Psalm 139:2

 

EXPOSITION

Verse 2. Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising. Me thou knowest, and all that comes of me. I am observed when I quietly sit down, and marked when I resolutely rise up. My most common and casual acts, my most needful and necessary movements, are noted by time, and thou knowest the inward thoughts which regulate them. Whether I sink in lowly self renunciation, or ascend in pride, thou seest the motions of my mind, as well as those of my body. This is a fact to be remembered every moment: sitting down to consider, or rising up to act, we are still seen, known, and read by Jehovah our Lord.

Thou understandest my thought afar off. Before it is my own it is foreknown and comprehended by thee. Though my thought be invisible to the sight, though as yet I be not myself cognizant of the shape it is assuming, yet thou hast it under thy consideration, and thou perceivest its nature, its source, its drift, its result. Never dost thou misjudge or wrongly interpret me: my inmost thought is perfectly understood by thine impartial mind. Though thou shouldest give but a glance at my heart, and see me as one sees a passing meteor moving afar, yet thou wouldst by that glimpse sum up all the meanings of my soul, so transparent is everything to thy piercing glance.

 

EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS

Verse 2. Thou. David makes the personal pronoun the very frontispiece of the verse, and so says expressly and distinctively to Jehovah, "Thou knowest"; thus marking the difference between God and all others, as though he said, "Thou, and thou alone, O God, in all the universe, knowest altogether all that can be known concerning me, even to my inmost thought, as well as outward act." --Martin Geier.

Verse 2. Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising. Does God care? Is he our Friend? Even in such little matters as these, does he watch over us "to do us good"? ... When we "sit down" he sees; when we rise up he is there. Not an action is lost or a thought overlooked. No wonder that, as these tiny miracles of care are related by David, he adds the words, Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain unto it. We get accustomed to the thought that God made the sun and sky, the "moon and stars which he hath ordained", and we bow to the fact that they are "the work of his fingers." Let us go further! The coming in and going out of the Christian is mentioned several times in Scripture as though it were very important. So much hinges on these little words. "David went out and came in before the people. And David behaved himself wisely in all his ways; and the Lord was with him": 1 Samuel 18:13-14 . "The LORD shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore": Ps 121:8. David was given both preservation and wisdom in his "goings out" and "comings in." Perhaps the latter was both cause and effect of the first. It was needed, for many eyes were upon him, and many eyes are upon us: are they not? Perhaps more than we think. --Lady Hope, in "Between Times", 1884.

Verse 2. Downsitting and uprising. "Uprising" following "downsitting" is in the order of right sequence; for action ought to follow meditation. Jacob saw the angels ascending to God before they descended to service among mortals. Hence we are taught first to join ourselves to God by meditation, and afterwards to repair to the aid of our fellows. --Thomas Le Blanc.

Verse 2. Uprising may respect either rising from bed, when the Lord knows whether the heart is still with him ( Psalms 139:18 ); what sense is had of the Divine protection and sustentation, and what thankfulness there is for the mercies of the night past; and whether the voice of prayer and praise is directed to him in the morning, as it should be ( Psalms 3:5 5:3); or else rising from the table, when the Lord knows whether a man's table has been his snare, and with what thankfulness he rises from it for the favours he has received. The Targum interprets this of rising up to go to war; which David did, in the name and strength, and by the direction of the Lord. --John Gill.

Verse 2. Thou understandest my thought afar off. "My thought": that is, every thought, though innumerable thoughts pass through me in a day. The divine knowledge reaches to their source and fountain, before they are our thoughts. If the Lord knows them before their existence, before they can be properly called ours, much more doth he know them when they actually spring up in us; he knows the tendency of them, where the bird will alight when it is in flight; he knows them exactly; he is therefore called a "discerner" or criticizer of the heart: Hebrews 4:2 . --Stephen Charnock.

Verse 2. Thou understandest my thought afar off. Not that God is at a distance from our thoughts; but he understands them while they are far off from us, from our knowledge, while they are potential, as gardeners know what weeds such ground will bring forth, when nothing appears. Deuteronomy 31:21 . "I know their imagination which they go about, even now, before I have brought them into the land which I sware": God knew their thoughts before they came into Canaan, what they would be there. And how can it be, but that God should know all our thoughts, seeing he made the heart, and it is in his hand ( Proverbs 21:1 ), seeing, "we live, and move, and have our being" in God ( Acts 17:28 ); seeing he is through us all, and in us all ( Ephesians 4:6 ). Look well to your hearts, thoughts, risings, whatever comes into your mind; let no secret sins, or corruptions, lodge there; think not to conceal anything from the eye of God. --William Greenhill.

Verse 2. Thou understandest my thought afar off. Though my thoughts be never so foreign and distant from one another, thou understandest the chain of them, and canst make out their connexion, when so many of them slip my notice that I myself cannot. -- Matthew Henry.

Verse 2. My thought. The [r, rea, which we have rendered "thought", signifies also a friend or companion, on which account some read -- thou knowest what is nearest me afar off, a meaning more to the point than any other, if it could be supported by example. The reference would then be very appropriately to the fact that the most distant objects are contemplated as near by God. Some for "afar off" read beforehand, in which signification the Hebrew word is elsewhere taken; as if he had said, O Lord, every thought which I conceive in my heart is already known to thee beforehand. --John Calvin.

Verse 2. Thought. In all affliction, in all business, a man's best comfort is this, that all he does and even all he thinks, God knows. In the Septuagint we read dialogiomous, that is, "reasonings." God knows all our inner ratiocination, all the dialogues, all the colloquies of the soul with itself. --Thomas Le Blanc.

Verse 2. Thou understandest my thought. Before men we stand as opaque beehives. They can see the thoughts go in and out of us, but what work they do inside of a man they cannot tell. Before God we are as glass beehives, and all that our thoughts are doing within us he perfectly sees and understands. --Henry Ward Beecher.

Verse 2. Thou understandest my thought afar off.

"Man may not see thee do an impious deed;
But God thy very inmost thought can read."

--Plutarch.

Verse 2. Afar off. This expression is, as in Psalms 138:6 , to be understood as contradicting the delusion ( Job 22:12-14 ) that God's dwelling in heaven prevents him from observing mundane things. --Lange's Commentary.

Verse 2. Afar off. Both in distance, however far off a man may seek to hide his thoughts from God; and in time, for God knows the human thought before man conceives it in his heart, in his eternal prescience. The Egyptians called God the "eye of the world." -- Thomas Le Blanc.

Verse 2-4. Do not fancy that your demeanour, posture, dress, or deportment are not under God's providence. You deceive yourself. Do not think that your thoughts pass free from inspection. The Lord understands them afar off. Think not that your words are dissipated in the air before God can hear. Oh, no! He knows them even when still upon your tongue. Do not think that your ways are so private and concealed that there is none to know or censure them. You mistake. God knows all your ways. --Johann David Frisch, 1731.

 

HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS

Verse 2-4. The knowledge of God extends,

  1. To our movements, our "down sitting and uprising" -- when we sit down to read, write, or converse, and when we rise up to active service.
  2. To our thoughts: "Thou understandest my thoughts afar off." What they have been, what they now are, what they will be, what under all circumstances they would have been. He who made minds knows what their thoughts will be at all times, or he could not predict future events, or govern the world. He can know our thoughts without being the Author of them.
  3. To our actions: Psalms 139:3 . Every step we take by day, and all we purpose to do in wakeful hours of the night: all our private, social, and public ways, are compassed or sifted by him, to distinguish the good from the bad, as wheat from the chaff.
  4. To our words: Psalms 139:4 . It has been said that the words of all men and from all time are registered in the atmosphere, and may be faithfully recalled. Whether it be so or not, they are phonographed in the mind of God. --G.R.

Verse 2. (first clause). The importance of the commonest acts of life.

Verse 2. (second clause). The serious nature of thoughts. Known to God; seen through, their drift perceived; and attention given to them while as yet in the distance.