Tag Archives: Psalm 139

He has an eye for the details..

O Lord, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways…All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.

(Ps 139.1-3,16)

And Mary said: “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me – holy is his name.”

( Luke 1.46-49)

Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things…so that no-one may boast before him. It is because of Him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God – that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.”

(1Cor 1.26-31)

While we do well always to bear in mind the great story of redemption which is God’s plan for our world – to be fulfilled when Jesus returns in glory and all things are made new – it is also good sometimes to get lost in the details. To take time to consider the people whom God chose to use; to look at the details of their lives, and how God was actively making ‘all things’ work together for the good of his people and also his purposes.

These people were not chosen by God because of their holiness, their moral purity or status in society. The story of God’s dealings with his chosen people is littered with deeply flawed human beings – sinning and sinned against – who almost in spite of themselves prove suitable instruments in God’s hand. We are not often meant to look at their stories in order to find a pattern for our lives – but rather to learn that God can and does use the most unlikely people. It is their – and our – unworthiness for the task which allows God’s grace and strength and love to shine through most clearly, so that all the glory for salvation’s work might go to him.

That in itself is a great encouragement to us, as we are daily more aware of our persistent sin and all the ways in which we let God down – he knows and provides for all our mistakes, and is the more exalted and glorious because of our inadequacies. We need not be ashamed, but rather embrace a liberating humility, resting entirely upon God’s love for us, and gracious desire to involve us in his work. It matters not at all that we occupy quiet, unremarkable positions; that our talents and resources are small. In God’s providence, we are just what he desires, and in this we may rest and be satisfied.

I think we should also be encouraged to notice that God is intimately interested in all the details of our lives – we are not merely anonymous (though useful) employees, but beloved children, and everything about us matters to him. The psalmists knew this, that is why they were so bold in bringing their concerns before him. Think too of Job, in all his bitterness of spirit, never doubting that God would bear with his complaint. Consider the childless Hannah – pouring out her desire for a son, and not doubting that God heard and understood – and poor Jeremiah, who held nothing back in giving God all the credit for the sufferings he endured.

The wonderful truth is that the details of God’s children’s lives are what makes up the great narrative of redemption, and he is always interested in them. We need never think that we are beneath his notice, or that our concerns are too trivial and nothing to do with God’s purposes in the world – we are his purpose; being worked out, transformed, and being used in turn to transform others. Let us then rejoice with Mary, boasting in our great God, who has been mindful of us in our helplessness, and is still mindful of us in our weakness, but chooses to work in and through us for his good and great purposes..

The Mighty One has done great things for us – holy is his name!

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Lonely or solitary?

O Lord, you have searched me and you know me.

You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thought from afar.

You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. ¬†Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O Lord…

Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.

If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.

If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.

(Psalm 139.1-4,7-12)

Do you like being alone? Does the prospect of time without other people present stir up fear, or anticipation? I know that each of us has a natural disposition which will incline us to one or the other, and that is a part of the wonderful variety which makes us all individuals. But I also believe that ultimately none of us need fear being by ourselves… Because as followers of Jesus, we are never truly alone!

The psalmist is well aware of the fact that God sees and knows him through and through, that there is nowhere on the earth that God is not present with him. I am never quite sure whether this is seen as a good or a bad thing! Perhaps there are times when our feelings are in such turmoil, or our consciences so troubled, that we feel we want to hide from God until we get sorted out. But the psalms reveal over and over that the best way to get sorted out, is to be in the presence of God, acknowledging our struggles, our failures, our anger and grief, and allowing the steady, healing and cleansing light of his holiness and love to quieten our spirit. Here is one of many such occasions:

When I said, “My foot is slipping,” your love , O Lord, supported me. When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought joy to my soul.

(Psalm 94. 18 & 19)

This for me is one of the most precious truths of my faith, that in my solitude, I am never alone. I have a perfect companion. I have one who knows my thoughts, who understands my tastes, and who delights to share with me as I experience every moment of life and savour each detail of my days.

I cannot irritate him with my eye for the tiniest details of a leaf or flower; he waits joyfully and patiently while I appreciate the beauties which he has placed for me to enjoy! When my spirit lifts with the majesty of great trees around me, my companion hears my cry of delight and thanksgiving, and rejoices in my pleasure. Did you know that our loving Father loves to be thanked, to see us enjoying what He has made – from the tiniest detail to the most breathtaking panorama? It is one of the greatest pleasures of solitude, to have uninterrupted communion with the one who has made all this beauty, and be able to deliberately share our pleasure with him.

 And in my darkness Рwhether I have sought it out deliberately, because of weariness or grief; or have been overshadowed by it in spite of my best efforts to remain in the light РI am not alone.. there is nowhere that my Lord cannot reach me, cannot be with me, comforting and holding, his arms ever around me even when mine are too weak to hold on to him.

David spent many days and hours in solitude as a young man – shepherding sheep for his father – and I believe that he learnt then what it was to be loved by a God who was always present. We see from the songs David wrote that he hid nothing from God, whether of grief or joy, frustration and anger, fear and despair, triumph and rejoicing. He knew the presence of God was not simply a special feeling that came and went, but a fact, on which he could rely.

It is a fact on which I rely too, which transforms loneliness into solitude, a precious space shared only with my Lord, where I can be utterly at rest because I am utterly known, accepted and loved. Thanks be to God, who through Jesus his Son, brings us into this most intimate of relationships and gives us peace!

Mother love…

So God created man in his own image,

in the image of God he created him;

male and female he created them.

Genesis 1 v27

These words, coming at the outset of God’s revelation of himself to us in the bible, give us an enormous amount of information about ourselves, not least the easily overlooked idea that it takes both masculinity and femininity to fully express the image of God in human form! The human package simply can’t contain all the necessary characteristics in one unit, and so two were created. Their interaction through life, and union in marriage reflect aspects of God’s character too – the delight that God has within the trinity, and the love which is continually expressed there.

In the same way I believe the bible reveals that human love – in all its forms – reflects aspects of divine love for us. No single human love is rich and complex enough to convey the full treasury of love which God has for us, his beloved creation. Through our experiences of relationship and love, we taste a little of the goodness of divine love in all its variety. Although it is sadly true that many people experience a great deal of pain, and are let down badly by those who should love them, yet the principle remains valid. Through our human loves, we learn about God’s love, and in time learn to receive directly from him all that our hearts need, so that no human failure to love can ultimately destroy us.

I was privileged to have a godly and loving father, who was spared to see my children born, and who – through his faithful loving of and genuine delight in me – showed me so much of the heart of my heavenly Father. Even as I mourned him, I knew what kind of fatherly love was being poured out on me from God, full of comfort and steady as a rock.

What of a mother? A mother just wants to be with you, to share in all the ups and downs, to hear all the little details of your life, because it is a delight to her to watch you living. She has yearned over you for years, laboured to care and equip you for life, borne the tantrums and sulks, the laundry and faddy diets, the bizarre fashion and messy rooms – because she loves you, and her love goes so deep that you are part of her. Your joys are hers, your heart is her heart beating, when you weep, she weeps.

Two years ago this weekend, my mother died, and there is no one now to do these things for me. No one to whom I can safely pour out my mother pride in my own children, or share the little frustrations of life. I cannot get a picture of her life into words, cannot find a way to close the chapter yet, but this I know, that her loving of me was faithful, costly, and a great joy and pride of her life – and that I never said thank you enough!

The bible has very few explicit references to mothering as a quality of God, but when we explore what it actually involves, it is clear that when he made mothers, God put an enormous amount of himself into them! My God delights in my company, in sharing my thoughts and all my activities; remember those lovely words in Psalm 139 v 2& 3

You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.

He wipes my tears away, and numbers the very hairs on my head; my name is engraved on his hands and he will never forget me. The gift of Christ his son, to be my saviour and lord, to be my very life, means that my heart is his heart, and all that grieves and wounds me, is felt by him. I am and will always be a daughter, even though my mother is dead, because my God mothers me, and I am comforted, nourished and affirmed by that faithful, costly and joyful love, which always puts my needs first.

How can we rightly praise and thank our God for such love? Nothing will ever suffice, but a delighted awareness of our debt, and continuing thankfulness for all that we receive is surely a fitting way to use the gift of life which we have been given. May God enable us more and more to receive and share this love, to his glory and the blessing of the world.