Treasure Trove: Psalm 139

20160327_133801Recently on a Christian Facebook community page I belong to people were asked to name their favourite psalm. Out of about a dozen responses, something like half cited the 139th Psalm.

Its popularity is perhaps understandable: although towards the end it takes a sharp turn for the vengeful, with a cry to God to ‘slay the wicked’ and the ‘bloodthirsty’, the majority of the psalm is filled with a sense of joy and awe that the God of the universe would know and care for each one of us personally.

Psalm 139 was the very first passage of scripture that I studied with a group after I became a Christian. At the time I was living in England but preparing to travel to the United States and Mexico before returning to New Zealand. As a new Christian I had no idea what it would be like to take my faith ‘on the road’, or to try to fit back into my old life while living as a new creation, so verses nine and ten spoke deeply to my personal experience at the time, and were deeply reassuring to me.

Foetus at 12 weeks development, courtesy of

More recently I’ve been watching Dr. Michael Mosley’s excellent BBC documentary ‘Nine Months that Made You’, which follows the universal human journey from conception to birth, tracing week-by-week, and sometimes day-by-day, the mysterious process by which we are knitted together in our mother’s womb, fearfully and wonderfully made.

Here, then, is one of my most precious treasures.

For the director of music. Of David. A psalm.

You have searched me, Lord,
and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before,
and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.

Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
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,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,”
12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.

13 For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
17 How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!
18 Were I to count them,
they would outnumber the grains of sand—
when I awake, I am still with you.

19 If only you, God, would slay the wicked!
Away from me, you who are bloodthirsty!
20 They speak of you with evil intent;
your adversaries misuse your name.
21 Do I not hate those who hate you, Lord,
and abhor those who are in rebellion against you?
22 I have nothing but hatred for them;
I count them my enemies.
23 Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.

What about you? Do you have a favourite psalm?


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