Reflections on Psalm 139:24
|It is common that people feel something and
express it in some other way. One day on my way to
college I was caught in a long traffic queue. A young
police officer was stopping buses and cars for inspection.
Then someone told us that the young officer is from our
own little town adding that he got the job only just last
week! "Arrogance, sheer pride," we called many
names for his debut law enforcement action in his own
town. However, the traffic queue was cleared after
sometime and when we returned home that evening there was
another revelation: The 'young officer' is admitted in
the nearest psychiatry hospital!
This young man had lost his mother recently and his father decided to marry again. The young man was disturbed as he found it hard to cope with loss at two fronts: he has lost his mother and somebody whom he does not know (and probably does not like) is stepping into his father's life. He felt rejected and worthless. His subconscious mind dictated that he do something that would assert his worth. To prove that he is independent and also can exert authority. His mind played the trick on him even without him fully realizing what he was doing.
A Psychiatrist is the best person in the world to tell us if we are vulnerable to such situations. However, a Psychiatrist can treat only sick persons. Should I wait till I get sick or run into trouble to get help. Should I be stopping buses and cars to know that I am struggling with thoughts and feelings that could harm me and my life.
People ask themselves: "Why did I do that?" They themselves can not believe that they did it. Haven't you struggled to explain the actions of people; many times those actions or words that hurt you?
Actions are physical manifestation of thoughts and feelings. So also is speech that expresses our thoughts. If we can assure that our mind is okay then the rest would be fine as well. The Psalmist who penned Psalm 139 has known this truth. That is why he cries to God to search his heart. He also knows that the way to sorrow is not outside him but right within him, in his feelings. The last two verses of the Psalm form its climax; it is a cry to God to be searched by him.
It is also important to note that this cry to being searched is part of a plea for deliverance from enemies. It is thus clear that the Psalmist considers the divine search of the human heart as an act of salvation.
The "offensive ways" are those that may lead to hurtful and unpleasant situations in life. The Psalmist says that these "offensive ways" are situated in the heart and not in the actions primarily. It is revealed to the Psalmist that it is the thoughts that defile a person and that determine the quality of individual lives. There has to be regular checks to make sure that a person is in the right path.
How can one ensure that the check is complete and thorough unless it is by the most competent authority. The competence of God to certify individual lives by looking into human heart is the theme of this Psalm.
First of all, God knows human behavior very well. The way of our sitting, rising, walking, sleeping or speech, everything is well known to God. He knows all these well before we ever realized it. Some people know what they are speaking only after they have said it, but God knows it well before the words were in the form of thoughts! (vv. 7-10)
Secondly there is no place to hide from God's presence! Whether it is the deepest depth or the highest height, God is there! There is no corner of this planet earth where I can be away from God. It is futile to think that the cover of darkness is a safe place. God makes darkness shine as day! (vv. 11-13)
Thirdly, God is the maker and he knows his products very well. He knows what has gone into making a human being, and how it would function and there are no secrets hidden to him. God knows a person from the very beginning when the ovum and the sperm met and cells started multiplying. He has also counted the days of a person. Isn't it great to be searched by such an authority? In modern terms, to be serviced by the manufacturer himself!
The struggle of Christian life is exactly here: keeping oneself in the right track. Committing to God's standards to judge our lives is a challenge. Christians often fall prey to a dangerous complacency that results from comparison with human standards. However, the thrill is in being judged by God's own standards and nothing less.
It is through constant evaluation, a Christ-like personality emerges. Growth is the key word in Christian life as against stagnancy. The Word of God enables the Christian in his life showing the areas of lack and possibilities of further growth. "Indeed, the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intention of heart," wrote the author of the letter to the Hebrews. It is the power of the Word of God to penetrate the focus here. The Word of God can penetrate deep into the thoughts of individuals and make judgements just as the knife of a trained surgeon does. The Word of God reveals what is lacking, what is to be corrected and what should be nourished so that a Christian grows in his life to the full stature of Christ.
To be rebuked and corrected by the Word of God one has to be at the right side. A Christian benefits from the reading and hearing of the Word of God only if he has the grace to be humble and open. Once a man seeking spiritual help approached a man of God. The man of God asked him to read the story of the women caught in adultery and imagine that he was there on the scene. After a while the man of God asked him: "with whom are you standing?" The man said, "I am with the crowd who are ready to stone the women." The man of God replied, "you need the grace to be humble, humble enough to be the women caught in adultery so that you can receive pardon and love." It is true that many times when we go through the pages of the Word of God we can not see our proper place because we are not humble enough before God. A cry of help as what the Psalmist does here, means humility. Anyone who approaches God and his Word with humility and an earnest desire to be corrected will definitely be helped by God. They are the people who go from strength to strength.
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Dr. Paulson Pulikkottil
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