Psalm 139 is a study of God’s all-knowing presence. “O LORD, you have searched me and known me.” (v.1) I am thankful that the ESV has preserved the practice of using all capitals when the scriptures refer to the LORD of the covenant (Dt. 7:6-11). Nowhere in the psalm does David use the common word for God – Elohim. The name also means “I AM that I AM” the eternal one, the one who spoke to Moses from the burning bush. In this name we therefore have both his immanence and his transcendence. The name was used in Genesis, but as Young pointed out, not with the significance it received with the gradual unfolding of the canonical revelation of his redemptive work and judgement in history – see Exodus 3 and 6.
O. Palmer Robertson is still, in my mind, the one who best described the covenant as “a bond in blood sovereignly administered.” (See ‘The Christ of the Covenants’). Young also got to the core of the one covenant of grace. “The essence of the covenant which He made with them was that they were to be God’s people and in turn He would be their God.” (‘Psalm 139’, 12) It is also the name that emphasizes the corporate nature of the LORD’s congregation or church throughout the ages. It was a fuller revelation which came to them in the midst of their bondage, which is a big part as to why the church today misses these deep truths – we have forgotten the bondage that we have been delivered from.
When we confess that the LORD is our LORD we unite with this history as our own. To address God as LORD is a gift, a privilege of grace. Only those who are in a covenant relationship with the LORD can expect to have their prayers heard in mercy and grace. We seem to think that God needs and invitation to conduct this examination, so like Adam and Eve we will just hide and maybe he will go away. It is a fearful thing if he should go away. David confesses a reality that he comes to by grace. Being in the past tense, it is not a stretch to see these words as a confession of repentance – he couldn’t run or walk away from his past like his forbearers also tried to do.
We should be thankful that the LORD conducts this deep search, even of things we hoped to forget, because only such a full knowledge of who we really are, and all we have done, can offer us that shalom or peace that surpasses all understanding. We can forgive ourselves even of those things forgotten, because we have the word of our covenant LORD that as far as the east is from the west, so far are our sins from us (Ps. 103:12). There is only one way to truly know God, and that is to be known by him (I Jn. 4:10). Many religions purport to search for the divine, but there is only one that knows that he must search out us, that to know him is first to be known by him – fully.