Psalm 139:2-4

“You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar.” Others may forget us, but the LORD’s knowledge of us is a moment by moment affair. Whether at rest or in motion we are in a constant state of being known. Job asked the rhetorical question – “Does not he see my ways and number all my steps?” (31:4) Jesus has the very same knowledge (Jn. 2:23-5). It is why he told Nicodemus that he must be born again (Jn. 3).

However, It is more than just a recognition of our sinful condition and need of regeneration. It also speaks to his daily involvement in our lives. Our path, our lying down, and all our ways matter to him. We are familiar to him, and he also knows our end. He has a discerning eye on us, and a discerning mind. The one who gave humans the gift of speech knows our words before we speak them. Thoughts, ways, rest and leisure – we are thoroughly known.

Psalm 139:1 

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.

The Psalms

The Shadow Of Death.

“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death.” (Ps. 23:4a) defines a shadow as, “a dark figure or image cast on the ground or some surface by a body intercepting light.” Death is like a body intercepting light to cast a dark image on the face of the earth. There are seasons in life when one senses this shadow to be closer than we would like. Life in this fallen world is still lived in the shadow of death. David even pictures the shadow in an inescapable valley. There are times when it is more than the shadow of a tree that we can walk around and avoid if we wish to do so. Sometimes the shadow of death covers the valley that we find ourselves passing through. What sort of evil lurks in the shadow in the valley? What is a person’s only comfort when walking through this valley? “I will fear no evil.” (v. 4b) Why? Because I am brave and will assume the stoic tough upper lip. No. “I will fear no evil; for you are with me.” (v. 4bc) This is the heart promise of His one covenant of grace which finds its consummation in the new. “They shall be My people, and I will be their God” (Jer. 32:38). This found ultimate fulfillment through Immanuel, whose name means “God with us” (Cf. Is. 7-8; Mt. 1:22-23). He will remain “with us” forever past the day when the last enemy is destroyed (I Cor. 15:25-26).

The Psalms

Psalm 150 Praise The LORD!

The psalter concludes with praise to the covenant making and covenant keeping LORD, who is also God-in His sanctuary and mighty firmament. It is praise not only fitting in the religious sphere, but is fitting in the whole of creation. We worship Him as the author of salvation, but the entire created order as the maker and sustainer of all things (v. 1). The psalms continuously focus on both who the LORD is and what He has done, in heaven and on earth (Cf. Dt. 3:24). The two are inseparable (v. 2 Cf. Ps. 145:5-6). Every then conceivable instrument is employed in this praise. It is hard to fathom how some can ban instruments in the public worship of God and call this the regulative principle of doing only what the LORD commands, when the psalms themselves command their use (vv. 3-5). Furthermore, it is not limited to the assembled saints in song with musical accompaniment, but dance and everything that has breath also. Thus the whole of life and all created things are continuously part of this worthy praise. “Let everything that has breath praise the LORD. Praise the LORD!” (v. 6)

The Psalms

Psalm 149 A New Joyful Song.

This psalm is indeed a new song – “praise in the assembly of saints.” (v. 1 Cf. Ps. 33:3) It appears to have it’s origin in a recent victory for the people of God. It is praise fit for the King, which is accompanied by dance, timbrel, and harp. Most importantly, it is joyful (vv. 2-3, 5 Cf. Ex. 15:20; Jud. 8:23; Job 35:10; Ps. 81:2; Zech. 9:9; Mt. 21:5). The LORD is their maker not only as creator but also as their covenant maker and keeper. “For the LORD takes pleasure in His people; He will beautify the humble with salvation.” (v. 4 Cf. Pss. 45:27; 132:16; Is. 61:3) It is a battle won with praise to the LORD and a two-edged sword in one’s hand. We may not be taking up arms as the LORD’s people today, but like them we are to go forward in battle with the word of God (v. 6 Cf. Heb. 4:12; Rev. 1:16). It is the LORD who executes vengeance and judgment, binding kings and nobles (vv. 7-9). “This honor have all His saints.” (v. 9) The honor is that the LORD defends His people, and we give Him praise. “Praise the LORD!”

The Psalms

Psalm 148 Praise To The LORD From The Whole Of Creation.

This is a call to worship to the heavens (vv. 1-6), and the earth (vv. 7-12), and the people of the LORD (vv. 13-14). Praise from the sanctuary in the heavens resounds through the whole earth, and finds ultimate human expression within the covenant community of the LORD. As usual in the psalms, this is praise for both who He is and what He has done and continues to do (v. 2). All musical instruments are employed-the psalms themselves commanding it. “Let everything that has breath praise the LORD. Praise the LORD!” (v. 6) Even so all earth creatures offer their praise (vv. 7ff. Cf. Is. 43:20). All of creation even celebrates the LORD’s redemption of His covenant people (Cf. Is. 44:23; 49:13). Through redemption His people are those who draw near (v. 14). So we also praise Him for what He has done, but also for who He is – His name and His glory (v. 13).

The Psalms

Psalm 147 Praise Is Pleasant and Beautiful.

Praise to the LORD is a pleasant and beautiful thing (v. 1 Cf. Pss. 33:1; 48:1; 92:1; 135:3). The LORD is building His church-outcasts are gathered together in Jerusalem (vv. 2, 12 Cf. Mt. 16:18; Heb. 12:22-24). From outcasts to participants in the beautiful and pleasant exercise of prayer and praise (Cf. Dt. 30:3; Ps. 102:16; Is. 11:12; 56:8; Ez. 39:28). “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” (v. 3 Cf. Ps. 51:17; Is. 61:1; Lk. 4:18-19) The humble are lifted up, but the wicked are cast down (v. 6 Cf. Ps. 146:8-9). He counts all His people and knows them by name, just like the stars above (v. 4 Is. 40:25-31). His greatness, power, and understanding are inexhaustible (v. 5 Is. 40:28). Singing to the LORD is always with thanksgiving (v. 7). He faithfully sustains the whole of creation (vv. 8-9 Cf. Job 38:26, 41; Ps. 104:13; Mt. 6:26).

Real strength lies with those who fear the LORD and hope in His mercy. For those in the world, anyone who extols the need for mercy is weak, but this is the strength that only the LORD can give. Outwardly horses and a standing army may seem impressive, but it is the LORD who rules over all (vv. 10-11 Cf. Ps. 33:16-17). In the end the LORD ultimately strengthens His people and blesses us with peace and prosperity (vv. 13-14 Cf. Ps. 132:15; Is. 54:13; 60:17-18). When the LORD speaks, it is a command that springs forth in acts, such as the faithful regulating of the seasons (vv. 15-18 Cf. Job 37:6, 10; Ps. 107:20). In the same way He has given His judgments to His people, what was previously unknown, and is uniquely known by the church (vv. 19-20 Cf. Dt. 4:32-34; 33:4; Ps. 103:7; Mal. 4:4; Rom. 3:1-2). “Praise the LORD!”

The Psalms

Psalm 146 True Happiness.

Praise to the LORD is a main focus in the psalms (vv. 1-2). Men perish, but the LORD remains (vv. 3-4). The plans of man come to nothing (Cf. Ps. 33:10; I Cor. 2:6). Those are happy who trust in the covenant making and covenant keeping LORD, the maker of heaven and earth, and the sovereign ruler over all (vv. 5-6 Cf. Gen. 1:1; Ex. 20:11; Jer. 17:7; Acts 4:24; Rev. 14:7). The LORD keeps truth forever, executing justice for the oppressed, feeding the hungry, giving freedom to the prisoners, and sight to the blind (vv. 7-8a Cf. Ps. 103:6; Is. 61:1; Jn. 9:7, 32-33). “For He satisfies the longing soul, and fills the hungry soul with goodness.” (Ps. 107:9) Those who are bowed down and humbled, He lifts up. These are the righteous whom He loves (v. 8bc), “but the way of the wicked He turns upside down.” (v. 9 Cf. Ps. 147:6) The LORD watches over the helpless-strangers, the fatherless, and the widow (Dt. 10:18; Ps. 68:5). The LORD, the God of the church, which is Zion, shall reign forever (v. 10 Cf. Cf. Ex. 15:18; Heb. 12:22-24; Rev. 11:15).

The Psalms

Psalm 145 The Greatness Of The LORD.

God is not a theological topic only, He acts in history, and as sovereign ruler over all, He reigns as King. We praise Him for who and what He is and does (v. 1). It is a daily act of praise, but it lasts for all eternity (v. 2). “Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised; and His greatness is unsearchable.” (v. 3) The greatness of the LORD can not be exhausted, nor is His power and understanding, nor the marvellous things He has done and continues to do (Cf. Job 5:9; 9:10; 11:7; Ps. 147:5; Is. 40:28). However, it does not mean that either He or His truth are incomprehensible to us, as some suppose. God has given us His word precisely because He and His word are comprehensible to us, though our knowledge is not as exhaustive as His. “Oh the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!” (Rom. 11:33)

The history of the LORD’s works are passed from generation to generation (v. 4 Cf. Is. 38:19). His glorious splendour and majesty, as well as His works, are both the subject of our meditation (v. 5). What He has done and who He is will be declared and remembered by all peoples (vv. 6-7). “The LORD is gracious and full of compassion, slow to anger and great in mercy.” (v. 8 Cf. Ps. 86:5, 15) Grace and mercy is always there for those who turn from their sin to Him (Cf. Ex. 34:6-7). The LORD does not “clear” the guilty, He pardons them through the payment of another (Cf. Nu. 14:18). As the apostles also bear witness, the longsuffering of the Lord, which stems from His goodness, is for repentance and salvation (Cf. Rom. 2:4; II Pet. 3:15). The LORD is also good to all, in that “His tender mercies are over all His works.” (v. 9)

These same works give Him praise, and the saints bless the LORD (vv. 10, 21 Cf. Ps. 19:1). We also speak of what we know. The works and saints of the LORD speak of the glory and majesty of His everlasting kingdom, His power, and a dominion that “endures throughout all generations.” (vv. 11-13 Cf. Ps. 100:5; Jer. 33:11; Dan. 2:44; 4:3; Na. 1:7) He lifts up the fallen and humbled (v. 14 Cf. Ps. 146:8). The same works that give Him praise, also look to Him for their food in season (vv. 15-16 Cf. Pss. 104:21, 27-28; 136:25). “The LORD is righteous in all His ways, gracious in all His works.” (v. 17) When our prayers are true, and we approach in fear or due respect, the LORD draws near and saves us (vv. 18-19). He also preserves us to the end, “but all the wicked He will destroy.” (v. 20) So a certain judgment will come, but the saints will persevere.

The Psalms

Psalm 144 Blessings Through Battles.

Not many of us are trained warriors or destined for this calling in life, but the LORD does train those who are called upon for this needful work (Cf. II Sam. 22:35; Ps. 18:34). However, we are all engaged in a spiritual battle in our lives as believers, and for this the LORD trains us as well. For most of us our fingers are what we employ in making our way in the world. We are able to be successful because the LORD is our Rock, lovingkindness, fortress, high tower, deliverer, shield, and the one in whom we can take refuge, with the promise that He will subdue our enemies (Cf. Ps. 18:47). It is important to remember that the LORD does this through the training He provides as well as direct. He expects us to play our part (vv. 1-2).

In echoes of Psalm 8 David asks, “LORD, what is man, that You take knowledge of him? Or the son of man, that You are mindful of him? Man is like a breath; his days are like a passing shadow.” (vv. 3-4 Cf. Job 7:17-18; 8:9; 14:2; Pss. 8:4; 39:11; 102:11; Heb. 2:6) All of creation is under the LORD’s command and is employed for His kingdom work (vv. 5-6). Foreign enemies are often referred to as great waters also, from which David prays for deliverance (v. 7). The “right hand” signifies strength and help, what one depends on for life and prosperity. For the enemies of the LORD what they rely on is falsehood, therefore they speak “lying words.” (vv. 8, 11). They can’t even trust each other (Cf. Ps. 12:2-3).

David, the psalmist, has different words, words of praise to the God of all creation, “the One who gives salvation to kings,’ and in providence upholds His servants in the midst of the battle (vv. 9-10). So we give thanks to the LORD our God for His work in creation, salvation, and providence. It is a covenant of promise that extends throughout the generations, with fruitful children, secure as pillars in the temple of the LORD, beautiful in appearance also (v. 12). It is also a promise of prosperity in this life (vv. 13-14). “Happy are the people who are in such a state; happy are the people whose God is the LORD.” (v. 15) This is the blessedness of those whose God is the covenant making and covenant keeping LORD.