God knows all about you. Psalm 139:1-18

We’re beginning a series today on Psalm 139. There is so much in this amazing passage! Today we begin with how this Psalm teaches us that God knows all about us.

I encourage you to read this Psalm and meditate on it, let it permeate your thoughts and life, as we work through it together. Let’s begin by hearing Psalm 139:1-18.

God’s knows all about David

God’s knowledge of David is a central theme in verses 1-18. We are told that God knows him several times and in several different ways. And that God searches him, sees him, discerns him and is acquainted with him.

In the first part of the Psalm, vs. 2-3 we learn that God knows David’s thoughts and ways. In his own words,

  • God knows “when I sit down and when I rise up” – v. 2.
  • God knows “my thoughts” or it can be translated “intentions” – v. 2.
  • God knows “my path and my lying down” – v. 3, likely meaning, when I go somewhere and then come home and rest
  • And God is acquainted with v. 3 – “all my ways,” that is the kind of life I lead, even in private.

And then, we learn in v. 4 that “even before a word is on my tongue, behold . . . you know it altogether,” which is not a problem since as we just saw, God knows our thoughts.

But not only this, we learn in verses 7-12 that God can see and know him wherever he might go. He asks in v. 7, “Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence?” The answer is, “Nowhere!” He gives several examples of this.

  • v. 8 – “If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!” Heaven is the highest place in creation, the abode of God. Sheol is the lowest place in creation, the place of the dead. God is in both places. And if he is the extreme limits of height and depth, he is easily everywhere in between.
  • Another example, v. 9-10 – “If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea . . .” that is, fly through the sky from the East to the farthest point West, “even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me.” God is in the remotest places. He is both in places that are near, and those that are far, far away. And God is everywhere in between, so that he can see and know David.
  • And finally, vs. 11-12 – “If I say, ‘Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night’ even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you.” God can see and know him even in the darkest place. So God can see him and know him in places that have light, and also in the darkest places, and everywhere in between.

And if this weren’t enough we learn in vs. 13-16 that God has seen and known him from his beginning to his end. v. 13 says, “You formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.” v. 16 says, “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 were none of them.” God has seen and known him, from the time that God formed him in the womb, to all the days formed for him that are written in God’s book. God sees and knows him from beginning to end.

Now –

God doesn’t just know David . . .

The prophet Jeremiah said more generally, “’Can a man hide himself in secret places so that I cannot see him?’ declares the Lord. ‘Do I not fill heaven and earth?’ declares the Lord.” –  Jeremiah 23:24. God sees and knows all people.

And Jesus said this about God’s knowledge of each one of us – “The hairs of your head are all numbered” – Matthew 10:30. We don’t even know this, but God knows this about each one of us.

The author of Hebrews says this,  “no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account” – 4:13. So I can say with great confidence, sisters and brothers, that God doesn’t just know David through and through –

God knows you through and through

  • God knows all your movements, when you sit, when you rise, when you go somewhere, when you come home and rest.
  • God knows your thoughts and your intentions.
  • God knows your ways, the kind of life that you choose to live in this world.
  • God knows your words before you say them.
  • God can see and know you anywhere you might be.
  • And God has seen and known you from beginning to end.

God knows all about you! God knows all about me. God knows all about everyone who has lived. God knows all about everyone who is living. And God knows about everyone who will live. God knows all this.

Now, let me share some reflections on this insight from Psalm 139. And the first is –

1. Wow! God is amazing!

God can do this! God is truly incredible! What I am saying is that we see in these verses the greatness of God and it should lead us to praise God.

David himself says in wonder in v. 6, “Such knowledge (that is, the knowledge that God has) is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it.” To do what God can do; to know what God can know is beyond any of us. We can’t even begin to understand this.

Along similar lines, David says in vs. 17-18, “How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! If I would count them, they are more than the sand.” God’s thoughts, or as it can be translated “intentions or purposes,” are so many that they are beyond counting. God is beyond us – way beyond us. We simply don’t have the capacity to grasp what God can do. We serve a great God!

2. If you are doing evil, this should cause you concern

That’s because, you can’t evade God. You can’t keep God in the dark.

  • He knows what you say and do
  • He sees right through you – inside you – and knows your thoughts and intentions
  • And he knows you from beginning to end

He knows all this about you and there is nothing you can do to stop it. There is no shield or barrier that you can hide behind. There’s no hiding from God. And that’s exactly why if you are doing evil, you should be concerned.

Finally, since God knows all about you, you can be sure that –

3. God knows your needs and can help you

Speaking of what his everyday life is like, David says to God, “You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me” – v. 5. It’s like God’s presence is in front of him and behind him and all around him and his hand is upon him. In the same way God’s presence and knowledge of us is pervasive. God is close to us and we are never off his radar. And so he is always aware of our needs and is always nearby to give us his help.

Even if you are in the most remote place, God sees and knows you. As David said, “even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me” – v. 10. Or if you simply feel far away from God, God sees and knows you. And if you look to God, he can lead you and hold you with his right hand.

Also, even if you are in the darkest place, God can see and know you and your needs. David said to God, “the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you” – v. 12. Or if you simply feel that you are in a place of darkness – perhaps it’s depression, anxiety or loneliness. God can see you and know your need while you are in your dark place. And God can help.

Finally, God “formed you” and knows you inside-out. And so God knows your weaknesses, where you struggle, where you need help and grace to make it through – vs. 15-16.

That God knows us, his children, is a source of great comfort for us, because we can be sure that God will see us and help us in all of our lives.

Jesus visits home. Mark 6:1-6

The literary structure of Mark 6:1-6

Today we’re looking at Mark 6:1-6 and the story of Jesus visiting his home in Nazareth. This passage is interesting for several reasons. One is that it tells us more about –

Jesus’ personal life

First, about his family. In chapter 3 we learned a bit about his mother and brothers when they tried to stage an intervention to take Jesus home. Here in v. 3 we learn that he is “the son of Mary,” which is an unusual phrase since one would normally make reference to the father. This might indicate that Joseph died some time ago.  Also four brothers are mentioned as well as several unnamed sisters. So Jesus had at least six siblings.

Also he worked as a carpenter – v. 3. This is what he did before he began his ministry. This is the only place in Scripture that says this.

Now this doesn’t mean exactly what it means today. It refers to someone skilled at working with wood, metal or stone. So it could also mean he was a blacksmith or a stone mason or some combination of these. Joseph was also a carpenter and Jesus, no doubt, learned the trade from him (Matthew 13:55).

Also, just to note, his job was considered to be a skilled one. So he would not have been dirt poor, at least when he was working as a carpenter.

Let’s look more closely now at –

The story

– to see what else we can learn.

1He went away from there and came to his hometown, and his disciples followed him. 2And on the Sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue . . ..

Nazareth is about 25 miles from the Sea of Galilee, where he was previously. (Nazareth as his hometown – 1:9, 24).

Jesus had become famous in other parts of Israel and beyond and now he has come back to his hometown. There’s a bit of the ‘local boy does good’ dynamic here, and so they’re curious to see what’s going on.

. . . and many who heard him were astonished, saying, “Where did this man get these things? What is the wisdom given to him? How are such mighty works done by his hands?”

Mark uses the word “astonished” several times to refer to people being amazed and impressed by Jesus. Here, however, it is used in a negative way. People are shocked.

When they ask about his wisdom, this is related to his teaching ministry, which they have just experienced. When they ask about mighty works, this is related to his healing-miracle ministry that they would have heard about. Their concern is with the source of these things. He must not have taught or done miracles before he left Nazareth and so this is all new and shocking. Where did he get this stuff from?

They continue asking questions in v. 3 –

3“Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?”

If the previous questions focused on “where,” these focus on “who.” Who does he think he is? He’s just one of us.

  • Some of us changed his diapers when he was a baby.
  • Some of us played games with him as a child.
  • He did carpentry work on our house.
  • The rest of his family is still here and they aren’t special!

 Who does he think he is going around teaching and trying to heal people? What has gotten into his head? Jesus couldn’t grow up to be someone so important!

And the result of all these questions comes out at the end of v. 3 –

And they took offense at him.

 They were shocked; they were appalled. They weren’t able to get past their knowledge of Jesus as a normal person; an average guy. And so they certainly weren’t able to recognize him for who he was – the Messiah, or, as we will see, to receive what God was doing through him. They didn’t believe.

We can do this too. Every great man or woman of God is a normal person; they grew up and had a family. They don’t just drop out of heaven ready made with a halo over their head. And sometimes because we know them, we can’t receive from them; what God wants to say and do through them. We put them in a box.

But we should be open to receive from any person that God chooses to speak through. This is true of leaders and also as we seek to minister to one another with the gifts and callings that God gives to each of us in the body of Christ. We need to be open.

4And Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor, except in his hometown and among his relatives and in his own household.”

Jesus acknowledges what’s going on. They know him as just one of them, not as a prophet or as the Messiah.

As the proverb says, prophets are typically honored, except in their hometown, by those who can’t see them as prophets. Today we would say, “familiarity breeds contempt.” And so the town rejected Jesus.

And the last part of the saying, “his relatives and in his own household” shows that even Jesus’ family didn’t accept him or his ministry. This would have included Mary, his mother and James his brother, later the leader of the church in Jerusalem (John 7:5). They had expressed their unbelief earlier in Mark 3:21 when they came to him because they thought he was “out of his mind.” And now they reject him when he comes home.

This story is a reminder that rejection by others is a part of serving God. Even by friends and family. Jesus said in Luke 6:22, “Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man!” He also said in Matthew 10:36, “a person’s enemies will be those of his own household.”

Jesus didn’t just teach this, he experienced it, as we see in this story. And if Jesus experienced this, who are we to think that we won’t have a taste of it?

5And he could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them. 6And he marveled because of their unbelief.

 I have always been intrigued by these verses. In chapters 4-5 of Mark:

  • Jesus shows himself to be the great teacher, giving the parables of the sower, the mustard seed and the harvest.
  • He also shows himself to be the Lord of nature, calming the stormy sea. In 4:41 the disciples ask, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him.”
  • He also shows himself to be the Lord over all evil when he casts out a legion of demons and sets the man free.
  • He is the great healer, who cured the woman whom no doctor could cure.
  • And to top it off he shows himself to be the Lord of life when he raised Jairus’ daughter from the dead.

This is a portrait of Jesus as victorious in every way. No obstacle is too big for him – nature, demons, sickness or death.

But then he comes home and he’s stopped in his tracks. And what is the obstacle that stopped him? He is stopped by their unbelief. This unbelief keeps him from being able to do what he wanted to do and what he could do among them. It limits him and his ministry to them.

If they were astonished at him at the beginning (and not in a good way), in the end he is amazed at them (and not in a good way) – for their lack of faith.

The story ends with the phrase –

And he went about among the villages teaching.

Jesus moves on to another place to do his work, looking for people that will receive him and his ministry with faith.

I would like to end by highlighting what I think is the message for us today from this passage –

Our lack of faith can hinder God’s work

This story is a warning to us. Do you get the message? We can stop Jesus in his tracks even though there may be much he wants to do in us and through us; in our lives and in our congregation.

Did you know that you have such power? This is the way God has set things up. We have a role to play if God is going to do all that he intends – to help us and bless us. We have to believe to receive.

There is no limit to what God can do if we allow him. Jesus said in Mark 10:27, “all things are possible with God.” But we have to believe. We have to open up our lives to him in faith and rely on him to do it.