You Know Me- Psalm 139:1

We will now begin a study of Psalm 139, in which David examines and ponders some thoughts about who God is, and who he is in light of this. We will look at the beginning of this Psalm separate from the rest of it, for it is a good place in which to examine the beauty and power of Hebrew poetry. The Old Testament is originally written in Hebrew, and the Psalms are written as poems. This seems unusual to those who speak English, for English poetry is characterized by rhyme and meter. English poems generally rhyme, and have a rhythm, much like a song. Hebrew poetry is not written this way, but is characterized by parallelism and imagery. Parallelism is the use of two or three parallel lines, each dealing with the same subject, with the second and third line explaining, clarifying or deepening the thought of the first. Imagery is the use of word pictures to describe a state of affairs, usually the writers mental and emotional state at the time, and is not meant to be understood literally. The writer paints word pictures to let us in on what he is experiencing at the time, and often, as we will see, the parallelism helps us to understand the word picture. We will see both of these rather clearly in the first two verses. Verse one reads, in the NIV, as follows: “O Lord, you have searched me and you know me. These two lines (separated by the “and” here) are an example of parallelism, the searching and the knowing are related somehow, and are referring to the same thought. The Hebrew word “Lord” here is Yahweh, which is God’s covenant name, the name He told His covenant people to use in reference to Him. The use of this points to the relationship of covenant love which God has with His people, the searching and knowing are undertaken by a God who loves David and seeks the best for him. The Hebrew word “searched” here means to “dig down to the depths”. David here acknowledges that God’s knowledge of him is more comprehensive than David’s knowledge of himself. God examines us to the very depths of our beings, and knows us better than we know ourselves, knows motivations deep within our hearts that we ourselves don’t even know are there. This searching here is presented in parallel with knowing. The Hebrew word “know” here is yada, which is used to refer to the most intimate, personal knowledge possible between two persons. The digging down to the depths here is in this way clarified by the understanding that it is in the context of an intimate personal relationship . So what David is ultimately saying here, through the use of parallelism, is that God knows him more intimately than he knows himself, that God knows motivations and desires that exist within David that even David is unaware of, and what really gets to David is the fact that God loves him anyway. God knows what is hidden in the deep dark corners of David’s heart, what secret thoughts lie hidden in the recesses of his mind. God knows all the bad stuff about David, much of which David himself remains unaware of, God knows David better than he knows himself. And what brings David to the place from which he composes this poem of praise is the fact that God loves and accepts him anyway. God has searched David to the very core of his being, has seen all of the skeletons in his closet, become intimately acquainted with all of David’s flaws and weaknesses, and remains the God of covenant love for David, the God who, as we will see later in this Psalm, “works all things together for the good of those that love Him” (Romans 8:28). Having examined the use of parallelism here in verse one, we will next examine the use of imagery in verse two, and then see how the two combine to enhance the beauty of David’s praise to God and the power of God’s revelation to His people through David’s Psalm of praise.

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