Verse 3. Thou compassest my path and my lying down. My path and my pallet, my running and my resting, are alike within the circle of thine observation. Thou dost surround me even as the air continually surrounds all creatures that live. I am shut up within the wall of thy being; I am encircled within the bounds of thy knowledge. Waking or sleeping I am still observed of thee. I may leave thy path, but you never leave mine. I may sleep and forget thee, but thou dost never slumber, nor fall into oblivion concerning thy creature. The original signifies not only surrounding, but winnowing and sifting. The Lord judges our active life and our quiet life; he discriminates our action and our repose, and marks that in them which is good and also that which is evil. There is chaff in all our wheat, and the Lord divides them with unerring precision.
And art acquainted with all my ways. Thou art familiar with all I do; nothing is concealed from thee, nor surprising to thee, nor misunderstood by thee. Our paths may be habitual or accidental, open or secret, but with them all the Most Holy One is well acquainted. This should fill us with awe, so that we sin not; with courage, so that we fear not; with delight, so that we mourn not.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Verse 3. Thou compassest my path and my lying down, etc. The words that I have read unto you, seem to be a metaphor, taken from soldiers surrounding the ways with an ambush, or placing scouts and spies in every corner, to discover the enemy in his march; "Thou compassest my path": thou hast (as it were) thy spies over me, wheresoever I go. By "path" is meant the outward actions and carriage of his ordinary conversation. By "lying down" is signified to us the private and close actions of his life; such as were attended only by darkness and solitude. In Psalms 36:4 , it is said of the wicked that "he deviseth mischief upon his bed", to denote not only his perverse diligence, but also his secrecy in it: and God is said to "hide his children in the secret of his pavilion", so that these places of rest and lying down are designed for secrecy and withdrawing. When a man retires into his chamber, he does in a manner, for a while, shut himself out of the world. And that this is the fine sense of that expression of lying down appears from the next words, "Thou art acquainted with all my ways"; where he collects in one word what he had before said in two; or, it may come in by way of entrance and deduction, from the former. As if he should say, Thou knowest what I do in my ordinary converse with men, and also how I behave myself when I am retired from them; therefore thou knowest all my actions, since a man's actions may be reduced either to his public or private deportment. By the other expression of "my ways" is here meant the total of a man's behaviour before God, whether in thoughts, words, or deeds, as is manifest by comparing this with other verses. -- Robert South.
Verse 3. Thou compassest my path. This is a metaphor either from huntsmen watching all the motions and lurking places of wild beasts, that they may catch them; or from soldiers besieging their enemies in a city, and setting round about them. --Matthew Pool.
Verse 3. Thou compassest, or feignest, or wannest, my path; that is, discuss or try out to the utmost, even tracing the footsteps, as the Greek signifieth. Compare Job 31:4 . --Henry Ainsworth.
Verse 3. Thou art acquainted with all my ways. God takes notice of every step we take, every right step, and every by step. He knows what rule we walk by, what end we walk toward, what company we walk with. --Religious Tract Society's Commentary.
Verse 3. Art acquainted, as by most familiar intercourse, as if thou hadst always lived with me Hebrew and thus become entirely familiar with my ways. --Henry Cowles.
Verse 3. The Psalmist mentions four modes of human existence; stationis, sessionis, itionis, cubationis; because man never stayeth long in one mood, but in every change the eyes of the Lord cease not to watch him. --Geier.
HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS
Verse 3. The encircling Presence, in our activities, meditations, secrecies, and movements.