“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” (Psalm 139:13-16)
Psalm 139 offers a reassuring statement of God’s sovereignty over life. The Psalm unfolds in a way centered on God’s character and activity.
1. God is all-knowing (omniscience) 1-6
- God’s knowledge covers one’s posture, thoughts ways and words
- God’s knowledge is expressed with a series of verbs: God searches, knows, perceives, discerns and is familiar with…
2. God is all-present (omnipresent) 7-12
- God’s presence is so pervasive that there are no escape routes or hiding places
3. God is all-powerful (omnipotent) 13-18
- God not only knows and is present, He’s the Creator.
- The development of the embryo in the womb is ascribed to God
- This is not Mother Nature mysteriously at work.
Think about it:
One of the reasons this psalm has endeared itself to the hearts of so many is that it presents — God as one who is near and intimately knowledgeable of our lives.
He is presented as the author of life – as the one who fashions life in the womb and ordains the number of days planned for us.
- This resonates with us because it tags into a deeper innate sense that we are here by design and not by accident.
- This connects with a deeper sense that we come from a personal Creator not an impersonal process of evolution tracing back to some chance collision of the forces of undirected energy.Here is a Psalm that offers an all-knowing, all-present and all-powerful Creator!
- Our moral impulse as humans cries out for a source of morality.
- Our desire for purpose and meaning cries out for a point of reference and a destiny.
- Our affections themselves (loves and passions) demand deeper connections than some impersonal primordial ooze.
- Here is a God who is intimate, involved, tender and inescapable!
- Here is knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain!
“How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!”
But all of these truths invoke a sense of consternation or concern, leading the psalmist to cry out: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me”
The truths of this psalm do not exist in an ethereal vacuum. They must be understood in complexity of life in a fallen world — a world where a good bit looks like it is without the markings of God’s providence and will.
We study this psalm not in theory but in a world where the name of God is not honored, His Kingdom has not yet come and His will is not being done on earth as it is in heaven!
In such a world, some babies don’t make it out of the womb; some are at risk of what we call imperfections – appearing not to have been fashioned by a perfect loving Creator.
In this world, some of the days ordained for me are painfully difficult days — many of them. How does this all-knowing, all-present and all-powerful Creator relate to a broken world full of sadness and evil?
There is a reason why we must end such a psalm with “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me”
After contemplating God’s detailed knowledge of his life, the psalmist broke into:
- A burst of praise: (6) “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.” (cf. Romans 11:33 - “Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!”)
- A word of trust in God’s care: (9-10) ”If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.” (cf. Psalm 23:4 “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.)
- An expression of endearment: (17-18) “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.”
- A prayer of invitation: (23-24) “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.”
- Psalm 139:13 “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.”
- Jeremiah 1:5 – God’s word to Jeremiah “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”
- Exodus 4:10-11 – Sanctity in the quality of life “Moses said to the Lord, ‘O Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.’ The Lord said to him, ‘Who gave man his mouth? Who makes him deaf or mute? Who gives him sight or makes him blind? Is it not I, the Lord?’”
- More than the “product” of conception It’s an indisputable fact of science that the life of the fetus is more than a “product” of conception. The occupant of the womb is a human life with the potential of becoming a mature human being. Abortion does not simply terminate a pregnancy; it terminates the life of a baby. If you have children, look closely at them and remind yourself that had you chosen to abort them (at any point from conception to birth), you would have ended their lives. This is beyond dispute. Induced abortion is the deliberate destruction of an unborn child.
Fearfully and wonderfully made but frail and woefully fallen;
v.14 – “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”
Psalm 103:13-16 “As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust. As for man, his days are like grass, he flourishes like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more.”
“What if you don’t feel like you are “fearfully and wonderfully made”? What if your body is ravaged by cancer, plagued by infertility or frequent pregnancy loss, or succumbing to an incurable illness? What if your child’s development is slowed or disabled? While we cling to the fact that God is the creator of life, not every life comes out physically perfect. Can we trust that Psalm 139 includes these people, too?
Psalm 139 indicates the Creator regards all human beings as valuable. God cares about the intricate details of our formation. Using poetical language, the psalm depicts God knitting us together, orchestrating every chromosome in our genetic makeup. He gave us his image, making us unlike any other creatures in his creation (Gen. 1:27). This was true before the Fall and remains true even after our demise into sin.
Jesus is the most amazing example of perfectly living out this perspective on mankind. In his earthly ministry he often healed the outcasts and despised. Even the Law prohibited touching many of them (Lev. 13-15). But Jesus went to them. He touched them, making himself ceremonially unclean, healing them both physically and spiritually. Jesus viewed all people, regardless of their condition, as valuable image-bearers. In fact, as the Creator he created them and watched over their development from the earliest stages (Col. 1:16). When we minister to people who are broken both physically and spiritually, we can do so with the same heart as our Savior.
Hope for the Future
I don’t know why God creates some people with sound minds and others without. I don’t know why he gives some women fruitful wombs, while others try for years to no avail. I don’t know why some people fight cancer for years and lose the battle, while others are cured after treatment. And I don’t think we are meant to know, at least in this life.
When Jesus healed a man born blind, he turned the disciples’ thoughts on their heads by not only healing the man but also explaining that his blindness was so God would get glory in his life (John 9:1-3). So there is a purpose to our suffering and our physical brokenness—so that the works of God might be displayed in our fragile lives. What was destroyed by the fall of man will one day be restored when Christ makes all things new. When he inaugurated his kingdom all those years ago he was showing in his earthly ministry what will one day be true of all who are found in him. Revelation 21:4-5 is a beautiful picture of what is to come: tears will be no more, death and sin will be finally conquered, and all things will be made new. That means you.
Jesus’ healing of the broken, despised, and rejected foreshadowed the final redemption that believers will see one day. He secured this blessed redemption by becoming the most unclean person of all on the Cross. He identifies with your brokenness, pain, and isolation. Not only do you have a hope for future healing in the next life, but you also have a comforting Savior for this life (Isa. 53:4).
So while some are given the devastating charge of walking through this life more physically broken than the rest, we can trust that this life is not the end of the story. We have a hope for the future that was paid for by the Savior. The only hope for the suffering and broken person is to cling to Jesus, the one who can cleanse us of our sins and give us a future and a final resting place.
Regardless of your physical or mental status, you are fearfully and wonderfully made by a God who loves you deeply. He created you in his image. Your life is not a mistake. It is a gift. And Psalm 139 has your name on it.” (Courtney Reissig)
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