May 11, 2003

To Whom Shall I Turn?

Preacher: Randy Smith Series: Miscellaneous

Transcript

To Whom Shall I Turn?

Psalm 139:1-12
Sunday, May 11, 2003
Pastor Randy Smith



Possibly it was a scuffle at work, perhaps a disagreement with a family member, maybe a difference with a fellow believer. How many times have you walked away from a conflict when you knew in your heart of hearts that you were right, but the other party rejected your viewpoint? Can you recall the frustration and disappointment you experienced? It is especially hurtful when we stand firm on clear biblical principles and other people malign, ostracize or critique. Possibly nothing is more difficult or exasperating than to speak the truth as a mouthpiece for God, and find yourself the object of rejection.

To whom can you turn in these times of severe disappointment? Who will reaffirm your case? Who will minister to your wounded heart? Though the flesh calls for resentment and revenge, the Spirit calls for a heart that cries out to God.

King David was such a man who often found himself in this painful predicament. And fortunately for us, he left us a collection of his inspired lamentations as his heart turned to God for comfort and consolation. We call them the Psalms. Specifically, Psalm 139 is a classic example of a godly man pleading his case before the sovereign Judge, asking God to either reveal his wrongdoing or stand by his side and affirm his clear conscience. In verses 23 and 24 David cried, "Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxious thoughts; and see if there be any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way." David opened his heart to the One who knows all things and begged for a revelation of his sin or justice. He beseeched God for encouragement in his misery. What David found (as we learn in Psalm 139) is a God who not only would vindicate his case, but would also bring infinite reassurance in his suffering. In a nutshell, David found his hope in the attributes of God.

It is my desire this morning as we prepare our hearts for Communion that you too will understand the comfort available to you by running to the omniscient and omnipresent God in the midst of your trials.

1. COMFORT IN GOD OMNISCIENCE (verses 1-6)

In verses 1-6, David takes great comfort in God's omniscience. Omniscience is simply a big word theologians use to say that God is all-knowing.

Beginning in verse 1 David says, "O Lord, You have searched me and know me." In a world when scientists wish to convince us that we are a tiny insignificant blob of meaningless flesh existing for an insignificant time on an insignificant planet without meaning and purpose, we need to remember God searches us and knows us. In a present world that is being shaped by the second by influential people and influential events, we need to remember that God does not overlook us. Though we sit in the grandstands of this drama (from a worldly perspective), we need to remember God searches us and knows us.

But it's even more intimate! David did not say God searches us. On the contrary, in verse 1 he said, "God searches me!" Literally in the Hebrew we could say, "God 'digs' me." How's that for a modern translation? God digs into us. Such language implies a thorough investigation. And because of this intimate comprehensive knowledge, David could complete verse 1 by saying, "(You) know me."

I imagine David saying, "Oh God there are no secrets before Your eyes. You know how I think and how I act. You know my strengths and weaknesses. You know my fears, needs, hopes and concerns. You know me better than any idol or any person. You even know me better than I know myself! Wonder and awe fill my heart when I consider your infinite knowledge and everlasting care on my behalf. I treasure Your intimacy and special attention for every detail my life!"

Folks, this is practical religion! This a man deeply acquainted with the God who is deeply acquainted with him. It should not surprise us that David in 24 verses refers to God 36 times and himself 50 times. The Psalm is shining spotlights on the greatness of David's God and the intimate relationship both of them share. David's God was not a distant or trivial or temporary or limited deity. He was a present reality powerfully involved in David's life and infecting every thought of this man's heart.

In the verses that follow, David expands his understanding of God's omniscience. In verse 2 he says God knows his most common and casual acts. God knows when he is passive-when he sits down, and when he is active-when he rises up. He also says, "You understand my thoughts from afar." Think about that! There are millions of thoughts that pass through our minds each day, many of which are never brought to fruition, but God knows each one of them perfectly. Henry Ward once said, "Before men we stand as opaque bee-hives. They cannot see the thoughts go in and out of us, (and) what work they do inside of a man they cannot tell. (Yet) before God we are as glass bee-hives, and all that our thoughts are doing within us He perfectly sees and understands."

In verse 3 David declares that God "scrutinize(s) my path and my lying down." He is aware of all his public and all his private activities. And not only is He aware of them, but He scrutinizes them. He examines them closely. Therefore David adds that He is "intimately acquainted with all my ways."

I don't know about you, but this scrutiny, this intimacy from the all-knowing Almighty brings a plethora of contradictory thoughts racing through my mind. I think Spurgeon, that brilliant man, captured my feelings well in few words. "This (understanding of God) should fill us with awe, so that we sin not; with courage, so that we fear not; with delight, so that we mourn not." There can be no doubt that beyond the comfort we receive from a holy God that is so acquainted with our ways is the concern in knowing that there is a holy God that is so acquainted with our ways! We tremble at the thought of knowing that our private sins are not hidden from His penetrating eyes of omniscience. However, when analyzed, I believe both of these seemingly opposing thoughts, comfort and concern, when rightly pursued, end in the same place. When we're hurting we run to God for comfort and strength, since He knows our problems! When we sin we run to God for forgiveness and restoration, since He knows are needs! In other words, the omniscience of God is the catalyst that keeps us reliant on Him, weaning us of self-sufficiency and increasing Godward dependence.

But considering our sin and Spurgeon's earlier comments, the omniscience of God should be a reminder to cease from sin in the first place. The mere thought of God scrutinizing and being intimately acquainted with my ways should instill within us awareness that Someone else is fully cognizant of all our secret sins, sins which seek to only mar the intimacy of our relationship.

Recently I was told this story by the college Pastor at Grace Community Church. He said that two collegians approached him very embarrassed and heavy laden with guilt. They wished to confess that recently their premarital physical intimacy crossed a line that was dishonoring to God. They said it happened so quick in his car. Furthermore, they were greatly concerned that others may have become aware of their private sin. The Pastor relied, "I sorry to inform you, but I already know of someone who witnessed your actions." The couples' jaws dropped. Their faces turned beat red. Immediately they pleaded to know who this person was! The Pastor replied, "It was God; God saw everything you did." The couple seemed relieved and relayed a look that implied, "Don't scare us like that."

When we feel no concern about parading our sins before the eyes of God, we must take heed. This is a clear indicator that we are losing (or have lost) our first love. We must fight for the tenderness of a childlike faith that always seeks to be pleasing in the eyes of our heavenly Father.

Let's continue. In verse 4 David said, "Even before there is a word on my tongue, Behold, O Lord, You know it all." The New Testament writer spoke of God's omniscience in relation to numbering the hairs on our head (Mt. 10:30). The Psalmist goes further and reminds the reader that God even knows our words before we speak them. Though people must rely on the tongue to index another's heart, God knows and searches the heart. His knowledge of us is independent of what we reveal through our words.

And when we understand a God this familiar and this involved with our life, naturally we agree with the Psalmist in verse 5. "You have enclosed me behind and before, and laid Your hand upon me." God has laid siege to our lives. He has surrounded us on every side. There is absolutely no escaping or departing from His knowledge of us. His hand, David said, is forever "upon me."

Again, it is impossible for anyone aware of the Creator's knowledge of their life to walk away unmoved by these intense truths. The unbeliever realizes that there is a God to whom he owes allegiance. He realizes that there is an all-knowing God recording every one of his sins which one day will demand justice. The unbeliever without Christ feels trapped like a prisoner by such knowledge. However, the believer in Christ takes great comfort in being surrounded by God. He knows that God's hand upon him is solely for his good, to lead, nurture, protect, provide, correct, uphold and restore. He knows that God, fully aware of his sins, is blotting them out through the shed blood of Jesus Christ.

King David was such a person. He rejoiced in the nearness of God and exclaimed in verse 6, "Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is too high, I cannot attain to it."

It's interesting to notice what happened when David contemplated the amazing omniscience of God, the understanding that God is fully able to survey at the same time all the actions of His immeasurable creation: The thoughts of an ant's brain to the explosion of a volcano, actions at his dinner table to actions on the farthest planet in the universe, knowledge of eternity past to knowledge of eternity future. David surely would agree with one commentator who said, "The truth about God's omniscience is overwhelming, amazing, astounding! But no more than a teacup can hold the ocean can a finite mind comprehend the infinite; but we may apprehend what we cannot comprehend" (W. Graham Scroggie).

David did apprehend God's omniscience and his response in verse 6 was brokenness and humility. He found himself swallowed up in the thoughts of God's perfection. Such a God-honoring attitude eventually overflowed in praise. A right view of God always leads to a right view of self, which leads to praise which leads to God being glorified. The point: We should know theology. We should study and meditate on the attributes of God. But our theology must never remain in the ivory tower of intellect. It always should overflow to doxology, praise to God!

2. COMFORT IN GOD'S OMNIPRESENCE (verses 7-12)

David found great comfort in God's omniscience in verses 1-6. Now in verses 7-12, David finds great comfort in another of God's attributes, namely, His omnipresence. Naturally, if God knows all things he must be everywhere at the same time.

In verse 7 He said, "Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence?" This is not to be taken that David had a desire to flee from God's presence. Rather it was a simple declaration that there is nowhere he could go to flee from the presence of God. It reminds me of the atheist who wrote, "God is nowhere" only to be corrected by the child who made a space between the "w" and the "h" to make the sentence read, "God is now here." David knew that he was always in the immediate presence of an ever-present God.

As he did before, his thoughts are expanded in the verses that follow. In verse 8 he said, "If I ascend to heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there." Commentators are divided on this one as to whether David is referring to the material or spiritual realm. In other words (in the material realm), if we ascend outside our atmosphere (in the heavens) or descend to the lower parts of the earth (the grave), God is fully present. Or (in the spiritual realm), if we ascend to Heaven or descend to Hell, God is fully present. Exegetically, one response is correct. Theologically, both responses are correct.

If verse 8 deals with vertical movement, verse 9 deals with horizontal movement. David said, "If I take the wings of the dawn," in other words, if I fly at the speed of light and find myself "dwell(ing) in the remotest part of the sea," a lesson Jonah was quick to learn, God is fully present.

"Even there," David adds in verse 10, "Your hand will lead me, And Your right hand will lay hold of me." Even in the murky, most inaccessible places of the sea, there is no reaching the end of God's divine presence. Regardless of where we go, David knew that God is there, to lead, guide and sustain.

David draws his final illustration of God's omnipresence from the temporal dimension. Though the foolish feel that darkness conceals their actions from the presence of God (1 Thes. 5:7), everything is light to God and visible in His presence. In verse 11-12 David said, "If I say, 'Surely the darkness will overwhelm me, and the light around me will be night,' Even the darkness is not dark to You, And the night is as bright as the day. Darkness and light are alike to You."

As with God's omniscience, His omnipresence is an attribute that brings great comfort or great concern to people. God is not the CIA desperately searching for the Bin Ladens or Husseins of the world. He is not the schoolteacher who turns her back to the blackboard. He is not the army private who lost his night vision goggles. Nothing is hidden from His sight and nothing is hidden from His presence. Therefore, for those who reject His love offering of Jesus Christ, there is no running and no hiding from His wrath. I think of those who will foolishly say to the mountains and to the rocks during the sixth seal, "Fall on us and hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb" (Rev. 6:16). And whether or not those without Christ choose to believe the omnipresence of God, they will soon understand that Hell is not a place to party with their friends and avoid the God they've shunned all their lives. On the contrary, Hell is also a place to experience an omnipresent God and the full manifestation of His wrath.

But for those of us who have been covered by the forgiveness of Jesus Christ, the omnipresence of God is for us, like it was for David, a joyous doctrine. We have a God who is always with us. The Scriptures say that nothing "will separate us from the love of Christ" (Rom. 8:35). We experience an omnipresent God and the full manifestation of His benevolence. In Isaiah 40 God said, "Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand" (Isa. 41:10). God's unshakable presence with us now is only a preview of His glorious presence that we will enjoy for an eternity in Heaven as we behold the full display of His goodness (Ex. 33:18, 19).

I sadly watched on the news that now popular video footage of the dozen or so high school girls being hazed (or should I say abused) in Illinois this past week. It's amazing the lengths people will go to feel loved and accepted. So few understand that we have been created to find these intimate needs ultimately met in God.

Remember Christian; nobody knows your heart better than God. Nobody loves you more than God. Nobody works for your good better than God. Nobody but God is wiser and more powerful to meet your needs. Nobody is closer to you than God, so close that your body has now become His Temple! When you feel like David- that all have misunderstood and all have deserted, remember, God knows and God is there. Trust Him! Find your hope and joy and peace in the God who is all-knowing and ever-present in your life!


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