Your Hand Will Guide Me- Psalm 139:7-10

As we continue in our examination of Psalm 139, we should first of all recall how David began this Psalm, with a recollection of the covenant love of God, with an understanding that God loves him no matter what because he is one of God’s covenant people, that God’s hand is always upon him no matter what. This awareness becomes very important in the next portion of the Psalm. David begins this section by asking a question to which the answer is obvious in verse 7, which reads as follows: “where can I go from your Spirit, and where shall I flee from your presence”? The obvious answer to both of these questions is “nowhere”, since God is omnipresent. David finds this as both a comfort and a warning, as can be seen in his use of “go” in the first phrase and “flee” in the second. What this usage signifies is that God is always present to run “to” in times of difficulty, but also always present so David is unable to flee “from” Him in times of disobedience. God is an “ever present help in times of trouble”, but also His presence always serves to remind us of what is right when we are considering doing wrong. It is this understanding of the omnipresence of God which David expresses more fully in the following verses. Verse eight tells us that God is with us if we “Go up to the heavens” or if we “make our bed in the depths”. We should recall now that this Psalm is written as a poem, and these phrases reflect again the use of imagery, that David does not literally make any beds here. What the use of this imagery suggests here is moving toward God in obedience (going up to the heavens) or moving away from God in disobedience (make my bed in the depths), God is with him in both instances. The phrase going up to the heavens is similar to one used in Psalm 24, to “ascend to God’s holy hill”. One who can do so is one who has “clean hands and a pure heart”, so the image of ascending toward God is one of a person who is living in obedience to what God has commanded. Its opposite image is also presented here in the use of David “making his bed in the depths”, with the depths here obviously serving as the opposite of the heights of heaven. This then refers to those times in which David, like Jonah, is running from God’s plan for his life rather than toward it. This concept is further developed and explained in verse 9, in which we find that “If I rise on the wings of the dawn, or if I settle on the far side of the sea”. What we find here are two similar but not identical ideas. In the first set of images, David refers to his moral state, whether he is seeking to obey God’s will or to run from it. In this second set of images, we find David making reference to his mental state. The image “rise on the wings of the dawn” is a reference to one who is ascending upward into the light, with light serving as a common metaphor for order. This becomes more clear in the second image, in which David “settles on the far side of the sea”. The sea was also a common metaphor, used to represent chaos. So we find here two images which both refer to the varying mental states of David, whether his thinking is characterized by clarity or confusion, by order or chaos. So what we find here is that David shows himself here to be just like all of God’s people, not one who lives a life of perfect obedience and perpetual clarity of thought and bliss, but one whose life sometimes reflected this, and at other times was characterized by disobedience, confusion of thought and despair. What David clings to most in both of these times is the fact that God is there with him and loves him no matter what. This is expressed clearly in verse 10, in which David tells us that “even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast”. The “even there” here refers rather obviously to the depths and the far side of the sea, for we have very little reason to doubt that God is with us when we are moving toward Him, but much reason to doubt that God is with us when we are moving away. What David holds to here is that, even when he is “making his bed in the depths” or “settling on the far side of the sea”, God is still watching over him with His covenant love. There is nowhere David can go in which God is not present, and this is a comfort to David when he has become confused or lost his way, when he has wandered of the path which God desires for him to walk, only because he is ever aware of the fact of the covenant love which God always bestows upon His people. God is with us wherever we go, and His love always watches over us, even when we become confused or deceived and lose our way. We can take comfort in the fact that He never abandons us, and will move heaven and earth in order to get us back upon the right path for our lives, to help us return to “going up to the heavens” and “rising on the wings of the dawn”.

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