Psalm 139: A Banner Psalm of God

Do me a favor and please read Psalm 139.

This text has been dubbed the “crown of psalms” as it is not only one of the most famous psalms out there but the whole context of it appears to be the jewel that sits atop the crown of psalms. And why? Because it’s extremely personal, vastly broad in its focus, and yet deeply narrow as well. This psalm touches upon who we are and yet declares that God is so much more. That he is all-knowing, all-powerful, and ever-present. That he is the King of kings and yet…that all-powerful King of kings is intimately involved in my life. And yet we use this psalm for so many other reasons (whether they are a good use of them or not is up to the reader). This is the banner psalm for those who fight for things they are passionate about. This is a banner psalm for those that struggle with sin in their lives. This is a banner psalm for those who are working through emotions, their own creation from God, as well as understanding who they are too. And while many people may use this as a battle cry I would encourage us to use this more of a battle reminder.

This psalm could easily be read about me. About who I am, the brokenness I have, or the simple fact that since it is God who created me then I am perfect in his eyes. Unfortunately that is not true. If you don’t know this yet then I guess I’ll be the bearer of bad news: you are not “good.” You are not “complete” and you’re definitely not “perfect.” The “completeness” you have is that you are completely broken. And guess what – so am I. And we see this in our text.

  • To be “hemmed” in (vs 5) means that you are securely confined. And not in a bad way. We “hem” children when we swaddle them. When someone is physically struggling with someone we “hem” them by holding their arms and legs together so that they cannot hurt themselves or you. It simply means to enclose, tie, or bind. And in our relationship with God when he hems us it’s a wrapping up that is done to calm and ease us. But we only need to be hemmed because we’re struggling with him, hurting ourselves, or hurting others.
  • We read in verse 7+ that David declares if he cannot get away “from your Spirit.” Which means that there are times when he’s tried…and there have been times when I wanted to as well. Not because I want to get away from goodness and love – but when I do the things I know I shouldn’t then, like a child who knows they are being naughty, I want to run and hide so that I don’t God’s disapproval of me.
  • In verse 11 David declares that should he say “surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” he says it because, even though he declares he’s a child of God, there is sin and darkness in him that seeks out more sin and darkness.

And yet through all of this David declares one cannot get away from God. So I will ask again – is this psalm about you or me and our understandings of ourselves?


This psalm is a praise of God and not a psalm of my personal realities and truths. God is the one who knows me and searches me and yet still calls me his son/daughter. God is the one who knows me so well, and so deeply, that when I rise and fall it’s already known and understood. In verse 3 we read that God “discerns” my going and lying down which means that God not only knows my ways but he knows the whole backstory of everything I do and the reasons I do them. And in the end THAT, and that alone, is what brings David peace. That God is so knowing, so present, and so far beyond anything that even his own sin and brokenness does not move God away. That God, while he searches and completely knows us…our sin and guilt do not push him away. We may feel like it does or should but that’s our truth and not Gods.

But it doesn’t end there because your sin and brokenness not only doesn’t push God away but God, through Christ, runs towards us. Not the sin…but the person committing the sin. So maybe THAT should be our battle reminder and cry? That the God of the universe is not only intimately known in our hearts but he knows us with a completeness like no other. That while yes we cannot get away from God that also means we cannot push him away either.

I’ll end here with the words from Martin Buber’s book Tales of the Hasadim (Buber was an early twentieth-century Jewish philosopher):

Where I wander – You!
Where I ponder – You!
Only You, You again, always You!
You! You! You!
When I am gladdened – You!
When I am saddened – You!
Only You, You again, always You!
You! You! You!
Sky is You, Earth is You!
You above! You below!
In every trend, at every end,
Only You, You again, always You!
You! You! You!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s