We often find in ourselves a host of desires. Whether it is acceptance, relationship, popularity, or success, we cannot deny that there are innate longings within us compelling our thoughts and actions. We find ourselves subject to emotional despair or satisfaction depending upon whether or not these desires are met. One of these desires (that God has inherently blessed us with) is for intimacy, to experience closeness and to be known. Typically, we think of intimacy in regards to romantic relationships, however, when reading through Psalm 139, it reveals that God is quite intimate with his creation. He is very near and close to us and possesses a vastly intimate knowledge of us. He knows us beyond measure and in ways that we cannot even begin to fathom. Psalm 139 shows us four beautiful aspects of God’s intimacy with us.
1. Indescribable Intimacy (vv. 1-6)
The first stanza of Psalm 139 defines how vast God’s knowledge of us truly is. We find that there is nothing we can do that would come as a surprise to him. When I was a kid, I remember trying to do something so unprecedented and absurd that even God would be taken by surprise. I would sit in my room, knowing that the God who presides over the entire universe was watching me, and then, I would try to fake him out with some ridiculous action. Of course, I looked quite foolish doing this as is easy enough to imagine, but then, the thought would come to my mind that God even knew I was going to do whatever eccentric act I could come up with before I even did it. In trying to fool God, I only found myself looking foolish.
“Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.” (Ps. 139:4)
Looking at this passage, I still have to ask myself today, “Am I trying to fake God out?” I no longer pull the ridiculous stunts of my youth, but do I still try to do things without God finding out about them? Do any of us do this? Psalm 139 tells us that before God, we are laid open like a book for him to read. Beyond that, God is the author of that book (Ps. 139:2-3). He is the ultimate expert on the subject of you, and he comprehends our deepest thoughts, emotions, and motives. Furthermore, we cannot even begin to know how much God truly knows us, it is beyond our understanding. His knowledge of us is so pervasive and infinite that it invades our very existence and penetrates through us on an emotional, physical, biological, and atomic level. His knowledge of us is infinitely superior to our own understanding of ourselves. The only response is to stand in awe and wonder and like David, humbly admit that “such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it” (Ps. 139:6).
2. Inescapable Intimacy (vv. 7-12)
“Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence?” (Ps. 139:7)
Here, David is not looking for a place to escape from God. His questions are hypothetical and allude to the fact that we cannot hide from God’s presence. To do so is to act in utter futility. The overwhelming vastness of his nature extends beyond the farthest reaches of the cosmos and covers the depth and vastness of the ocean (Ps. 139:8-9). As Alpha and Omega, God’s presence exists beyond time and space; it extends to eternity past as well as eternity future. For believers in Christ, it is beyond absurd to ever think we can escape from the presence of God; his Holy Spirit dwells within us. His intimate nature with us is invasive, permeating our very spirit and soul, and transforming us from the inside out in order that we may be conformed to the image of his Son (Rom. 8:29).
The truth of the matter is that there is no place (past, present, or future) within the entire universe we could find ourselves where God’s presence could not be. If such a place were to exist, why would we even want to go there? God’s presence expunges the darkness of this world to shed a light that cannot be extinguished. (Ps. 139:11-12) A light that guides us, exuding from a perfect and Holy Father who contemplates our thoughts and desires. Within the infiniteness of his knowledge of us, we should find ourselves completely driven to dwell within this presence, as it is in this intimate presence that we are understood perfectly and completely.
3. Inward Intimacy (vv. 13-16)
God’s intimate knowledge of us extends and manifests itself even to our own physical creation. This stanza reveals God’s activity in creating us as we are. “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb” (Ps. 139:13). This verse shows that God’s process is hands on, and not a distant or arbitrary process. As a child grows and bones form, tissue develops, tendons attach to bone, and the synapses of the brain form, God is present and active in every aspect of the physical creation of a human being, or any other creation for that matter. God has created us in an intimate manner revealing his care and concern for the things he creates. This intimacy, care, and concern even existed long before our physical creation:
“Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.” (Ps. 139:16)
Before anyone’s physical creation, God in his sovereignty knew not only the process of our creation, but also every day that would follow. From the time of eternity past, and exceeding eternally into the future, God has known every subtle intricacy of you and your entire existence. Every cell of your being he knew of forever ago, and he brought them all together and fashioned them to intimately form who you are. He knew every nanosecond of your life before you ever took a breath. He also knew every personality trait you would have as well. Your quirks, mannerisms, and idiosyncrasies; he knew of them all and how they would affect who you are as a person. The things that make you sad or happy, he knows. Whatever stresses you out, your pet peeves, and your greatest delights, he is perfectly aware of them all. He has unequivocally known us beyond measure and it is a demonstration of his infinite love for us.
4. Joyful Intimacy (vv. 17-24)
David’s closing words of the Psalm result in praise, a call for justice, an alignment of thought with God, and a prayer for God to continue searching him for any wrong that may be in his heart. Seeing how intimately God knows us should compel us to burst out with rejoicing for who he is. Instead, we often feel inadequate about ourselves and question some of God’s decisions. The Psalm also teaches us that we are not illegitimate children in God’s eyes, but that we all possess value as works of a magnificent Creator. When we see the Creator’s creation being wasted away or destroyed, we should cry out to God who is capable, and will one day, restore all things.
Being made in the image of God and bearing his intimate fingerprints amidst every aspect of ourselves, we should seek to align our heart’s concerns and desires in accordance with his. Finally, we should realize that we are not yet a finished product. Though made in God’s image and by his hands, we still are marred by the affects of sin and should cry out to God to search us and convict us in the areas of our lives where we fall short. His conviction leads to repentance and thus, leads to our joy.
God’s intimate nature with us should lead us to humility, patience, and trust. If God has created us as the Psalmist proclaims, then we are created by a God of understanding who is intimately aware and concerned of all our desires. He is not ignorant of any part of our lives; he is in the details, presiding over us and watching over us. Like David we pray, “Lead me in the way everlasting” with great trust (Ps. 139:24). God has gone through immeasurable lengths to know us, even to the extent of becoming like us as man in person of Jesus, and that should fill us with an immense hope. We can take the words of Christ, “Do not be anxious about tomorrow” (Matt. 6:34) to heart, knowing that God is sovereignly watching over us in every facet of our lives, from the inside out.
In light of Psalm 139, the “what if's” of life seem to melt away when we survey them trusting in God’s absolute omniscience. With confidence, we can look to Psalm 139 and discover that our lives have meaning and value to God, and we can place faith in the Almighty who knows us with an infinite intimacy.
Mark Hampton is currently a student at Criswell College and serves at Metrocrest Community Church where he plays a role in music, media, and missions. Along with school and work, he is a Hindi student and travels to India each year for ministry and language learningYou can follow him on Twitter: @markismoving.