Psalm 139:5 – 7
Psalm 139:1 – 4 fell easily into a group we can title “God knows us intimately”. A more careful examination of subsequent verses is required in order to arrive at the next logical bite sized chunk of verses to examine. I have identified verses five through seven to be the next discourse we will consider. When we study the scriptures we can, and should zoom into whatever grouping we have marked for the purposes of examination without fear of making a mistake. The reason we can safely group verses, sentences, or passages however we want, is because we should be in the practice of constantly zooming in (closer look) and zooming out (maintaining context) as we study.
“ 5 You have hedged me behind and before,
And laid Your hand upon me.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
It is high, I cannot attain it.
7 Where can I go from Your Spirit?” (NKJV)
Let’s take a look at each word individually for the first three words. The first word to consider is the pronoun You. To whom is the Psalmist referring? Backing up until we identify the antecedent, we run into the word LORD in verse one. As we’ve previously discussed, the word “LORD” here is the Hebrew tetragrammaton YHWH (Yahweh) and is the personal name of God.
The next word “have” is not actually in the original Hebrew, but communicates the past tense of the word hedged and communicates that God has already done something.
Next we encounter the word “hedged”. What comes to your mind when you read that God has hedged the Psalmist behind and before? For some reason my mind automatically pictures bushes. I imagine God protecting by putting something like bushes in front of and behind the Psalmist. But when looking into the source language definition of the word my mental image is not accurate. Other translations render the word barricade, hem, enclosed.
Consulting “Gesenius’ Hebrew and Chaldee lexicon to the Old Testament Scriptures 2003” is most insightful. This lexicon informs us that the Hebrew verb צוּר (sart) means “TO STRAIGHTEN, TO PRESS UPON, TO COMPRESS; hence—(1) to bind together (into a bundle or roll)”. In verse 5 the word hedge is used metaphorically to communicate God has with His presence, bound us up like one would bind and bundle sticks so that they cannot be separated. God has then put His hand upon the Psalmist (and us). Keeping this in textual context you do not get the sense that God has done this in order to prevent us from enacting our will, nor to imprison us, but rather to protect us.
The Psalmist then declares this truth to be incomprehensible when he says in verse 6, “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me: It is high, I cannot attain it.” (NKJV)
The phrase “…It is high, I cannot attain it.” inverse six immediately calls to mind Isaiah 55:8-9 which says,
“8 For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,” says the LORD.
9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways,
And My thoughts than your thoughts.” (NKJV)
The realization that God has so thoroughly enclosed the Psalmist in His protective custody prompts him to ask, almost declare, a rhetorical question. “Where can I go from Your Spirit?”
In the verses that follow the Psalmist gives detailed answers to his own question.
It is unclear to me how the Psalmist arrived at such a powerful conclusion. It prompts me to ask do I know experientially, not just intellectually that God’s presence completely surrounds me? Am I looking for some physical manifestation as confirmation? Must I hear God audibly repeat the words of Psalm 139 to me personally before I will believe Him?
From here my thoughts naturally drift towards considering my own sinful behavior. If what we have read so far in Psalm 139 is true, then when we sin we do so under the watchful eye of God. It is not as if we can “go away” somewhere He will not see and commit sin, then when we are ready simply find our way back to God by employing repentance.
I’d like to make another observation of the above verses. It seems reasonable to conclude that when the truth of God’s word dawns upon us it creates in us a sense of awe. The only acceptable response to this profound sense of awe is worship.
I believe we should consistently and constantly be spending a significant amount of time in God’s Holy Word, discovering His truth and worshipping Him as He by His Holy Spirit reveals it to us. God is worthy to be worshipped because He is God and there is none other like Him! God is worthy to be praise for what He has done. God is worthy to be praised and thanked for delivering His Holy Word to us. God is worthy to be praised for creating us with the capacity to understand His message. God should be worshipped for granting us the capacity to worship Him!