Sermon Details
Home Sermons A New Testament on Psalm 139

A New Testament on Psalm 139

Date: 18/08/2019/Speaker: Rev Miak Siew

Good morning! Today, as part of the A New Testament series, I want to talk about Psalm 139
Psalm 139
To the leader. Of David. A Psalm.
1 O LORD, you have searched me and known me.
2 You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from far away.
3 You search out my path and my lying down,
and are acquainted with all my ways.
4 Even before a word is on my tongue,
O LORD, you know it completely.
5 You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is so high that I cannot attain it.
7 Where can I go from your spirit?
Or where can I flee from your presence?
8 If I ascend to heaven, you are there;
if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there.
9 If I take the wings of the morning
and settle at the farthest limits of the sea,
10 even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me fast.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
and the light around me become night,”
12 even the darkness is not dark to you;
the night is as bright as the day,
for darkness is as light to you.
13 For it was you who formed my inward parts;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
that I know very well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes beheld my unformed substance.
In your book were written
all the days that were formed for me,
when none of them as yet existed.
17 How weighty to me are your thoughts, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!
18 I try to count them—they are more than the sand;
I come to the end[a]—I am still with you.
19 O that you would kill the wicked, O God,
and that the bloodthirsty would depart from me—
20 those who speak of you maliciously,
and lift themselves up against you for evil![b] 21 Do I not hate those who hate you, O LORD?
And do I not loathe those who rise up against you?
22 I hate them with perfect hatred;
I count them my enemies.
23 Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my thoughts.
24 See if there is any wicked[c] way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.[d]

For some of us, Psalm 139 is a very comforting Psalm. The first 18 verses of the Psalm tells us God is all around us, no matter where we are – in heaven, in Sheol, in the farthest limits of the sea and that God knows us intimately, better than we know ourselves.
2 You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from far away.
3 You search out my path and my lying down,
and are acquainted with all my ways.
Yet, for some of our transgender siblings, this Psalm can be a difficult one they have to wrestle with. That is not the reality they experience, and that is ok.
Verses 13-14 – “For it was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made,” may not reflect the lived experiences of transgender people where they feel a disconnect between their bodies and how they feel inside.
I believe that God’s work of forming us doesn’t stop once we are out of our mother’s wombs – God continue to mould, shape and form us as we grow up and mature, and even in the process of transitioning for our transgender siblings.
Like other Psalms, songs and poems, the Psalmist is speaking from his perspective and speaking his truth. Not God’s truth, but the Psalmist’s truth. The Psalm may speak to you, may speak for you, and it may not.
We can resonate with some parts of the Psalm and feel disconnected from other parts – and that is ok too.
Are there parts of Psalm 139 that didn’t sit well with you?
Verses 19-22?
19 O that you would kill the wicked, O God,
and that the bloodthirsty would depart from me—
20 those who speak of you maliciously,
and lift themselves up against you for evil![b] 21 Do I not hate those who hate you, O LORD?
And do I not loathe those who rise up against you?
22 I hate them with perfect hatred;
I count them my enemies
Why didn’t it sit well with you?
It didn’t sit well with me because hatred isn’t something I would associate with the God I come to know through Christ.
Let us go through the Psalm again. Too often we read only portions of this Psalm, and not read it in its totality.
When we read this Psalm in its entirety instead of just portions of it, we get a different picture.
The Psalm begins praising God for the first 18 verses, and out of the blue, the Psalmist talks about killing the wicked.
O that you would kill the wicked, O God,
and that the bloodthirsty would depart from me—
20 those who speak of you maliciously,
and lift themselves up against you for evil![b] 21 Do I not hate those who hate you, O LORD?
And do I not loathe those who rise up against you?
22 I hate them with perfect hatred;
I count them my enemies.

Then the Psalmist ends the Psalm in a similar way as how it started –

23 Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my thoughts.
24 See if there is any wicked[c] way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.[d] When we read Psalm 139 – for personal devotion or in church – the troubling verses 19-22 is often omitted, so the Psalm reads as one that is praising God.
Read with verses 19-22, the Psalm takes on a different character. The main point of the Psalm isn’t praising God, but verse 19 – “O that you would kill the wicked, O God,
and that the bloodthirsty would depart from me—”

It is the Psalmist asking God to get rid of his enemies.
The Psalm starts with the Psalmist declaring that God has already searched and knows him, and yet it ends by asking God to search and test him. It would appear that the Psalmist is asking God to test him about the request to “kill the wicked,” the ones he hate with perfect hatred, his enemies. He is trying to convince God that he is not asking for God to kill them because they are his enemies but because they are ones who speak maliciously of God and hate God.
This feels so human – almost like how I may try to persuade someone to volunteer in church by praising them – “you are really good in organizing stuff! I liked how you helped in our retreat this year. Would you like to help in our anniversary service this year?”
What do you think is God’s response to the Psalmist?
“Oh yes, I will wipe out your wicked enemies?”
Isn’t it very convenient that the people God hates just so happens to be the same people we hate?
What do you think Jesus’ response to Psalm 139?
I think Jesus response can be found in Matthew 5:43-48.
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers and sisters,[o] what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
Jesus teach of perfect love, not perfect hate.
In the next chapter of Matthew, Jesus teaches us how to pray –
“Pray then in this way:
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not bring us to the time of trial, but rescue us from the evil one.”
Not a prayer buttering up God with our praises, then trying to cajole, persuade God to do our will, but to surrender to God’s will – that God’s will be done our earth as it is in heaven. It is not about wiping out our enemies, but forgiving them.
We need to our will and our hearts so that they are aligned with God’s, rather that convincing ourselves that God is aligned with us and in doing so creating God in our own image.
Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my thoughts.
24 See if there is any wicked[c] way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.[d] There are times my thoughts wander and I have whimsical questions, and I had wondered – who, or for the matter what, the songs we sing every Sunday during worship are for.
Are the Psalms and our worship songs for God? Or are they for us? What is their purpose?
The Psalms in the Bible are like the worship songs we sing today. They are songs and poems written as though the Psalmist is speaking with and speaking about God. They help give us the language and vocabulary to talk about and talk to God.
We sing in hope, we sing in despair, we sing in thanksgiving, we sing in grief – and we have learned from the protestors in Hong Kong, we can sing in protest.
The Psalms – like many of the worship songs we sing – can help us express our emotions. You may have wept while singing in worship, surprised at the intensity of your emotions. It is, in a way, letting go and surrendering these emotions to God.
This God who knows us better than we know ourselves.
This God whom we cannot hide from.
This God who loves us.
This God who is ever-present with us – in the highlands, in the heartaches.
May we be aware of God’s presence – in the mountains, in the valleys, in the plains; in good times, in troubling times, in normal times – all the time – so we are live out the way everlasting every moment of our lives.