When I Awake, I Am Still With You- Psalm 139:17-18

As we continue in our examination of Psalm 139, we have now arrived at the place in which David has run headlong into the mystery of divine sovereignty and human free choice. As we saw in the preceding verses, God had “ordained” David’s days, not only in terms of their number (how long he would live), but also of their content (what would happen to him on any particular day). God has already ordained his days, but David is still free to choose his course on any particular day. What is crucial to understand, in light of what we have seen from verses 15 & 16, is how David responds in light of this realization, for in it we find what is the proper, Godly way of responding to this realization. David begins here by pondering the “thoughts” of God, and stating how “precious” they are to him. We will begin by looking at what David means by “precious” here. The Hebrew word precious here is yaqar, and it is usually understood as the Hebrew equivalent of the Greek word ploutos, which is also often translated as treasure. The reason this is significant here is that this is the Greek word which Jesus uses in Matthew 6:21, in which He states that “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also”. The word ploutos in Greek has the same basic idea behind it as this Hebrew word, referring to that which is most precious to us. Jesus tells us in Matthew 6 that our hearts pursue what is most precious to us, that we as human beings aim at something, that we orient our lives in pursuit of what we value more than anything else. And what David values above all else, what his life is oriented toward, what he pursues above any other pursuit, is the “thoughts” of God. The Hebrew word “thoughts” here is rea, which essentially refers to purposeful thinking, to what someone’s purposes or intentions are. He desires above all else to know and understand God’s purposes for his life, to know what God is up to in his daily living. He wants to be able to see things as God sees them, to understand all of reality in light of what he understands about God. Knowing God on the personal level becomes more important to David than knowing him on the theoretical level. He desires to know God as opposed to knowing about God. In the second half of this verse, David tells us why this is so, and it is because he realizes “how great is the sum of them”. This phrase is further clarified by the next, parallel verse, which tells us that they are “more in number than the sand”. David uses the term sand here as a reference to the number of grains of sand on all the beaches on all the earth, and it serves here as a metaphor telling us that God is infinite and we are finite. Any attempt by a finite creature to fully understand and explain everything about God, and everything about his interactions with His creation, is futile. There are many things which remain mysteries to us, many things about God and his interactions with his creation, which God has chosen not to explain to us, and a full rational explanation or understanding of them lies beyond our finite capacities, for God’s “ways are greater than our ways, and His thoughts are higher than our thoughts” (Isaiah 55:9). What is of highest significance here is David’s reaction to this realization, which we find in the final phrase in verse 18, which is translated as “when I awake, I am still with thee”. The word translated “awake” here is to be aroused to a fully conscious state, to become aware of a situation and act accordingly. David here has been startled to a conscious awareness of the situation here, that there are things about God which lie beyond his capacity to understand, that God is infinite and he, in his finitude, is not able to fully understand these things. So what does David cling in the sight of this? That “I am still with thee”. The word translated with here is im, which can be generally expressed as still “by your side”. David becomes aware of the fact that he does not need to fully understand everything there is to know about God and His interactions with His creation, does not always need to know precisely what God is up to, to walk with God (or by His side) in this world. David’s reaction here to what he encounters as He meditates on what God may be up to in his life should, therefore, serve as a lesson for all who desire to walk with God in this world. As finite human beings, we can never know all that can be known about an infinite God. God has chosen to leave some things as mysteries, has chosen not to give us all of the answers to all of our questions, not to dot all the i’s and cross all the t’s. Our response to this realization should be just what David’s was, to bow humbly before the God of the universe, accepting the fact that we will never have all of the answers, and deciding not to spend our lives in the pursuit of trying to answer unanswerable questions, but to spend our lives in pursuit of walking by God’s side, that when we awake, we are still with Him.

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