Psalm 139 is a meditation of the relationship between God and human beings. Flying higher and higher in the wings of imagination, the poet repeatedly admits that the thoughts about God are so wonderful and precious for him/her. He/she also admits that the thoughts about God keep coming to his/her mind like the sand on the seashore. It is hard to find another poem of such scope and depth in world literature.
The twenty-four verses of this psalm may be neatly divided into four parts of six verses each. Each part answers a different question about the God-human relationship.
In the first part, the poet answers this question: How well does God know me? God knows even such simple activities that I do like standing up and sitting down. God reads all my thoughts in my innermost mind. God hears every word I utter even before it comes to my tongue. In short, I am totally open to God. There is nothing in me or about me that is hidden from God.
In the second part, the poet answers another question: How close is God to me? There is nowhere I can hide away from God’s face and His breath. Even if I go to the heights of heaven or to the depths of the world of the dead, it won’t make any difference. Even if I could fly to the farthest place across the ocean, God’s arms would support and guide me. Even darkness won’t cover me because light and darkness are the same to God.
In the third part, the poet answers a third question: How is God related to me? I am a being created by God according to His plan. God created me in my mother’s womb. The path of my life had been completely charted in God’s book before I was born, even before the world was created. I belong to God, and without God, I have no existence.
In these three parts, the poet says that God knows us better than we know ourselves, that God is closer to us than we are to ourselves, and that God created us according to the master plan He designed even before the world was made. Although we do not know why we exist, God has full and perfect knowledge of all the aspects of our existence. It is God who gives meaning and purpose to our existence.
In the last part, the poet answers a fourth question: How our understanding of God is important for us? There are a few people like the poet who has this understanding of God, but there are a lot of people who do not have this understanding. They take God’s name in vain. They are hypocrites. They pretend to be on God’s side, but in reality they see God as their enemy. They pretend to be sheep or shepherds, but in reality they are blood-thirsty wolves, that are looking for opportunities to catch the sheep and drink their blood. Instead of speaking of God with wonder and with gratefulness as the poet does, they speak against God wickedly and with ungratefulness. If they were wolves in and out, the poet could just ignore them. But they cover their wolf-ness with their sheep-ness. They appear pious and Godly in the outward, but they cannot hide their real nature from God or from perceptive people like the poet. The poet does not have any sympathy for them at all. “Depart from me!” the poet cries to them, and also prays to God to slay such bloodthirsty wicked ones.
The harsh language of the poet in the final part shocks us. How can someone be so harsh after speaking of God in such lofty language, one wonders. Perhaps it was the lofty vision of God that enabled the poet to utter such a harsh statement about dishonesty and wickedness. Jesus, who embodied the love of God, also talked to dishonest people in the harshest language possible. Although he was a friend to the sinners, he was not a friend to the dishonest Pharisees. Didn’t Jesus love them? Of course he did. That is exactly why he couldn’t be a friend to them.
God loves all people alike, but God cannot tolerate those who cover up their real self. They are like white-washed tombs. They are like blind men who offer to guide others. God wants us to come to His presence as we are without any attempt to cover up. A wolf can come to God’s presence, and God accepts him/her with open arms, and transforms him/her to a sheep. But God hates the sight of a wolf coming to His presence disguised as a sheep or as a shepherd. Even in the Garden of Eden we see how Adam and Eve made an attempt to present themselves as innocent people by placing the blame on somewhere else. Honesty is the one primary quality God expects from all.
The poet ends the psalm with a prayer: Examine my thoughts and my heart, and see if there is any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way. The poet is aware that there could be hurtful ways in him/her. His/her words and deeds might hurt God, his/her fellow beings, or him/herself later on. The poet does not try to cover up his/her true self, but presents him/herself as he/she is with a request to God to examine him/her and find out if there are hurtful ways in his/her life. The poet is willing to do this because of the way he/she understands God. He/she knows that nothing can be hidden from God, and that nothing or no one can exist away from God. This awareness let him/her open up fully to God.
Listen to a song in Malayalm of psalm 139
Listen to a song in Malayalm of psalm 139