The 139th Psalm is just like an unbroken view along a luscious valley. As we follow the psalmist’s lead, we are shown the wonderful attributes of God. When we think he has taken us all the way and can tell us no more of the greatness of God, then suddenly he turns in a new direction, and we are made to realize that divine greatness is breathtaking in its vastness. Let us follow the steps of the psalmist to the final vantage point to contemplate the greatness of God.
In the first six verses of the Psalm, God is manifested as omniscient, having all knowledge, “Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising”, v. 2a. But not just our movements are known to Him, for “thou understand-est my thought afar off”, v. 2b; even the secret joys and sorrows, hopes and disappointments unshared with others are known to God. But more, the hidden motives themselves unknown to us, are understood by God: “0 Lord, thou hast searched me, and known me”, v. 1. The divine hand laid upon us, “and laid thine hand upon me”, v. 5b, is perfect in its understanding and sympathy. In verse 6 we are shown that God is transcendent, beyond human thought and understanding in His wisdom, “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me”.
In verses 7-12 we are shown the omnipresence of God; He is present everywhere. Whether in heaven or hades; before or after death; east or west; light or darkness; God is there. The hand of God upon us is an everpresent hand: “Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me”, v. 10. “There is none like unto the God of Jeshurun, who rideth upon the heaven in thy help, and in his excellency on the sky. The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms”, Deut. 33. 26-27.
In verses 13-16 God’s omnipotence is displayed; He is all powerful. This is revealed in His creative work, man himself being the outstanding example of this divine power, “For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my mother’s womb”, v. 13.
We have thus been led to see an allknowing, an all-present and an all-powerful God, who transcends all human understanding. What more can be said? If this is all there is to be said, wonderful as it is, it would raise the difficult question asked by the psalmist in Psalm 8. 3-4, “When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; what is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?”. Can this God who is so vast have any concern for insignificant individuals like ourselves? Yes He can, says the inspired writer, and opens to our view a further vista of the greatness of God, far exceeding the wonders that we have already seen. “How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, 0 God how great is the sum of them If I should count them, they are more in number than the sand”, 139. 17-18. God’s thoughts are upon us as individuals!
The psalmist has viewed the omniscience of God: He knows me!, v. 1. He has viewed the omnipresence of God; He is with me!, v. 10. He has viewed the omnipotence of God; He created me!, v. 14. But here is the truth that the Lord Jesus Christ sought to impress upon His listeners, that God is so great that He is able to deal with us one by one, as individuals. “Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God? But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows”, Luke 12. 6-7. God’s greatness is not just to be measured by His ability to create a myriad galaxies of stars, but it is also to be measured by His ability to know each sparrow, each hair of our heads.
“Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin; and yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?”, Matt. 6. 28-30. Thus His greatness is not only seen in the creation of all life, but in the colouring of each part of a flower. His greatness is not even summed up by His provision of so great salvation for mankind in general, but by His grace in saving souls individually. Each can say, “the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me”, Gal. 2. 20. God is therefore infinitely great.
“No man hath seen God at any time: the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him”, John 1. 18. Our Lord has made known to us the God who deals with the individual. So much of the Gospel narratives is given over to describing the Lord’s dealings with individuals.
We may or may not understand the theological terms used to describe the attributes of God, but do we know something of the greatness of God in our own experience? “Many, 0 Lord my God, are thy wonderful works which thou hast done, and thy thoughts which are to us-ward: they cannot be reckoned up in order unto thee: if I would declare and speak of them, they are more than can be numbered … But I am poor and needy; yet the Lord thinketh upon me: thou art my help and my deliverer; make no tarrying, 0 my God”, Psa. 40. 5, 17.
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