Factoring God Into Life, Or God And Me: An Exposition Of Psalm 139 -- By: Michael P. V. Barrett

Journal: Puritan Reformed Journal
Volume: PRJ 05:1 (Jan 2013)
Article: Factoring God Into Life, Or God And Me: An Exposition Of Psalm 139
Author: Michael P. V. Barrett


Factoring God Into Life, Or God And Me: An Exposition Of Psalm 139

Michael P. V. Barrett

There is nothing more practical for Christian living than sound orthodoxy. Understanding doctrine with the heart defines duty; right thinking determines right behavior. This is the biblical pattern and formula for life.

Psalm 139 is a classic example of theology in practice. It provides a paradigm for bringing the deep and lofty truths about God to bear on the daily issues of life. The psalmist did not regard these truths as philosophical abstractions or religious theories. On the contrary, he personalized the truths in such a way that what he knew about God affected his thinking and behavior, shredding every sense of self-reliance or independence. He realized that the Lord knew all his thoughts and actions, that God had fashioned his existence and so ordered his life that escape from the divine presence was impossible. Meditating on these profound truths caused him to yield himself increasingly to God’s control and guidance. Knowing and submitting to truth is the ideal for Christian living.

The very structure of the psalm suggests David’s obedient submission to known truth. The beginning (v. 1) and the end (vv. 23-24) form an inclusio. Inclusio or inclusion is a literary device where the beginning and end repeat the same thought either verbally or thematically. It is a common technique in Hebrew literature to mark thematic units or boundaries of thought. But even apart from the literary artistry, here it communicates a significant application of theology. It is an indisputable and unconditional fact that God searches and knows (v. 1). Yet, David prays that God would search and know him (v. 23). The simple fact of the matter is that God would do that without David’s prayer; so David prays that God would do what He would do anyway. This is not fatalistic resignation that “what will

be will be”; it is living by faith. Because he knew what God was like and what God does, nothing was more important than being right with God and conforming to God’s will. Knowing God made him conscious of his own insufficiency and led him to pray for divine leadership in the way everlasting (v. 24). The inclusio sets the tone for the entire psalm and suggests the theme for exposition: truth about God must affect life. What we know about God must fuel within our hearts an ever-increasing desire to be what we ough...

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