1 May 2010

Psalm 139

"For it was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother's womb." (v.13)


Psalm 139 beautifully describes the inescapable presence of God. And affirms that no matter where we are, no matter where we go or what we do God is with us. The psalmist talks about the extremes of our experience. He says that even when we climb to heaven, or plunge the depths, God is there. For someone who hates the thought of either climbing or caving, the assurance that God is present even in places that can be frightening is reassuring.

The psalmist also, with great sensitivity, describes the knowledge God has of each one of us. "It was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother's womb." He is affirming that God has created us and therefore knows us better than we know ourselves.

The idea of someone else, even God, knowing our inmost thoughts can be disconcerting, or even frightening. The notion of someone else being aware of our immediate thought responses to situations that anger us could be embarrassing. And there are thoughts that it does not always feel appropriate to share. But the way the psalmist describes the knowledge God has of us is not threatening in any way. He sees it as something that is positive, reassuring and comforting, and the knowledge of God's inescapable presence leads him to offer prayers of praise.

There is also an almost throwaway comment where the psalmist says "How weighty to me are your thoughts, O God". The suggestion is that, just as God is intimately aware of who we are and the way we think, so we can know something of the thoughts and the mind of God. This is a mind-blowing idea that opens up the possibility of a close relationship - almost a mutual understanding - between us and the god who created us.

To Ponder

To what extent do you find it reassuring or threatening to think of God knowing your innermost thoughts?

How do you respond to the idea that we might know something of the mind of God?

Bible notes author

The Revd Dr Christine Jones

Christine Jones, an ordained Methodist minister, is currently director of the Urban Theology Unit in Sheffield, a centre which emphasises the importance of bringing theology and contemporary culture together. At UTU she is responsible for preordination training, teaching on the Foundation Degree, MA and supervising MPhil PhD students.