24 June 2011

"O Lord, you have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from far away." (vv. 1-2)


The psalms are songs of faith, the words of human beings sung in response to the various situations in which they found themselves. In these songs human beings address God and as we read, speak or sing them we share in a common humanity with the authors. It is uncertain when this psalm was written but it may well be a song of thanksgiving offered after a person has been acquitted by God.

The first part of the psalm (verses 1-18) speaks of God's intimate knowledge of the individual, of the impossibility of moving beyond God's reach and of the intricacy of creation. God knows each one of us because God is our creator. The intimacy of God's knowledge may be comforting or unsettling but this is a God whose very nature is to be in relationship and it is into relationship with God that we are born. The faithful seek to grow in knowledge of the God who already knows them completely. To be human is to be in relationship with one another and with God and there is no escaping that.

The psalmist was sure that God would protect and guide and even bring light into the darkest places. God is beyond human understanding but human beings are never beyond the reach of God.

The second part of the psalm is more uncomfortable for many Christians and is often omitted when this psalm is read in worship. In verses 19-22 the psalmist asks for the punishment of those who have made false accusations. Because they tried to condemn an innocent person, they are described as enemies of God. Of course, if found guilty of the accusations, the punishment would fall on the psalmist as the one who had risen up against God. It is contrary to the Christian faith to call for vengeance in this way but Christians do oppose those things that are contrary to the will of God.

The psalm ends with the plea to God to make a judgement on the basis of full knowledge of the individual.

In this psalm we encounter both the wonder of relationship with God and the challenge of a human response to those regarded as enemies.

To Ponder

The psalmist speaks of a God who knows each person intimately. Do you find this comforting, challenging or disturbing? Perhaps you would use a different word to describe your response. What might that be?


How do you react to verses 19-22?

Spend some time reflecting on the words, "I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made" (v. 14).

Bible notes author: The Revd Ruth Gee

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