Psalm 139:18

 

EXPOSITION

Verse 18. If I should count them, they are more in number than the sand. This figure shows the thoughts of God to be altogether innumerable; for nothing can surpass in number the grains of sand which belt the main ocean and all the minor seas. The task of counting God's thoughts of love would be a never ending one. If we should attempt the reckoning we must necessarily fail, for the infinite falls not within the line of our feeble intellect. Even could we count the sands on the seashore, we should not then be able to number God's thoughts, for they are "more in number than the sand." This is not the hyperbole of poetry, but the solid fact of inspired statement: God thinks upon us infinitely: there is a limit to the act of creation, but not to the might of divine love.

When I awake, I am still with thee. Thy thoughts of love are so many that my mind never gets away from them, they surround me at all hours. I go to my bed, and God is my last thought; and when I wake I find my mind still hovering about his palace gates; God is ever with me, and I am ever with him. This is life indeed. If during sleep my mind wanders away into dreams, yet it only wanders upon holy ground, and the moment I wake my heart is back with its Lord. The Psalmist does not say, "When I awake, I return to thee", but, "I am still with thee"; as if his meditations were continuous, and his communion unbroken. Soon we shall lie down to sleep for the last time: God grant that when the trumpet of the archangel shall waken us we may find ourselves still with him.

 

EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS

Verse 18. They are more in number than the sand. Pindar says, that sand flies number (Olymp. Ode 2). The Pythian oracle indeed boastingly said, I know the number of the sand, and the measure of the sea (Herodot. Clio. l. i. c. 47). It is to this that Lucan may refer when he says, measure is not wanting to the ocean, or number to the sand (Pharsal. l. 5, v. 182). --Samuel Burder.

Verse 18. If I should count them, they are more in number than the sand.

If all his glorious deeds my song would tell,
The shore's unnumbered stones I might recount as well.

--Pindar, B.C. 518-442.

Verse 18. When I awake, I am still with thee. It is the great advantage of a Christian, which he has above other men, that he has his friends always about him, and (if the fault be not his own) need never to be absent from them. In the friendship and converse of the world, we use to say, "Friends must part", and those who have delight and satisfaction in one another's society must be content to leave it, and to be taken off from it. But this is the privilege of a believer that undertakes communion with God, that it is possible for him always to be with him. Again, in human converse and society we know it is ordinary for friends to dream that they are in company with one another; but when they awake they are a great way off. But a Christian that converses with God, and has his thoughts fastened upon him, when he awakes he is still with him, which is that which is here exhibited to us in the example of the prophet David.

A godly soul should fall asleep in God's arms, like a child in the mother's lap; it should be sung and lulled to sleep with "songs of the night." And this will make him the fitter for converse with God the next day after. This is the happiness of a Christian that is careful to lie down with God, that he finds his work still as he left it, and is in the same disposition when he rises as he was at night when he lay down to rest. As a man that winds up his watch over night, he finds it going the next morning; so is it also, as I may say, with a Christian that winds up his heart. This is a good observation to be remembered, especially in the evening afore the Sabbath. --Thomas Horton, --1673.

Verse 18. When I awake, I am still with thee. It is no small advantage to the holy life to "begin the day with God." The saints are wont to leave their hearts with him over night, that they may find them with him in the morning. Before earthly things break in upon us, and we receive impressions from abroad, it is good to season the heart with thoughts of God, and to consecrate the early and virgin operations of the mind before they are prostituted to baser objects. When the world gets the start of religion in the morning, it can hardly overtake it all the day; and so the heart is habituated to vanity all the day long. But when we begin with God, we take him along with us to all the business and comforts of the day; which, being seasoned with his love and fear, are the more sweet and savoury to us. --Thomas Case (1598-1682), in the Epistle Dedicatory to "The Morning Exercise."

Verse 18. When I awake. Accustom yourself to a serious meditation every morning. Fresh airing our souls in heaven will engender in us a purer spirit and nobler thoughts. A morning seasoning will secure us for all the day. Though other necessary thoughts about our calling will and must come in, yet when we have dispatched them, let us attend to our morning theme as our chief companion. As a man that is going with another about some considerable business, suppose to Westminster, though he meets with several friends on the way, and salutes some, and with others with whom he has some affairs he spends some little time, yet he quickly returns to his companion, and both together go to their intended stage. Do thus in the present case. Our minds are active and will be doing something, though to little purpose; and if they be not fixed upon some noble object, they will, like madmen and fools, be mightily pleased in playing with straws. The thoughts of God were the first visitors David had in the morning. God and his heart met together as soon as he was awake, and kept company all the day after. --Stephen Charnock.

 

HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS

Verse 18. When I awake I am still with thee.

  1. Awaking is sometimes, yea, most commonly, taken in the natural signification, for the recovery from bodily sleep.
  2. Morally, for recovery from sin.
  3. Mystically; "when I shall awake", that is, from the sleep of death.

--T. Horton.

Verse 18. A Christian on Earth still in Heaven (an Appendix to "A Christian on the Mount; or, A Treatise concerning Meditation"), by Thomas Watson, 1660.

Verse 18. I am still with thee.

  1. By way of meditation.
  2. In respect to communion.
  3. In regard of action, and the businesses which are done by us.

--T. Horton.