Known By God on May 28, 2023
Known By God
May 28, 2023

Known By God

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Passage: Psalm 139
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In Genesis 1 & 2, we read the story of how God created the heavens and the earth and everything on the earth. And He created Adam and Eve in His own image and gave them dominion over the birds of the air and the fish of the sea and over every living thing that moves on the earth. And God planted a garden in Eden, and filled it with every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. And He put Adam and Eve in the garden to work it and to keep it.

It was as perfect as any place or time on earth could be. There was no sin or sickness or death. There was nothing to fear and nothing that they lacked. And, it was there, in the garden, that God walked in the cool of the day and where He met with them and talked with them. Of all the wonders of God’s unblemished creation that they could see and experience and enjoy – the greatest wonder and delight of all was undoubtedly the sublime relationship they enjoyed with their Creator. This is what they were made for, to live and walk in a loving relationship with God. God was their Creator and their friend.

We can only imagine what such a relationship would have been like. In all the universe, there is nothing greater or higher that anyone could desire than to know our God and Creator and to be known by Him. In John 17, Jesus equates knowing God with eternal life. Even all the world and every treasure would be worthless without God. But if you have God, you have everything.

For a time, Adam and Eve had everything - But in Genesis 3, they listened to the lies of the serpent and rebelled against God by doing the one thing that He had commanded them not to do. They ate the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and immediately became aware of their nakedness. In their shame they sewed fig leaves together to cover themselves.

And then, verse 8 tells us that “they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.”

It seems to me that if they recognized the sound of God walking in the garden – then it was likely not the first time that God had met with them there. Meeting with their Creator would have been the highlight of their day. What could possibly be better than time spent in the presence of God?

But now, when they hear God walking in the garden, instead of going to meet Him, they hide amongst the trees of the garden. It seems ridiculous that they thought they could hide from God – but then, all sin is irrational and sinful people do foolish things. Trying to hide in the trees was likely just a reflex response to the guilt they were now feeling for the first time in their lives.

In Verse 9, God calls to Adam and says to him, “Where are you?”  Of course God already knew where Adam was. The purpose of the question was not to find out where Adam was hiding but for Adam to explain himself. God was not just asking “Where are you?” but “Why are you hiding from me?”  Adam understood the question – and he answers God “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.”

Adam had lost his innocence. The guilt of knowing what he had done made him want to hide from the God he now fears. Adam didn’t want to see God or be seen by God. He knows that he is guilty and he wants to hide.

God knows what Adam and Eve have done but he does not give up on the people He had created in His image. There are consequences for sure. Their relationship with God was broken and they would have to leave the garden. Now they would endure suffering, pain, and hardship for the rest of their lives.

But God’s incredible response to their rebellion was a plan of grace and redemption that would eventually restore God’s relationship with man through the sacrifice of His only Son. But, even before that would happen, God began to call people to repent of their sins, to seek Him and to know Him. Indeed, every part of human history would be shaped by God’s desire for people to return to Him and to know Him again.

Acts 17:24-28    Paul addresses the men of Athens at the Aeropagus, saying:

The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for “‘In him we live and move and have our being’ …

Throughout all of history, God has called people to repent of their sins and to live in relationship with Him – to seek to know Him and be known by Him.

Psalm 14:2 says “The Lord looks down from heaven on all mankind

to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God.”

The reality is, however, that most people do not seek God. They don’t want to know the one true God or to worship Him and they don’t want Him to notice them. Like Adam in the garden, they would rather hide from God.

Many hide by denying that God exists at all. If there is no God, they do not have to answer to Him or worry that He will judge them. But Psalm 14 says that it is the fool who says in his heart that there is no God.

Others believe in God but they just don’t like the God of the Bible. So, to avoid His judgment, they hide from Him behind another god that suits them better. Romans 1 says that although they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks to Him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the image of the immortal God for images resembling man.

Amazingly, Christians also often fail to seek God as they should. Especially when there is unconfessed sin in our lives we, almost instinctively, want to hide from God. Even when we know that we have sinned, we drag our feet in repenting and yet act like everything is still good. Surely God understands that I am still working on things and that I need more time? But God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. We know that He is so close but we just put Him out of our minds and ignore Him.

But even when there is no unconfessed sin, we often live our lives as though God was off somewhere doing His thing while we are here doing ours. He shows up occasionally – perhaps to teach us something or help us out when we get into a pinch. Yet, living as though we are independent of God – as if we can get along fine without Him – is itself a sinful affront to God. God is always present, sustaining and giving us life - even on the most mundane and ordinary days of our lives. For that reason, there should be no time of the day or any part of our lives where we are not continually offering up thanksgiving and praise and worship. We must acknowledge our dependence upon Him and be quick to confess our failure to give thanks and worship as we should.

David, who wrote the psalm we will be looking at today, is a good example of what it means to seek to know God more and more. Throughout all his life was constantly aware of his dependence upon God and His presence in his life.

In Psalm 16:8 he wrote, “I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.”

Throughout the psalms, David rejoices that the Lord is his rock and his stronghold, his strength and his deliverer, and the one who leads him and protects him. When God seems far away or absent – David is not hesitant to cry to God – Where are You? Why are You taking so long? I need you now! He is also not shy to tell God that he loves Him and desires Him above all things. David knew the great things that God had done for him – it was not just that he knew about God, but he knew God personally and He rests in the knowledge that God know about him as well.

Seeking and knowing God requires that we desire God above all things. Seeking God is not a sideline in our busy lives – it is our life! In Psalm 42, David wrote As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God and in Psalm 63, he wrote that God’s love was better than life.

David responded to God with thanksgiving and praise. Almost every line of Psalm 139 might be taken as praise and worship. It is a natural response whenever we consider who God is and what He has done and is doing.

So to begin our psalm …

  1. O Lord, you have searched me and known me!
  2. You know when I sit down and when I rise up;

you discern my thoughts from afar.

  1. You search out my path and my lying down

and are acquainted with all my ways.

  1. Even before a word is on my tongue,

behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.

Sitting down and rising up are just ordinary everyday tasks. Activities like walking a path or lying down are usually nothing to take note of. There is no doubt that God has been with David through every great battle he fought – but here He is present and observing the daily routine stuff of life. He knows what David, and each one of us, are doing all the time.

The Hebrew grammar used here tells us that the search is intensive and thorough – not just a casual glance or an occasional checking in to see what David is up to. Nothing escapes God’s notice. He sees all the details – every day. But God is not just accumulating data about us, He desires a relationship.

God searches and knows us. There are two aspects to being “known” by God. One aspect is factual. God has all the data. He knows every small part about you. In Luke 12:7 Jesus says that even the hairs of our head are numbered. It is a way of saying that God knows absolutely everything about you.

The other aspect of being searched and known by God is relational. Anyone one of us might know a lot of things about a great number of people, but the circle of people we actually have a relationship with is relatively small in comparison. God knows every fact about every person on the planet, but there are a limited number of people with whom He has a relationship.

God knows all things – everything about everyone – but the searching and the knowledge that David describes here is special and unique to those whom the Lord knows as His own.

The Lord is searching to see if we love Him with all our hearts and minds and strength. It is not enough to claim the name of Jesus or even to say that we are His disciples. God’s search will determine if we truly belong to Him.

Jeremiah 12:3 “But you, O Lord, know me; you see me, and test my heart toward you.”

God knows those who love Him and are seeking after Him.

1 Corinthians 8:3 says that, “…if anyone loves God, he is known by God.”

2 Timothy 2:19  says that “The Lord knows those who are his …”  That is, those who belong to Him, who love Him with all their hearts and minds and strength.

Those who are known by God belong to Him. They have been chosen by God and adopted into His family.

In John 10:14, 15, Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.” And then further down in verses 27 and 28 of the same chapter, he says, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.”

Jesus knows those who are His and they know Him. He speaks and they hear His voice, He leads and they follow. He gives them eternal life and they will never perish. They are safe with Him.

Back to Psalm 139, David delighted to be in the presence of God – even to be known by God and to know that God was active in his life.

  1. You hem me in, behind and before,

and lay your hand upon me.

  1. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it.

Psalm 139 is an intensely personal, intimate prayer of David, yet his thoughts of God are lofty and exalted. He wonders with amazement at the overwhelming and exhaustive knowledge of himself that God has!

Notice that God is not just observing, He acts to limit our path, to keep us from going where He does not want us to go. He lays His hand on us – to steady or comfort or protect.

You might sometimes be tempted to think that you can ‘get away’ from God, but He is always one step ahead of us. This verse reminds me of when our kids or our grandkids were small. You may be somewhere where you want them to stand still but they want to run – and though they try to get away, their intentions are so obvious that you easily block their way and stop them despite all their squirming and twisting and turning.

David is not fearful of the close scrutiny, since the one who sees him is also the one who protects him – who hedges him in and lays his hand on him. In many places in Scripture, the placement of the divine hand signifies protection and blessing. (e.g. Exodus 33:22)

David’s response to all the things that the Lord sees knows about him is wonder and amazement, a sense of how great and high God is – and although he cannot grasp the lofty, all-encompassing presence of God in his life – but he worships and adores the God whom he cannot comprehend.

We often praise and worship God for His mighty deeds like sending the plagues on Egypt or parting the Red Sea or bringing the Israelites into the promised land – but the intimate presence of God in our daily lives is, in many ways, equally remarkable, and equally praiseworthy.

And when we ourselves ponder the nearness of God and his constant presence, we should naturally gravitate to worship all through the day.

A relationship is a two way interaction that requires communication. It is not just the God knows me (that would be like half a relationship) but also that I know God and that I know that God knows me and is acting in my life (a full relationship).  And because I know that God sees me, that He searches and knows me thoroughly, and that He leads me and watches over me - I will respond to Him with repentance, praise, thanksgiving, worship.

This knowledge of the constant presence of God is not something that we can casually incorporate into our daily thoughts. We need to frequently take the time to stop and consider that God is present with us before us, meditate on His presence with us, and offer up praise and thanksgiving.

Consider this - If I stop this sermon for just a moment right now and ask each of you to bow your heads and offer up a word of thanks or praise – how utterly amazing and incomprehensible it is that the sovereign Lord God of all the universe will hear your whispered words (and all of those around you) – and He will know the thoughts of your mind and the intentions of your heart – and because you are His child, He will respond with grace and favour and love. Think about it!

Let’s take such a moment right now.

The big question now, is this – why would you not stop and take a moment like we just did, as often as you remember or as often as you can every single day of your life? Why would you live even one hour of your life without stopping to worship the God who created you for Himself, the God who sustains your life and who has blessed you with everything you possess – even the God with whom you will spend all of eternity? The God who knew you even before you were conceived, every moment of your life until now and also every moment from now through all of eternity where you are with Him.

  1. Where shall I go from your Spirit?

Or where shall I flee from your presence?

  1. If I ascend to heaven, you are there!

If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!

  1. If I take the wings of the morning

and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,

  1. 10.even there your hand shall lead me,

and your right hand shall hold me.

He is not expressing a desire to get away from God or to hide from Him, but has realized that there is no place, no situation where he is separated from God. Heaven is the highest place and Sheol is the lowest. The uttermost parts of the sea represent the farthest.

Wings of dawn – speed of light – this figure points to the rapidity with which light of early morning spreads over the entire sky.  “Wings of morning”  - a great span of heaven from one horizon to another over the western sea. May refer to how the light erupts across the sky at sunrise. The swift rays of the sun’s first light in the east.

Not only is there no place where God does not see us, there is also no place where God is not active in leading, holding, and protecting His people. He does more than just observe us – he sustains us.  His hand will lead us and hold us – again!

There may be people who feel the need for a little more space from God – particularly if they are holding onto sin. Sin will produce division and conflict in your heart. You want God but you want to be free of Him, all at the same time – but there is no place where God is not. You cannot hide from God or take a break from His presence.

  1. 11.If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,

and the light about me be night,”

  1. 12.even the darkness is not dark to you;

the night is bright as the day,

for darkness is as light with you.

It is not surprising that so much crime occurs at night or in the darkness. People feel that they are hidden and anonymous in the dark where no one can see them. No one, that is, besides God. People do things in the dark, with God watching, what they would never do with another person around.

At the same time, it is in the darkness that someone might feel the most vulnerable and at risk – but the God who sees all things is not frustrated by the lack of visible light and watches over those who are his, even in the dark.

God is not limited by anything - darkness, time, distance, or place. The Lord is present even in times of utter darkness. We are not hidden or separated from God in the darkness and he cares for us even through the night.

13.  For you formed my inward parts;

you knitted me together in my mother's womb.

14.  I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.

Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.

The human body is God’s most amazing creation.  Once again – nothing is hidden from God. And it is not just that God see – it is also that God is still personally involved in the continuing act of his creation. No child would ever be conceived or grow and develop in its mother’s womb without God.

In verse 14, David breaks into praise and worship.  He is thinking about God having created him and can’t contain himself – and he doesn’t have a fraction of the knowledge of the complexity of the human body that we do today. Praise and worship should always be our natural response to thoughts of God.

15. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret,

intricately woven in the depths of the earth.

16. Your eyes saw my unformed substance;

in your book were written, every one of them,

the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.

David repeats how God is omniscient in seeing him at the earliest stage of his life – even as he was being formed in the womb. His “unformed substance” here refers to an embryo which has no form or anything that would indicate anything about its future – but it is still clearly and distinctly known by God.

Even from the very first moments of his existence, God already knew the path and the ending. Every day of His life was fully known to God. In the beginning, there were no clues of what was yet to come – but God already knew it all. God does not have an actual book He writes in (it would ginormous!) but His knowledge of our days is as certain as if they were written down in a book. Things written down are not erased or changed. Our days – our future – what I shall be, how long I shall live, what the events of my life will be – are all known to God. Such thoughts are of immense comfort when we face trials in this life.

The next two verses seem like a natural response to the comprehension of God’s incredible and unfathomable knowledge of us.

17. How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!

How vast is the sum of them!

18. If I would count them, they are more than the sand.

I awake, and I am still with you.

David again responds in praise – “how precious are your thoughts!” and “how vast is the sum of them!”. The thoughts of God are too magnificent, too numerous, and too exalted for David whose own thoughts are fully known by God. A creature cannot fully comprehend their creator. “Precious” can also be translated as difficult or weighty – stressing the complexity, and the importance of God’s thoughts to David.

Waking implies that someone has been sleeping. Verse 18 has generated a variety of interpretations. Why was he asleep? Is he spiritually unfocused or physically drowsy? Some theologians suggest that David is overwhelmed, even exhausted (and therefore falling asleep), by the enormity and the volume of God’s thoughts. Others suggest that David is emphasizing that their contemplation never ends – that he comes to the end of his day and falls asleep thinking about God, and that he is still meditating upon God when he awakes. And when he awakes, David has a fresh awareness of His presence.

Another interpretation is that the word ‘awake’ is a resurrection word. There are two Hebrew words used for ‘awake’ in the Old Testament. One is commonly used and one is not. This is the one that is not – but in other places where it is used (i.e. Isaiah 26:19, Psalm 17:15, Daniel 12:2) it is in the context of the resurrection. This interpretation would fit with the idea of God’s thoughts encompassing David’s entire life from embryo to death – but still being there when David awakes from the dead.

19. Oh that you would slay the wicked, O God!

O men of blood, depart from me!

20. They speak against you with malicious intent;

your enemies take your name in vain.

21. Do I not hate those who hate you, O Lord?

And do I not loathe those who rise up against you?

22. I hate them with complete hatred;  I count them my enemies.

Psalm 139 has a lot of wonderful verses that people like to put up on their fridge. I have also seen it on a lot of  posters and wall plaques – though, without exception, they always omit these four verses. They seem so harsh and out of place with all the other beautiful thoughts expressed here.

My first thought, when I read these verses, was that David, after contemplating the amazing grandeur of God is equally amazed that there are men who openly and maliciously malign God and rise up against Him.

David himself has not lived anything near a sinless life – but he wants it known that he is completely different than those who are opposed to God and that his heart and loyalty are for God alone. He is not concerned about His own honour but only God’s.

David tells the men of blood to depart from him – he doesn’t want to be associated with them in any way – or for God to think that he approves of them in any way. He makes it clear that his opposition to them is complete and that there is no part of him that is like them. He hates them completely and counts them as enemies.

For Christians who have been taught that we should love our enemies and pray for them, it seems wrong to say that we have a complete hatred for someone. There is no doubt that God indeed does want us to pray for our enemies – and we are not really given the choice to pray for some and not for others - but there are evil, wicked people in the world who are opposed to God and who rise up against God speaking maliciously against Him. God knows who they are and He knows those who will eventually suffer His judgment and wrath.

That is, however, up to God to know and not us. We are to pray for all people, and seek to live holy lives so that, like David, we will not be counted among them. These verses should stand as a warning to us to not have any part in any wickedness in any way. It is so easy to tolerate sins, especially when they seem pleasant and enjoyable – but our loyalty must be for God alone.

Finally, David ends the psalm with a prayer.

23. Search me, O God, and know my heart!

Try me and know my thoughts!

24. And see if there be any grievous way in me,

and lead me in the way everlasting!

What does David think that God might be looking for? What does he hope that He will find, or not find, in his heart and his thoughts? Perhaps David may have felt a little uneasy or uncertain that there may be some of the same rebellion in himself that he saw in the wicked and he wants God to see that he is not like the wicked men of blood in any way.

“try” means testing. Things are tested when they are stretched and stressed and put under pressure. It is only through testing that the strength of something can be known.

David wants to have an unclouded relationship with God. He is aware that there could potentially be so much within Him that obscures the relationship. If God searches any heart, He will certainly find our sins. We need to see what God has to say about the condition of our hearts and minds. If there is anything in us that displeases God - we need to have God reveal it to us so that we can repent of it.

Our appropriate response to God searching and knowing us is thanksgiving and worship.  God is not just some kindly old grandfatherly who is checking up on us. Our God is an all-consuming fire – more great and awesome and amazing than we can remotely imagine this side of heaven. He walks with us and watches over us every moment of our lives. We need to be always mindful of him – and whenever we are, we need to worship.


Psalm 139 recognizes the intimate nature of our relationship with God. There is nothing of greater worth and value than our relationship with God. It was what we were created for. In the end, because of Christ, what was lost in the garden will be restored. No more hiding from God! Those who love the Lord and are fully known by Him are those who will spend eternity with Him in heaven.

Revelation 21:3, 4, 7  “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and He will dwell with them. They will be His people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”” … Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children.

Revelation 22:3-5 “No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.”