Sunday, September 13, 2009
psalm 139 part 3: God's presence it ain't no dream
In the third Stanza/strope of Psalm 139 the psalmist picks up the fact that God’s knowledge is not restricted to the present. But that God’s knowledge and knowing of us was from before the beginning of our lives and encompasses the whole of our lives and on into eternity.
13 For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother's womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place.
When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,
16 your eyes saw my unformed body.
All the days ordained for me
were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
17 How precious to [b] me are your thoughts, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!
18 Were I to count them,
they would outnumber the grains of sand.
When I awake,
I am still with you.
Even the secret place where we were put together in our mother’s womb was not hidden from God. When that half a DNA strand from our father meet with that half a DNA Strand from our mother and that first cell of who we were was fused. We were not hidden from God, God knew us, he was able to read that whole DNA sequence, not just as a long line of letters representing amino acids. Not just line after line of letters like computer code but knowing our uniqueness, knowing who we are. He knows all this even at three days old when we are but eight cells big (see image).
The psalmist marvels at how wonderful and complex he is, his individuality, all this is a gift from God: 'God does not make junk'. Before we saw the world or were seen God saw and knew us. Like in the creation story in Genesis 1 he says it’s very good. This has ethical implications for how we see and value life in the womb.
Then the psalmist turns and looks off into the future, which from our physical mortal perspective is shrouded in uncertainty and while we can have hopes and dreams for what lies ahead we are unable to see, but God sees and God knows. Like some sort of cosmic diary those days were ordained by God and written there. Not that life is fixed and determined, Christians do not believe in fate rather in providence, that God cares and hopes and plans for us. His pans for us are good and are never thwarted.
In light of this the psalmist stops and wonders and marvels at God “how precious are your thoughts about me O God how vast their sum. They outnumber the grains of sand on the beach.” By the way I Googled the number of grains of sand on the world’s beaches and one estimate from the University of Hawaii was that there are 7.5 quintillion grains of sand on the world’s beaches. That’s 7.5x (10x18) or 75 followed by 17 zeros.
While our modern mathematical brain wants to quantify this the psalmist just marvels and again brings it down to a very personal very mystical wonderful experience, its beyond his wildest dreams, yet when he awakes this God is with him.It’s not a dream it’s real This God is with us.
One of the great things about the Psalms is that they are real people in real situations really calling out to God. We find many examples of people calling out to God because the assertion that God is in control seems so far from their own experience. When it does feel like God is just a dream a vain hope. In Psalm 42 the writer uses illustrations of a deer being hounded by a hunter and unable to stop for a drink and the turmoil of waves crashing on the shore and the rapids in the river to express how he feels being dragged off into exile in Babylon. It is what is called a psalm of disorientation where like being caught by a monster wave you just get spun round and round and have no sense of which way is up or down. But even then the truth of this assertion that God's plans are never thwarted comes through as the writer of that Psalm tells his soul to be calm to give thanks to the God who feels so far away because despite all the evidence to the contra there is still the assertion of God's presence and his goodness.