Psalm 139:1
O LORD, You have searched me and known me.
The Divine InspectionR. Tuck Psalm 139:1
God All-SeeingPsalm 139:1-24
God and OurselvesW. Hoyt, D. D.Psalm 139:1-24
God OmniscientWeekly PulpitPsalm 139:1-24
God's Exhaustive Knowledge of ManT. W. Chambers, D. D.Psalm 139:1-24
God's Knowledge of ManW. G. T. Shedd, D. D.Psalm 139:1-24
God's Omniscience and OmnipresenceH. Woodcock.Psalm 139:1-24
God's PresenceArchbishop Temple.Psalm 139:1-24
Lord, Thou Knowest AltogetherS. Conway Psalm 139:1-24
The All-Seeing and All-Present OneHomilistPsalm 139:1-24
The All-Seeing GodMonday Club SermonsPsalm 139:1-24

This psalm, one of the most sublime of them all, is of unknown authorship. It seems to be the composition of some saint of God who lived after the Captivity. If so, what proof it gives of the blessing of sanctified sorrow (cf. the probably companion psalm, Psalm 119., vers. Psalms 119:67, 71, 75)! The furnace of the Exile, the husks of the far country, did bring prodigal Israel to himself; and this psalm is one clear evidence thereof. And so, we believe, God will do with all like prodigals. They may seem set against him - they very often are; but his resources are not exhausted, and he will find ways and means to bring them to a better mind. The psalm is divided into four stanzas, of which -


1. Here is a fact asserted. "Lord, thou hast searched me," etc. The word originally means "to dig," and is applied to the searching for precious metals (Alexander). God had penetrated far below the surface of the psalmist's acts and words, so that he knew him perfectly. And he knows our time of rest and of going forth to active work (ver. 2). He winnows or fans - such the meaning of the word rendered "compassest" - so as to sift our whole life, separating the evil in it from the good, as the chaff is separated from the wheat. And this is true of the night-life as well as of the day (ver. 3). He knows not only the words that we do speak, but those that we are going to speak (ver. 4). The past and the future - that which is behind and before - are all known to him, and under the control of his hand (ver. 5). We cannot understand all this, but so it is (vers. 5, 6). Thus emphatically is the truth asserted.

2. And altogether credible.

(1) For reason would infer it (comp. Psalm 94:9). The maker of a machine would surely know how his machine would work! Much more must the Lord know our nature and the workings of man's mind and will. He knows our nature (twice) as one knows the dwelling in which he has lived, for he tabernacled in it and dwelt among us (John 1.). He was the Son of man, and he knows what is in man.

(2) And there is the testimony of conscience. The very etymology of that word implies the knowledge of some one with us; and what we call "conscience" is our recognizing that God sees and judges all we are and do. "Thou God seest me" is not a mere text, but the confession of every soul.

(3) And then there is the testimony of our Lord's life on earth. He revealed God in his holiness, power, and love; but he revealed this also - God's knowledge of our inmost heart. Again and again do we meet with statements that assert this superhuman knowledge of our Lord. See how he knew Nathanael, Peter, Judas. Others did not thus know themselves or their fellow-men, but he knew them perfectly. This also was a revelation of what is ever in God.

3. And blessed. For it shows that we are not under the rule of a stranger. The rule of a stranger is ever a hard and irksome rule. And it shows how gracious he is; for, though he knows all about us, yet this does not stay his blessing. And how holy; for, though with us the knowledge of evil and the continual contact of it defiles, or at least tends to deaden our sense and horror of evil, and so to lessen our own holiness, it is not at all so with God. See this in Christ. He was surrounded always by sin, but yet was himself "holy, harmless, and undefiled." And because he thus knows us, he must know what is best for us, so that we may be well content with his ordering of our lot. What a holy restraint this truth exercises upon the believing soul! Indeed, it is only to such soul that this truth is or can be welcome; to the ungodly it is all unwelcome, and they seek to cast it out of their minds. God forbid that we should do this!

II. THE SECOND DECLARES THE IMPOSSIBILITY OF ESCAPING FROM THE PRESENCE OF GOD. (Vers. 7-12.) The height of heaven cannot transcend him; the depth of hell cannot hide from him; flight, rapid as the rays of the morning sun, cannot outstrip him; distance, like that of the uttermost parts of the sea, cannot separate from him; darkness, deep as midnight, cannot conceal from him. It used to be said of ancient Rome that the extent of her empire rendered it impossible for any one who had incurred the displeasure of her emperors to escape their vengeance; yet more truly is it impossible for us to do what Jonah vainly tried to do - to flee from the presence of the Lord. But this perpetual presence is a perpetual joy to the people of God. Our Lord cheered his disciples ere he left them, by promising that he would be with them always. He had said before that "wherever two or three are gathered together in my Name, there," etc. He is a God "at hand, and not afar off." "At thy right hand, therefore, I shall not be moved." But this perpetual presence, inescapable, is the terror of the wicked man, for he knows he cannot get away from God. How needful that we should acquaint ourselves with God, and so be at peace! So shall the terror be turned into joy.

III. THE THIRD SETS FORTH THE GROUND OF GOD'S PERFECT KNOWLEDGE OF US. (Vers. 13-16.) "The mysterious beginnings of life which none can trace, the days all of which are ordered before the first breath is drawn, - these are fashioned and ordered by the hand of God." How, then, can it be otherwise than that he should know us altogether? And how reassuring is this truth of God's knowing us from the very start of our being, because he is the Author of that being!


1. It gives rise to a vast throng of precious thoughts within Him. He calls them (ver. 17) "thy thoughts," which may refer either to God's thoughts about us, or to our thoughts about God. Probably both are meant; for God's thoughts about us are precious, for they are thoughts of good, and not evil. And how great and undeserved and freely given is that good! And our thoughts about God are precious also, if indeed we be reconciled to God. None others can think about God and find delight in such thoughts. But if we be his servants, we think of what God is in himself, of what he has done and will do, in things temporal and in things spiritual, for ourselves, for others dear to us. How vast the sum of these thoughts, and how precious!

2. His soul is filled with a holy hatred of the ungodly. Not because of what they had done to him, though that was bad enough, and could not but wake up the spirit of resentment, but because they were the enemies of God (vers. 19-22). It is good to hate evil, first in ourselves, then in others; and if those others will cleave to it, then they and their sin cannot be separated, and we must "count" both our "enemies." "Ye that fear the Lord hate evil." Would to God we all did (cf. homily on Psalm 97:10)!

3. An intense longing after entire holiness. (Vers. 23, 24.) The psalmist yearned to be free from all sin, not only from some sins. Therefore he would lay bare his soul before God - would come into the full light of God, that the Divine scrutiny might be thorough and complete. He knew that after all his own search sin might yet lurk in unthought-of places, and hence he prays God to search, and try, and know, and see, and show him the wrong, and then lead him "in the way everlasting." Such is the effect of this faith: "Lord, thou knowest me altogether." - S.C.

The Lord will perfect that which concerneth me.
As every state has its dangers, so the peril of religious concern is despondency. Thoughtfulness soon degenerates into distrust, and holy anxiety easily rusts into unbelief. The more a man looks within him the less he can trust himself, and the more a man looks around him the more he feels that he is in danger, and he is apt to say, "I shall surely one day fall by the hand of the enemy." He is fearful as to the result of future temptations. Now I want to meet such fears.

I. Here first we see that GOD FILLS US WITH ASSURANCE. "The Lord will perfect that which concerneth me." Then —

1. God is really at work on our behalf. Get a grip at this, thou troubled one, and by a personal faith say, "The Lord will perfect that which concerneth me." Thou hast come to Jesus and trusted thy soul in His hands, then it is certain that the Lord hath brought thee to this state of mind. Every effect has a cause, and all spiritual faith is created by the Holy Ghost. Since then, the Lord has begun to save you, your confidence must be that He who began this good work will continue to operate in your soul. "The Lord will perfect that which concerneth me;" not, "I will perform it myself."

2. There is the full assurance that He will be at work still in order to complete that which He has commenced. Have you obtained a religion which is not the work of God? Then I would exhort you to get rid of it. Do as the man did with the bad banknote, throw it down on the highway or into a ditch, and run away from it. But, and if the religion you have received is the work of God, then be certain that He who began the work will perfect it. The psalmist affirms —

3. That He will complete the work. Did the Almighty pause in the middle of creation and leave His work unfinished? How, then, would the record run? That God had made the light, but had not made the sun? That He had made the waters, but had not divided them from the land, or said to the sea, "Hitherto shalt thou go, but no farther"? No, the first day of creation was a guarantee of the five which followed it and of the grand rest day which crowned the week. Here, then, is your confidence. You are anxiously asking Him, shall I persevere to the end? You shall be kept and perfected by the Lord in whom you trust. Now carry this confidence into everything. Into providence. The Lord will perfect that which concerns you there. You have a plan on hand. If it be God's plan for you for life you will carry it through. God often perfects that which truly concerns us by taking us away from that which never ought to concern us. But that crown of life which you have submitted to His wisdom, which you have taken up in obedience to the plain indications of His providence, which you follow out with integrity, walking before the Lord and committing your way unto Him — that crown of life shall have His blessing, and none shall be able to put you on one side. The Lord told David he should be a king. It did not look very likely, but since such was the Eternal purpose, there was no keeping the son of Jesse out of the throne. But this is more especially true in the work of grace in the heart. And it is also true of the work of grace all around us.

II. THE LORD GIVES US REST IN HIS MERCY, for what says the text, "Thy mercy, O Lord, endureth for ever." See how this works in us rest from fear. "Alas!" sighs one troubled heart, "I fear I shall fall into many sins between here and heaven." But sing in your heart, "Thy mercy, O Lord, endureth for ever." The blood of atonement will never fail. Then up comes another fear. "I do not see how I am to be perfected My nature is so vile." The answer is the same. The Lord will bear with you and forbear. Some of God's children are the crookedest people that ever were in this world, and it must be sovereignty which chose them, for they are by no means naturally desirable or attractive. But His mercy endureth for ever. And some will pass through great affliction and some will experience a great many wants. And the hour of death will come. One man of God always feared death; but he might have spared himself his wretchedness, for he fell asleep one night in apparently excellent health, and died in his sleep. He never could have known anything about dying, for on his face were no tokens of pain or struggle, nor was there any reason to believe that he ever awoke till he lifted up his eyes amid the cherubim. And so, if we do not die shouting victory, we hope that we shall peacefully fall asleep, "for His mercy endureth for ever." "He will perfect that which concerneth me." Now do all of you who are just beginning life put yourselves and all your circumstances into God's hand and there leave them.

III. THE LORD PUTS IT INTO HIS PEOPLE'S HEARTS TO PRAY, AND SUPPLIES THEM WITH A PLEA. "Forsake not the work of Thine own hands. Persevere in what Thou hast begun." This is a prayer which you and I may well bring before God, whose workmanship we are. A man takes his money into the bank and leaves it. He does not come back in a quarter of an hour and say, "Have you my money safe? I want to see it." The bank would not desire such a man who has no confidence in them. Let us not act so by Christ. Put in your all with Him and leave it there.

( C. H. Spurgeon.)


1. What we are to understand by "that which concerneth me." This I apprehend, as it regards David, and as it regards every Christian, may be summed up in two things — the work of providence without them, and the work of grace within them. All that concerns present safety and future glory are thus secured.

2. "The Lord will perfect that which concerneth me." When it is in progress He will not leave it or suffer it to be marred — He will carry it forward through its successive stages until it be finished to the glory of His name.

II. THE UNCHANGING FOUNDATION OF ASSURANCE. It is from the mercy of God that He works for us, and works in us. "Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us." His mercy and His grace are the grand springs of all the happiness and blessings we possess, and of all the hopes that inspire the heart and animate the soul. And as God thus begins the work of a sinner's salvation from mercy, it no way depends upon our merit or worth. He takes His motives entirely from Himself. He does it because it is the good pleasure of His will to do it.

III. THE EARNEST PRAYER ACCOMPANYING THIS CONFIDENCE. "Forsake not the work of Thine own hands." As they are the works of His hands, they must be very dear unto Him, — He cannot but love them and delight in them, and He rests in His love. Conclusion —

1. How great is the gratitude that is due to God from His saints, how innumerable are His blessings, how vast His mercy, how rich His grace and lovingkindness.

2. What encouragement the sinner has to seek God, seeing He is a God of such mercy.

3. Rejoice, ye saints of God, that you have a great High Priest who is passed into the heavens, who now appears in the presence of God for you.

(John Jack.)

I. THE PSALMIST'S CONFIDENCE. The work of grace in the soul of man is but a begun work. I know it is perfect as it regards its principle; but as it regards its actings it is most imperfect. Look at our light; how feeble is it! How little do we see of sin's sinfulness — of the baseness there is in ingratitude! What a dim sight have we of Jesus! the glory of His person, the perfection of His atonement, His perfect righteousness, the sufficiency of His grace, the tenderness of His humanity, the sympathy of His nature — Friend — Brother! How little one enters into the holiness of His example! Now all this does prove that it is but a begun work. And yet, says David, "The Lord will perfect" it. It is His own; He will maintain it, He will deepen it, and He will finish it. Here is a blessed confidence in God, that He, who had "begun the good work," would "perform it" in the midst of all its ebbs and flows and changes; acknowledging it to be but a begun work, and yet declaring — "The Lord will perfect it." But the words imply more than this. It would seem as if David did say — He will give me the entire, the full and complete and everlasting possession and enjoyment of Himself in heaven. Faith shall soon be lost in sight; hope shall soon disappear in certainty; and prayer shall cease, and give way to endless praise.

II. THE BASIS OF HIS CONFIDENCE. What is it? You may say, It is the promise. The promise is not the foundation. There must be a foundation for the promise. And what is the foundation of the promise? God; God in Christ. And here is a particular attribute, a particular perfection in God, singled out — signalized. "Thy mercy, O Lord, endureth for ever." There is a sweetness and a power in the very monosyllable, "Thy mercy"; because it is peculiar to God, it is His own property, it distinguishes Him. The mercy of the creature is finite; the mercy of Jehovah is infinite. The mercy of the creature is changeable; the mercy of Jehovah is unchangeable. The mercy of the creature was of yesterday; the mercy of Jehovah is from everlasting. It began in election; and when does it end? Never; but it issues in eternal glory.

III. IN WHAT DID IT ISSUE? Carelessness? So say many. But the issue here is — prayer. "Forsake not the works of Thine own hands." It is a beautiful conclusion; it is a beautiful consequence; it is a blessed deduction. Because Thou "wilt perfect"; therefore "forsake not the works of Thine own hands." It is common-sense — the common-sense of religion. "I am, as Thy creature, wholly dependent on Thee; without Thee, faith must die, and hope expire; without Thee, love must decay and perish."

(J. H. Evans, M. A.)


1. A Divine confidence — "The Lord."

2. A confidence for the future — "will."

3. A large confidence — "perfect."

4. A broad confidence. "Whatever concerns me," says he, "the Lord will perfect."

II. THE GROUND OF THIS CONFIDENCE — GOD'S MERCY. Is it not a strange thing that the advanced believer, when he reaches to the very height of piety, just comes to the spot where he commenced? Do we not begin at the Cross, and when we have climbed ever so high, is it not at the Cross that we end? Mercy must be the theme of our song here; and mercy enduring for ever must be the subject of the sonnets of paradise. None other can be fit sinners; nay, and none other can be fit, grateful saints.


(J. H. Evans, M. A.)

A friend said to me one day, "How sad it is that we cannot devote ourselves more constantly to our own spiritual culture! There are so many utterly unspiritual things to be done or gone through with, that it is really very little time that we can give to the great work of this life — our preparation for a higher and better life." This would have been well said, were it not that the very condition of things complained of is a providential necessity of God's appointment, and therefore undoubtedly better for us than any method that we might deem preferable. If the soul, and God, and heaven are not fictions, we are constrained to believe that the Divine providence orders our discipline here with a view to our surest nurture and our highest good, that its school is our best school, its designated way the best way for us. I doubt whether the concentrated devotion to the soul for which the devout often yearn is the fit mode of educating the soul. Probably, even to the most religious mind, the cloister has never been so favourable to the growth of piety as the duties of an active life or of a Christian home would have been. A good man somewhat given to cant, meeting Wilberforce one day, said to him, "Brother, how is it now with your soul?" and was shocked beyond measure by the philanthropist's reply, "I have been so busy about those poor men, that I had forgotten I had a soul." Yet there can be no doubt that by means of "those poor men" Wilberforce's soul had been growing a great deal faster than that of his friend, who had perhaps spent half his time in counting the pulse-beats of devotional feeling. In speaking thus I would not have it inferred that I hold emotional piety in low repute. I look upon it as the Alpha and the Omega, the source and consummation of all that is excellent in man. But perpetual and over-anxious watching may do as little for the plants of God's planting in the heart as for those of our own planting in our gardens. Nor would I have it supposed that I undervalue the direct offices of piety, whether secret or social. I regard them as an essential part of the plan of Providence. But God trains us, for the most part, in ways which we should not choose for that purpose, and sometimes in ways which we are prone to regard as injurious rather than helpful. To some of these methods of the Divine providence I ask your attention. There is hardly anything of which we are more apt to complain than routine-work, especially that in which not hand or foot, but brain and soul, are compelled to go over the selfsame round day after day and year after year. We are sometimes inclined, in our weariness, to resort for terms of comparison to the very Tartarus of our classical studies — the rock of Sisyphus and the sieve of the Danaides. Yet we might look for our parallel in the opposite direction; for is not the administration of this glorious universe, for the most part, a routine? Has not the infinite Creator, for unnumbered aeons, renewed, day by day and year by year, the same unvarying round of beneficent ministries? And if we may be permitted to speak of that self-consciousness in which our own has its birth, must we not think of this routine as a part of God's supreme felicity, while ever new love, mercy, and compassion flow in the course of universal nature, and breathe in the benignant will, which is no less essential from moment to moment than when in the beginning it moulded chaos into form, life, and beauty? Now, so far as God's Spirit is in us, our routine-work shall be exalted, hallowed, glorified, made more and more like His. Is it for the benefit of others, and is it lovingly wrought? If so, those affections which are so essential a part of the soul's best life are exercised, fed, and strengthened by it, and we thus become — though it be without our distinct consciousness — enlarged in our sympathies, broadened in our charity, better tithed for every genial ministry of earth and of heaven. Or is our life-work one which has prime reference to self, yet imposed upon us by necessities of subsistence or position which we cannot evade? If so, it is of God's appointment — a part of our Divine service; and if it be pervaded by the true spirit of service, it is a routine only in appearance — in reality, it is a revolution on an even higher plane, in an ever larger orbit; and we shall find in God's good time that it has been training us for the unwearying service of the heavenly temple. Yet again, is our routine, as it probably is, one which admits, with every new revolution, of more of mind, and soul, and strength? Then, wearisome though it be, it is a healthful discipline, equally for the powers which it calls into exercise, and for that conscientious fidelity in our appointed sphere, which must concur with trained and tried capacity in fitting the steward of the few and small things committed to his earthly trust for the larger stewardship of the heavenly life. Another subject of frequent complaint is the waste of time in unavoidable, bug unprofitable, social engagements. The hours which, if taken from more laborious pursuits, we would gladly devote to entertaining or lucrative intercourse with equals and friends, the wise and the brilliant, those whose converse is our privilege and our joy, must often be spent where we give, and receive nothing in return, wit may be, with those whom we see fit to call dull and stupid, or frivolous and empty, or with the impertinent and importunate, — with those who claim sympathy to which they seem to have no right, or aid to which they can proffer no title other than their need. Can this be a part of our spiritual education? Yes; and a most essential part. It comes to us through the ordering of Providence, and is therefore, no doubt, better for us than the great things which we would gladly do instead, but for which the opportunity is not afforded us. We shall one day own that no time has been better spent, if on these occasions we have exercised patience, forbearance, unwearying kindness, persevering helpfulness, if we have given pleasure, diffused happiness, relieved burdens, cleared perplexity, shed sunlight on those who live under the shadow, quickened dull minds, lightened heavy hearts. But in such ways as I have spoken of, solid portions of time that might have been given to our own mental culture are often invaded and frittered away. Can this be good for us? Yes, if Providence so wills. Growing knowledge is, no doubt, an unspeakable benefit; yet we may be gee impatient for its acquisition. We may feel too much as if this world gave the only opportunities for mental cultivation and growth. A part of what we may regret that we lose here will be of no interest or worth to us when we go hence; and for all that we can then desire and need there is ample room in the limitless future. Another often uncomfortable method of spiritual discipline consists in the seemingly excessive annoyance and mortification occasioned by what we account as slight mistakes, follies, and faults. In the vexation and discomfort which we bring upon ourselves by some momentary and almost unconscious deviation from the fitting and the right, we often have an impressive practical commentary on the text, "Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth!" But in these experiences we have a most essential and blessed part of our providential education. How should we ever recognize our failures and faults, did they not leave these vivid traces in our experience? Equally is Providence educating us by those trials and griefs — the lighter and the heavier — which belong to our condition as mortals. But it is never go be forgotten that the ministry of affliction is wholly contingent on our receptivity. The sands of the desert drink in the spring rains, but are not fructified by them. The untilled field returns their blessing in unsightly and noxious weeds. But in the prepared soil they reappear in growing grain and swelling fruit-buds — the prize of faithful toil, the hope of the year; and those dreary, chilly, sunless days of the early rain are the harbingers of all that is bright, beautiful, and gladdening in garden, field, and orchard. Thus the dews and rains of God's afflictive providence in some souls are absorbed and lost, and leave no sign; others they sour, or madden, or hopelessly depress; but where there are already germs of the heavenly Father's planting, they quicken growth, they create inward grace and beauty, they fructify all peaceful thoughts, pure desires, and holy aspirations; they ripen the harvest whose reapers are the angels. But not only through these sadder ministries is God's providence perfeering that which concerneth us. Equally is all that is mirthful and gladdening a part of our education for our immortal being. How vast is our receptivity of gladness! How kindly the necessity — not only in childhood and youth, but under our severest cares and labours, and even under the burden of many years — of recreation and pleasure! Thus by His various discipline is God perfecting that which concerneth us, giving us a far better education than we could plan for ourselves. Let us yield ourselves lovingly to the training of His providence, assured that, ordered by Him, all things shall work together for our good.

(A. P. Peabody, D. D.)

Every man's character is a germ capable of large development. There are slumbering possibilities in us all. We are made for ends known to God, and there is an ideal in His mind concerning each one of us.

I. THE PSALMIST'S TRIUMPHANT CONVICTION. "The Lord will perfect." This is what we need to impart interest to life. There is no cry so pitiful as "Nothing to live for." On all hands there are disappointed folk who, thinking of condition rather than character, find life "tame." But once let a man or woman reach this assurance that through all the various scenes of life God is moulding them, and even by the "strokes of doom" fashioning them "to shape and use," and all the life sparkles with glad significance.


1. God's mercy. "Thy mercy, O Lord," etc. This must ever be our first appeal, to mercy. For which of us has a flawless record of submission to the Divine purpose? With our past of perversity; what can we do but cast ourselves on God's infinite pity? And in Christ we have the plan of God's redeeming mercy made known to us as it was not to prophet and psalmist of old. We see that mercy has provided for the ruined life to be restored and built up again according to the plan of the great Architect.

2. God's justice. "Forsake not the works of Thine own hands." This is a plea that every reconciled soul may urge. "Thou hast made me: I reverently challenge Thee to complete Thy work." He is a "faithful Creator," and if you are seeking to answer the end for which He made you, His everlasting honour binds Him to fulfil His part. How full are the New Testament pledges to this effect that He will complete His work in our character — Philippians 1:6.


O Lord, Thou hast searched me, and known me.
This lyric has always been the subject of praise. Aben Ezra said there was none like it in the five books. Lord Brougham spoke of it as "that singularly beautiful poem" Herder said that language utterly failed him in its exposition. Erskine of Llinlathen wanted this to be before him on his death-bed. The title ascribes it to David, an ascription corroborated by its originality and majesty and its correspondence with psalms undoubtedly Davidic. Probably the Aramaic colouring is a mere dialectic variation, existing during the whole period of Hebrew history, and occasionally coming to the front as circumstances suggested it.

I. THE DIVINE OMNISCIENCE (vers. 1-6). The poet multiplies expressions to indicate how complete is God's knowledge of him. Whether he be at rest or in motion, in every posture and state, God knows him. Not only his outward acts, but the thoughts from which they spring are at once discerned. Nothing can escape Jehovah's eye, for He is behind and before, i.e. on all sides of man, and His hand is upon him to restrain and control. The strophe closes with a frank confession of the writer's impotence and awe. He cannot comprehend it, which is not strange, for how is the finite to comprehend the infinite? But he knows it and bows in reverence before the sublime truth.

II. THE DIVINE OMNIPRESENCE (vers. 7-12). God is everywhere; not only above all as transcendent, but also through all and in all as immanent in nature. This thought is expanded and enforced by its application to all measures of space. Were man to scale the azure vault overhead, it would only confront him with the Divine personality; were he to sound unimaginable depths in the other direction, the result would be the same. H a man mounted on wings, not those of the sun (Malachi 4:2), nor of the wind (Psalm 18:10), but of the dawn, and pursued the farthest flight westward, if he should fly with the same swiftness as the first rays of the morning shoot from one end of the heavens to the other, still he would not get beyond the Divine presence. Beyond the sea, and far out of the sight of man, God's hand would lead him, and God's right hand grasp him.

III. OMNIPOTENCE IN THE CREATION OF MAN (vers. 13-18). The singer revolves in mind the secret processes of man's birth and development, and gratitude overflows into praise. He sees how he has been made to differ from the inferior creation in constitution and destiny. It is a fearful distinction (Genesis 28:17). Any signal manifestation of Jehovah's presence, however favourable, inspires awe. The consideration of this single ease leads to the general statement that all God's works are marvellous, a statement which the writer reaffirms as from an experimental conviction of its truth. In the next verse the curious growth and unfolding of the embryo is referred to. It goes on in secret, as far from human vision as if it were deep down in some subterraneous cavern, but God sees it and directs the mysterious and complicated tissue, as if it were a piece of delicate embroidery. Even in its most rudimental form, invisible to any other ken, it is still open to His eyes, and He determines all its subsequent development, recording in His book the days to come, i.e. the various events and vicissitudes of life, even before one of them existed. Struck by this view of God's omniscience as embracing the beginning, the unfolding and the completion of all things, the singer bursts out into a recognition of its value. To him God's thoughts, i.e. His plans and purposes as displayed in these miracles of creation, are precious beyond measure. Nor are they few or slight, but amount to a vast sum, more numerous than the sands of the sea. They are ever before David as an object of adoring wonder, not by day only, but by night; not merely in the watches of the night, but even in his sleep. His meditations are continuous. His communion is unbroken.

IV. THE PRACTICAL APPLICATION (vers. 19-24). The greater any man's nearness to God, the more intense is his abhorrence of the impiety which disowns or despises the living God. Nor does such a feeling indicate malevolence. "When a foul crime has been perpetrated, tender-hearted Christian women who would not harm a hair of the enemy's head, but would rather feed him, will express keen resentment, and will be disquieted in mind till they hear that the perpetrator has been convicted and duly punished." The conclusion of the strophe is striking. The poet returns to the opening words of the psalm, and prays for a new experience of Jehovah's searching scrutiny, that he may not be given over to self-conceit. The petition is a proof of humility. Although he had averred so strongly his aversion to the wicked, he prays that this may be no mere outward separation. The All-seeing Eye may detect in him some way that leads to sin and sorrow, though he is unconscious of it. Hence he entreats God to see and disclose it, and then taking his hand to lead him in a way which, unlike the way of the wicked (Psalm 1:6), does not perish, but ends in everlasting life.

(T. W. Chambers, D. D.)


1. By His presence.

2. By His power or agency.

3. In the immensity of space.

4. In highest heaven.

5. In hell.

6. We cannot get away from God's presence.

7. Human inspection is very limited. But God's eye penetrates the darkest abode, the deepest cell, the obscurest corner, the blackest night.

8. Men only see what a man says and does; God sees all that a man is. "To Him all hearts are open, all desires known." God knows us, not relatively, but personally.

9. Specially with His people. "Where are you going?" said Collins, the infidel, to a poor but pious man. "To church, sir," was the reply "What to do there?" "To worship God." "And can you tell me," said the infidel, "whether your God is a great or a little God?" "He is both, sir." "How can He be both?" "He is so great that the heaven of heavens cannot contain Him, and so little that He can dwell in my heart."


1. If God is omniscient and omnipresent, then the moral character of His creatures is unveiled to His gaze, and clearly and distinctly known to Him.

2. If God is omniscient and omnipresent, then the final judgment will be a time of full and complete revelation, as well as a time of righteous retribution (Ecclesiastes 11:14; Revelation 20:12). Will the disclosures of that day fill us with joy, or cover us with shame?

3. The importance of an interest in Christ.

4. Try to cherish an abiding sense of God's presence.

5. Pray at all times and in all places.

6. Be comforted in every time of trouble.

(H. Woodcock.)

Monday Club Sermons.
: —

I. IS THERE AN ALL-SEEING GOD? If not, whence our own existence? Whence our expectations of reward for doing right, of punishment for wrong-doing? Whence the material universe? Whence the original plan, stupendous beyond conception, more minute than the most powerful microscope can reveal, which must have preceded the first act of creation? Whence the march and trend of history, always revealing "a power not ourselves, which makes for righteousness," and which sweeps away opposition like dust before the oncoming storm? Who conceived the character of Christ, in an age overlaid and penetrated through and through with error? Whose works of grace, in that same earth, have steadily built up a kingdom of love, of peace, of righteousness? If there is a creator of the universe, He must also be its sustainer: He cannot press material forces into service and go and leave them, as we do a windmill to draw water, for all force depends upon Him for its existence. He who superintends all must be all-seeing, and He who presides over all history must take cognizance of every event.


1. That exquisite pleasure in sin, which comes from its fancied concealment, is utter folly.

2. God is patient with wrong and sin, because He sees the end from the beginning.

3. Patience under trial and strength in adversity thrive under the all-seeing eye.

4. The friends of God are glad in the sure hope of being more and more consciously under His eye.

5. Corresponding judgments await those who, shrinking from that all-seeing eye, with a repugnance predominant and increasing, must abide its searchings for ever.

6. How priceless the blood of Calvary, in which the saints have "washed their robes and made them white"!

(Monday Club Sermons.)

: —


1. He sees the whole of an object. At best we can only see the outside of a thing, the curve, the angle, the colour.

2. He sees the whole of every object. How few are the objects we see even thus externally and partially! Some are too small and some too distant. But He sees all, His eye takes in the immeasurable universe.

3. He sees the whole of everything at the same time.


1. He is present everywhere, in the entirety of Himself.

2. He is present in all things, yet distinct from all things.Practically, this subject serves three important purposes.

1. To refute some popular errors of human life.

(1)There is the error that supposes that formal worship can be of any real worth. "God is a Spirit," etc.

(2)There is the error that imagines that death will make some fundamental alteration in their relation to God.

2. To reprove some prevalent impieties in human conduct.



3. To reveal the supreme interest of human life. Cultivate a loving affection for Him.


: — This psalm sings of —


1. His omniscience.

(1)He knows our actions, ways, words, thoughts.

(2)His knowledge of us is entire, complete.

2. His omnipresence. He is in —


(2)Unseen world.


(4)In the dark as well as the light.

3. His omnipotence (vers. 13-16).

4. The separate, personal thinking of God toward every one of us.



II. OURSELVES. Our relation toward such a God should be —

1. That of adoring and constantly thoughtful reverence (vers. 17, 18).

2. That of siding with Him against evil (vers. 19-22).

3. That of welcoming the Divine searching (vers. 23, 24). Said Milton, speaking of his travels abroad when a young man: "I again take God to witness that in all places where so many things are considered lawful, I lived sound and untouched from all profligacy and vice, having this thought perpetually with me, that though I might escape the eyes of men, I certainly could not the eyes of God."

4. That of a prayerful seeking of the Divine guidance (ver. 24).

(W. Hoyt, D. D.)

: — One of the most remark. able characteristics of a rational being is the power of self-inspection. Like the air we breathe, like the light we see, it involves a mystery that no man has ever solved. Self-consciousness has been the problem of the philosophic mind in all ages; and the mystery is not yet unravelled. But if that knowledge whereby man knows himself is mysterious, then certainly that whereby God knows him is far more so. That act whereby another being knows my secret thoughts and inmost feelings is most certainly inexplicable.

I. GOD ACCURATELY AND EXHAUSTIVELY KNOWS ALL THAT MAN KNOWS OF HIMSELF. He may be an uncommonly thoughtful person, and little of what is done within his soul may escape his notice; nay, we will make the extreme supposition that he arrests every thought as it rises, and looks at it; that he analyzes every sentiment as it swells his heart; that he scrutinizes every purpose as it determines his will; even if he should have such a thorough and profound self-knowledge as this, God knows him equally profoundly and equally thoroughly. Nay, more, this process of self-inspection may go on indefinitely, and the man grow more and more thoughtful, and obtain an everlastingly augmenting knowledge of what he is and what he does, so that it shall seem to him that he is penetrating so deeply into those dim and shadowy regions of consciousness where the external life takes its very first start, and then he may be sure that God understands the thought that is afar off, and deep down, and that at this lowest range and plane in his experience he besets him behind and before.

II. GOD ACCURATELY AND EXHAUSTIVELY KNOWS ALL THAT MAN MIGHT, BUT DOES NOT, KNOW OF HIMSELF. Though the transgressor is ignorant of much of his sin, because, at the time of its commission, he sins blindly as well as wilfully, and unreflectingly as well as freely; and though the transgressor has forgotten much of that small amount of sin, of which he was conscious, and by which he was pained, at the time of its perpetration; though, on the side of man, the powers of self-inspection and memory have accomplished so little towards this preservation of man's sin, yet God knows it all, and remembers it all. He compasseth man's path, and his lying down, and is acquainted with all his ways. And here let us look upon the bright as well as the dark side of this subject. For if God's exhaustive knowledge of the human heart waken dread in one of its aspects, it starts infinite hope in another. If that Being has gone down into these depths of human depravity, and seen it with a more abhorring glance than could ever shoot from a finite eye, and yet has returned with a cordial offer to forgive it all, and a hearty proffer to cleanse it all away, then we can lift up the eye in adoration and in hope. The worst has been seen, and that too by the holiest of beings, and yet eternal glory is offered to us! It is perfectly plain from the elevated central point of view where we now stand, and in the focal light in which we now see, that no man can be justified before God upon the ground of personal character; for that character, when subjected to God's exhaustive scrutiny, withers and shrinks away. Before the Searcher of hearts all mankind must appeal to mere and sovereign mercy. Justice, in this reference, is out of the question. Now, in this condition of things, God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him might not perish, but have everlasting life. The simple question, then, which meets us is, Wilt thou know thyself here, and now, that thou mayest accept and feel God's pity; or wilt thou keep within the screen, and not know thyself until beyond the grave, and then feel God's judicial wrath? The self-knowledge, remember, must come in the one way or the other. It is a simple question of time; a simple question whether it shall come here in this world, where the blood of Christ "freely" flows, or in the future world, where "there remaineth no more sacrifice for sin."

(W. G. T. Shedd, D. D.)

: — The fact that God is always present and knows every minute trifle in our lives, and that His unerring judgment will assuredly take count of every detail of our character and our conduct, neither exaggerating nor omitting, but applying absolute justice; this truth is one of those which lose force from their very universality. God has made us so. We become unconscious of everything by long use. We could never discharge our duties properly if we were to be perpetually distracted by the consciousness of what was around us: and, above all, we might be daunted by the perpetual thought of the presence of God, and so be paralyzed instead of helped. There is, therefore, nothing wrong in our forgetting that we are in the presence of God any more than there is anything foolish in our forgetting that we need air to breathe or light to see by, or that if we fall we may hurt ourselves: just in the same way as we very often, and quite rightly, forget that we are in the company of men who will take notice of our faults. The right state of mind plainly is to have the thought of God's presence so perpetually at hand that it shall always start before us whenever it is wanted. So that whenever we are on the point of doing or saying anything cowardly, or mean, or false, or impure, or proud, or conceited, or unkind, the remembrance that God is looking on shall instantly flash across us and help us to beat down our enemy. This is living with God. This is the communion with Him, and with Christ, which unquestionably helps the struggling, the penitent, the praying, more than anything else. And this perpetual though not always conscious sense of God's presence would, no doubt, if we would let it have its perfect work, gradually act on our characters just as the presence of our fellow-men does. We cannot live long with men without catching something of their manner, of their mode of thought, of their character, of their government of themselves. Those who live much in a court acquire courtly manners. Those who live much in refined and educated society acquire refinement insensibly. Those who are always hearing pure and high principles set forth as the guides of life learn to value and to know them even faster than they can learn to live by them. From the just we learn justice; from the charitable we catch an infection of charity; from the generous we receive the instinct of generosity. So, too, by living in the presence of God and, as it were, in the courts of heaven, we shall assuredly learn something of a heavenly tone, and shake off some of that coarse worldliness, that deeply ingrained selfishness, that silly pride and conceit which now spoils our very best service. In short, to live with God is to be perpetually rising above the world; to live without Him is to be perpetually sinking into it, and with it, and below it. And lest the presence of God should be too much for us, Christ has taken human nature on Him, and has provided that He will be always with us as long as the world shall last. How shall we learn to walk by His side? The daily prayer in the closet, the endeavour to keep the attention fixed when praying with others, either in our regular services or in family worship. the regular habit of reading the Bible at a fixed time, the occasional reminders of ourselves that God is looking on, — these are our chief means of learning to remember His presence. But yet there is another, not less powerful than any, which deserves special mention. Our hearts will put us in mind of God's eye being upon us every now and then involuntarily. The thought will flash across us that God sees us. And this will generally be just when we are tempted to do wrong, or perhaps just when we are actually beginning to do it: some secret sin of which no one knows or dreams perhaps, some self-indulgence, which we dare not deny that God condemns. Then is the moment to choose whether or not we will live in the presence of God; then when the finger of conscience is pointing to Him and saying, "He is looking at you."

(Archbishop Temple.)

In the mythology of the heathen, Momus, the god of fault-finding, is represented as blaming Vulcan, because in the human form, which he had made of clay, he had not placed a window in the breast, by which whatever was done or thought there might easily be brought to light. We do not agree with Momus, neither are we of his mind who desired to have a window in his breast that all men might see his heart. If we had such a window we should pray for shutters, and should keep them closed.

Weekly Pulpit.
: — While the Americans were blockading Cuba, several captains endeavoured to elude their vigilance by night, trusting that the darkness would conceal them as they passed between the American war-ships. But in almost every case the dazzling rays of a searchlight frustrated the attempt, and the fugitives' vessel was captured by the Americans. The brilliant searchlight sweeping the broad ocean and revealing even the smallest craft on its surface is but a faint type of the Eternal Light from which no sinner can hide his sin.

(Weekly Pulpit.)

Psalm 139:1 NIV
Psalm 139:1 NLT
Psalm 139:1 ESV
Psalm 139:1 NASB
Psalm 139:1 KJV

Psalm 139:1 Bible Apps
Psalm 139:1 Parallel
Psalm 139:1 Biblia Paralela
Psalm 139:1 Chinese Bible
Psalm 139:1 French Bible
Psalm 139:1 German Bible

Psalm 139:1 Commentaries

Bible Hub
Psalm 138:8
Top of Page
Top of Page