Psalm 139:23-24 says, “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!”
Wow, what a wonderful, challenging, helpful passage of Scripture the Lord has given at the end of one our favorite Psalms! Most of us are familiar with the middle portion of Psalm 139, the part that speaks of how the Lord God “formed my inward parts” and “knitted me together in my mother’s womb” (v. 13) and how God knew every one of our days even before we had ever been born. These verses are often used to support the argument against abortion, as they should be. There’s more to the Psalm than that, however.
David starts Psalm 139 by stating, “O Lord, you have searched me and known me!” (v. 1), so when he ends the psalm imploring the Lord to search and know him, he isn’t suggesting that God needs to find him or learn about him- — God already knows all there is to know! Rather David is inviting the Lord to dig into his inner being and reveal to him any desire or thought that fails to honor God. He is “giving permission” to God (as if God needs permission!) to wreck him, to rock him, to expose any area in his life that needs addressing. What a painful but much-needed prayer!
It is difficult to read this psalm without thinking about the sins of David’s life, mainly his affair with Bathsheba and the sinful acts connected to it, but also the prideful census he took near the end of his life that cost 70,000 men their lives. David might have been a man after God’s own heart, but he was far from perfect. Even so, David understood that if he had any chance of living a life marked by obedience to God and purity of heart, it would depend upon God reminding him constantly of who both He was and who David was. That’s exactly what God does when he searches us and knows us — he reveals more of himself and his holiness and shows us in no uncertain terms the areas in our lives that are still greatly in need of transformation.
When God searched David’s heart and mind, what do you think he found? Lust? Hatred? Deceit? Pride? I think he did. I also think that David’s willingness to have God expose him and show him the error his ways kept him from an even spottier resume. We already know the things David was capable of — can you imagine what kinds of acts he might have committed had the Lord not loved him enough to continually bring to light the darkest areas of his life?
What about us? Do we give the God of the universe permission to pull out our most wicked deeds and desires so that He might chip away at them and bring them under His authority, so that we might sin against Him less often? It seems like Psalm 139:23-24 is a great prayer to offer the Lord each time we sit down to study his Word. It seems like it would be a good thing to implore God to expose us, to bring to our minds the areas we are in most desperate need of repentance.
The end of Hebrews 4:12 reminds us that one purpose of the written Word of God is to discern our thoughts; another is to discern the intentions of our heart. The writer of Hebrews must have read Psalm 139 (or been given the words he wrote in Hebrews by the same Holy Spirit that gave David the words for Psalm 139!) Clearly, God wants us to get this one, to understand it and to apply it to our lives. If God didn’t reveal to us the blind spots in our daily walks with him, we would remain unable to detect them ourselves and would walk only in the flesh, never pleasing the Spirit. Let us be thankful to the Lord that he doesn’t leave us to crawl around in the darkness of our ignorance, but lovingly shines his light into our hearts and minds so that we might know the grievous ways that creep into our lives. We don’t deserve a chance to repent or a chance to renounce the wickedness that too often besets us, but he gives us such graces anyway. Isn’t he a wonderfully loving God?
Mark Wingfield, pastor of First Baptist Church in Grottoes, is a columnist for The News Virginian.
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