Saturday, February 23, 2008

"O Lord, you have searched me and you know me."

Our earliest ancestors tried it . . . to no avail. They had sinned, and when they heard God approaching, they fled and sought to hide. They tried to hide from the one who knows and sees all. In hindsight, rather foolish, but quite human, nonetheless.

We've all tried it . . . I know I have. We run from our sins, rather, we run from an accounting of those sins. In shame, we seek to hide . . . to hide from God and from those closest to us. We hand our heads. We cover our eyes. We deny. We blame. We may even bury ourselves deeper in our sins, because we are unprepared to deal with our folly and the harm our choices have brought.

But, just as certainly as God came into the Garden, knowing full well what Adam and Eve had done and knowing where they hid, God knows us . . . we cannot hide from him.

I love Psalm 139, but it must be one of the most challenging passages in Scripture.

The psalmist prays, "O Lord, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O Lord" (vv. 1-4).

The psalmist continues to relate who God is the all-knowing Creator, the one who "created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb" (v.13). And concludes, "Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there" (vv. 7-8).

Psalm 139 is not merely a psalm of praise, glorigying God as Creator, but it is a prayer of confession and supplication. The psalmist invites God into his life, for the Father to expunge all that is dark and void and sin, and to renew what has become corrupted. But, the psalmist is also declaring his own faithfulness and righteousness, sayining, in essence, God you know me intimately, I can hide nothing from you, my life is laid bare before you, and I have no shame. The Psalmist is not arrogant in making this confession; the implication, I believe, is that he has lived his life diligently and conciously opening himself up to God, quick to deal with his sin, not trying to hide from God, but eagerly inviting him to enter his life and to rule over it.

The psalmist cries out, "If only you would slay the wicked, O God! Away from me, you bloodthirsty men! They speak of you with evil intent; your adversaries misuse your name. Do I not hate those who hate you, O Lord, and abhor those who rise up against you? I have nothing but hatred for them; I count them my enemies. Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting" (vv. 19-24).

To live transparently before God . . . how freeing . . . how empowering. Much of the worry in life stems from our insecurities, constantly rining our hands over what others and God thinks of us. And, in our efforts to cover up our weaknesses, inadequacies, and failures, we dig deeper holes rather than bury them. To open onesself up to God, to cry out for his assistance and mercy and strength in our times of need (and moral and spiritual failure) is key. When we open ourselves up to God, we invite his tender touch, his mercy, his loving care. It's very difficult for a doctor to heal a stubborn patient and a patient in denial.

Let us us share the praise of the psalmist: "How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand. When I awake, I am still with you" (vv. 17-18).