One of my favourite Bible passages is Psalm 139. It was the first one I ever memorised, and the only one that I can still remember verbatim to this day.
When we were first told many years ago that we would have to memorise it for a youth retreat, I remember the collective groan we all felt (but only dared communicate with our eyes!) because A) it’s in the Old Testament, aka the boring one, and B) it’s soooooo long.
But then our youth leader, Stephen, gave a short bible study based on the passage and opened our eyes to the awesome, wonder-filled love letter that is contained in these 24 verses. I can still hear the passion in his voice as he broke down each verse, showing how complete and encompassing and devoted God’s love is.
“Oh Lord, you have searched me and you know me”
Total understanding and acceptance. Stephen challenged us to stop and say just this first verse until its actual meaning penetrated through. Our Lord knows everything – all the unsaid words that we shout angrily in our hearts, all the quiet doubts and questions, all the lies to others and ourselves. He has searched our hearts, he knows our hearts…and he loves, completely.
“You hem me in, behind and before, you have laid your hand upon me.”
Constant protection and shield. Picture His hand in front of you, behind you, above and below, cradling completely.
“If I go up to the heavens, you are there. If I make my bed in the depths, you are there. 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.”
I remember loving the imagery of these verses and picturing golden skies, inky blackness, rose dawns… But it is the very last bit that has become particularly precious to me over the past 20 years, when I actually have settled “on the far side of the sea”. I am continually amazed and grateful that the God I fell in love with so many years ago in a Korean-American student campus ministry is the exact same God I have met again 5,000 miles away in the midst of a local Irish community outreach ministry.
Sometimes, I find myself at a bit of a loss for words when I am praying for a particularly challenging circumstance. Worry over the situation chokes my prayer, and I am filled with doubt and fear and I don’t even know where to start…it all seems so futile. One day in this agitated state of mind/spirit, I found myself randomly reciting Psalm 139. And once I started, I realised that these words were my prayer. As I came to the verses “If I say, ‘Surely the darkness will hide me, and the light become night around me,’ even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you,” I found myself reciting with the same joy and wonder that David must have felt over God’s awesome, all-powerful love.
Since then, I have often come to Psalm 139 to soothe, to encourage, to pray, to rejoice when my own words fail. It never fails to restore confidence…not necessarily in outcomes, but rather in who God is and who I am to Him.