jesus.
As I thought about the phrase, I realized it left me with an odd mental picture: all of the Christians walking around planet earth sporting a mask of Jesus over their faces. I wondered if the gospel really meant that we would lose our individuality and become Jesus clones.
There are several ways to answer this misconception. One is to realize that Jesus doesn’t hood us, he clothes us. A beautiful gown doesn’t cover my face; it frames it. God clothes me with Jesus, so that I am the most beautiful version of myself, clean and dazzling with his beauty. Someday that version of me will be the one you see. And I’ll see the best version of you, glorified and Christ-like, but still you.
Another answer to this misconception comes from this week’s psalm.
Psalm 139 is remarkable in two ways, ways that make it feel very modern. It shows that God knows his children as individuals, not just collectives. He knows you. He knows me. And it speaks of intimate knowledge, closer than the kind that exists between a Lord and his servant. More like that of friends, or even lovers who can’t stop thinking about each other. Who are utterly loyal to each other. Who are so closely identified with each other that “your friends are my friends, your enemies my enemies.” What kind of God would relate to us like that?
Thanking God For The Psalms
We’ve come to the last Psalm of our study, just in time for Thanksgiving.
Hasn’t it been amazing to see the depth and diversity of these songs? Don’t you love the honesty? The fight to hang onto the LORD? The loud shouts of victory? Doesn’t it blow you away to imagine Jesus singing each of these during his earthly life? Hasn’t he drawn near to you through the Psalms?
After this week we’ll take a break until January. Two suggestions to keep you feasting on Christ during this busy month. The first is to pick a gospel and read a chapter a day, picturing each scene, seeing your Savior. The other idea is to read an advent devotional, like this one.
This week’s study questions
Day 1: He knows me. vv. 1-6
- David’s voice. How does David address God in this stanza? Count the number of times he says “you” and “me or I or my”. How would you describe his relationship with God based on these 2 facts?
- Which phrases describe knowing David in time and which apply to geography? Which are internal and which are external? Is there anyone you know this well?
- Is David rejoicing or chafing at such close knowledge? Do you think he has mixed feelings about such intimate knowledge? See Job 13:21, 19:8.
- Jesus’ voice. Read this stanza imagining Jesus reciting it. Would his response be mixed or utterly glad? Why might there be a difference between Jesus’ and David’s response?
- My voice. What does it mean to you today to be known like this…and still loved because your sin is covered by Jesus? Pour out your heart to the one who knows you “when,” “where,” and “if”.
Day 2: He is with me. vv. 7-12
- David’s voice. The opening word, “flee”, gives credence to the idea that David might have squirmed a little under such intimate knowledge. Can you think of a time David tried to flee from God, but was found by him?
- This stanza turns a corner at v. 10. Compare v. 5 and v. 10. How is God’s hand being reinterpreted?
- Vv. 11-12 continue this change of perspective. Darkness is a metaphor with several meanings. Can you think of a few? What does darkness cover? What does light expose? How does God cover the sins he exposes?
- Jesus’ voice. How would this stanza have comforted Jesus as he anticipated his death on the cross?
- My voice. Are you tempted to hide from God in any area of your life right now? Know that he is pursuing you in order to do you good. Pray this stanza.
Day 3: He made me. vv. 13-18
- David’s voice. What word for God does David use in this stanza? Why is it an appropriate choice for the idea that David was created by God, and not just by his parents?
- Write down the verbs of creation. What art forms are represented? Can you picture God as the master artist of David’s body and soul?
- How does an artist feel toward his finished work? Does this thought make sense of God’s ongoing care for David expressed in vv. 16-18?
- Jesus’ voice. Imagine the Son of David singing this stanza. What wonder that he was woven in Mary’s womb by the Father! Imagine the Father writing the day of his Son’s crucifixion in his book. Picture the great moment of the resurrection as you read v. 18.
- My voice. Are you tempted to despise something about yourself today? Your body, your mind, your calling? Bring these thoughts before your Father and Creator today with this stanza.
Day 4: My response to him. vv. 19-24
- David’s voice. Picture David “awakening” from his contemplation of God’s nearness to see the wicked world around him. How does this stanza flow from a time of sharing God’s heart?
- Write down the phrases David uses to characterize God’s enemies. Write down their actions against God. Translate these into terms we would use today.
- David’s indignation against sin extends to himself. How does his prayer repeat some words from the psalm and counter other words?
- Jesus’ voice. How did Jesus turn David’s prayer upside down? Who did God slay instead of the wicked? How was v. 23-24 fulfilled in the wilderness? Thank him for passing the test that Adam failed, for us.
- My voice. Are there people in your life who provoke prayers like vv. 19-22? Ask God to turn them into his friends through the faith in his son. Do you want to be closer to God than you are now? Open yourself to even deeper intimacy with him by praying vv. 23-24. You can dare to pray it because of Christ.
Enjoy this wonderful psalm.