Search Me

Bible Book: Psalms  139 : 23
Subject: Prayer
Series: Simple, Urgent Prayers
Introduction

I think I could say with some degree of certainty that personal praying is one of the most neglected disciplines of every believer.

E. M. Bounds said, “Much time spent with God is the secret of all successful praying.” He said, “What the Church needs today is not more machinery or better, not new organizations or more novel methods, but men whom the Holy Ghost can use – men of prayer, men mighty in prayer.”

The old puritan preacher Thomas Watson said, “Christ went more readily (to the cross), than we do to the throne of grace.”

Early African converts to Christianity were earnest and regular in private devotions. Each one reportedly had a separate spot in the thicket where he would pour out his heart to God. Over time the paths to these places became well worn. As a result, if one of these believers began to neglect prayer, it was soon apparent to the others. They would kindly remind the negligent one, “Brother, the grass grows on your path.”

(Today in the Word, June 29, 1992)

Does our desperation not drive us to pray? Abraham Lincoln said, “I have been driven many times to my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go. My own wisdom, and that of all about me seemed insufficient for the day.” 

Perhaps we are hesitant to go to God’s throne in prayer, because it tends to reveal what we really are.

The author of “Pilgrim’s Progress,” John Bunyan said, “Prayer will make a man cease from sin, or sin will entice a man to cease from prayer.”

Robert Murray McCheyne said, “What a man is on his knees before God, that he is, and nothing more.”

Someone said, “It is strange that, while praying, we seldom ask for change of character, but always a change in circumstance.” (Baptist Challenge, December 1981)

Oliver Wendell Holmes observed, “What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.” 

In order to magnify how simple some of our prayers are, I mentioned last week some of the prayers that children have prayed. Here are some more examples…

Dear God: Please send a new baby for Mommy. The new baby you sent last week cries too much. (Debbie, age 7)

Dear God: Who did you make smarter? Boys or girls? My sister and I want to know. (Jimmy, age 6)

Dear God: How many angels are there in heaven? I would like to be the first kid in my class to know the answer. (Norma, age 8)

Dear God: This is my prayer. Could you please give my brother some brains? So far he doesn't have any. (Angela, age 8)

Dear Lord: Thank you for the nice day today. You even fooled the TV weatherman. (Hank, age 7)

Dear God: Please bring me a new brother. The one I got socks me all the time. (Agnes, age 6)

Dear God: Please help me is school. I need help in spelling, adding, history, geography, and writing. I don’t need help in anything else. (Lois, age 9)

Dear Lord: Tomorrow is my birthday. Could you please put a rainbow in the sky? (Susan, age 9)

Dear God: I need a raise in my allowance. Could you have one of your angels tell my father? Thank you. (David, age 7)

Dear God; I am saying my prayers for me and my brother, Billy, because Billy is six months old and he can’t do anything but sleep and wet his diapers. (Diane, age 8)

We began thinking last week about some of the personal prayers of the Bible that have a tone of urgency to them. Last week, we looked at Exodus 33:18 where Moses said, “Shew me thy glory.”

This morning, we’re going to look at Psalm 139 where David said, “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalms 139:23-24).

According to one writer (David Dickson), “David being wickedly slandered and persecuted by his adversaries finds his zeal kindled against them; and lest his own heart’s corruption should deceive him... he presents his heart to God, the all-seeing and everywhere present judge of the secrets of all hearts.”

In his very public, visible role as king, David would certainly have been subjected to scrutiny and criticism. David prefers to subject himself to the scrutiny and honest assessment of God as he prays in this Psalm, “Search me” (Psalm 139:23).

Before a doctor gives you an examination and diagnosis, you want to have some knowledge of his qualifications. Throughout this Psalm, David discusses the divine credentials that have prompted him to ask God to do open heart surgery on him and perform this exploratory procedure.

Though David prays in verse 23, “Search me, O God, and know my heart,” he says in verse 1, “O LORD, thou hast searched me, and known me.” This tells us that this divine diagnostic was not a one-time thing in his experience, but it was an ongoing process.

As David surrenders himself to God’s omniscient, omnipresent, omni-directional evaluation, he reminds us that…

I. God Is Qualified To Search Us Because He Knows Our Ways

(Psalm 139:1-6) He Knows How I Am

The popular ad campaign for Nike a few years ago featured the well-known athlete Bo Jackson, and the catchphrase was, “Bo Knows.” But I would say that Bo doesn’t know, but God does. In fact, in verse 3, David said that God is “acquainted with all my ways.”

A. God Understands The Way Of My Mind

(Psalms 139:2) Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, thou understandest my thought afar off.

knowest – Hebrew 3045. yada', to know (to ascertain by seeing); used in a great variety of senses, (including observation, care, recognition): --acknowledge, acquaintance.

understandest – Hebrew 995. biyn; means to separate mentally (or distinguish).

thoughts – Hebrew 7454. rea'; a thought (as association of ideas).

afar off – means remotely.

1. He Is Acquainted With My Times And Thoughts Of Contentment

downsitting – Hebrew 3427. yashab; to sit down (especially as a judge, in ambush, or in quiet); by implication it means to dwell, to remain, or to settle.

2. He Is Acquainted With My Times And Thoughts Of Commotion

uprising – Hebrew OT:3351. qum; Basically, it denotes rising up from a prostrate position. In many instances it refers to preparatory activity, especially (though not exclusively) to traveling (Theological Wordbook – OT)

B. God Understands The Way Of My Movements

(Psalms 139:3) Thou compassest my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways.

Spurgeon said, “My path and my pallet, my running and my resting, are alike within the circle of thine observations.”

1. These Movements Involve My Direction In Life

my path – Hebrew 734. 'orach; a well trodden road (literally or figuratively); also a caravan: --manner, path, race, rank, traveller, troop, [by-, high-] way.

2. These Movements Involve My Delays In Life

lying down – Hebrew 7252. reba'; prostration (for sleep): --lying down.

The word “compassest,” which in the NASV is translated “scrutinize,” suggests that God surrounds our path, but the word means ‘to toss about, to diffuse, to winnow,’ or to divide the chaff from the wheat. So He surrounds our path, but He also sees our path and is able to mentally distinguish the good from the bad in our decisions and directions. Spurgeon said, “This should fill us with awe that we sin not; with courage so that we fear not; with delight so that we mourn not.”

C. God Understands The Way Of My Mouth

(Psalms 139:4) For there is not a word in my tongue, but, lo, O LORD, thou knowest it altogether.

word – Hebrew 4405. millah; a word; a discourse; a topic: -- answer.

1. Notice Our Unspoken Articulations a word in my tongue

Have you ever said, “It was right on the tip of my tongue, but I’ve forgotten what I was going to say”? God hasn’t forgotten. He knows the word that is “in my tongue.” Have you ever said, “Well I thought it, but I didn’t say it.” God knows either way.

2. Notice His Unlimited Awareness LORD, thou knowest it altogether

knowest – Hebrew 3045. yada', to know (to ascertain by seeing); used in a great variety of senses, (including observation, care, recognition): --acknowledge, acquaintance.

altogether – Hebrew 3605. kol; properly it means the whole; hence all, any or every: --(in) all manner, any (manner), every (one, place, thing), whatsoever, (the) whole.

O God, search us in these areas and “see if there be any wicked way in me” (Psalm 139:24).

(Psalms 139:5-6) Thou hast beset me behind and before, and laid thine hand upon me. {6} Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain unto it.

The statement in verse 5 indicates that God has us surrounded. He might say, “I know all about it, and I’ll be ‘around’ when you need me.” We might use the phrase, “Search me” to mean, “I don’t know.” We don’t know, but God does. David said, “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me.” In other words, he said, “This is remarkable!”

II. God Is Qualified To Search Us Because He Knows Our Whereabouts

(Psalm 139:7-10) He Knows Where I Am

(Psalms 139:7) Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence?

Everywhere we go, we keep running into Him.

A. God Is There With Us When We Are In The High Places

(Psalms 139:8) If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there.

1. The Psalmist Mentions The Ascending Path Of Life

2. The Psalmist Mentions The Assured Presence Of The Lord

B. God Is There With Us When We Are In The Hellish Places

(Psalms 139:8) If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there.

1. The Possibility Of Our Presence In Hellish Places Is Considered

make my bed – Hebrew 3331. yatsa'; to strew as a surface, to spread it out.

hell – Hebrew 7585. she'owl; hades or the world of the dead (as if a subterranean retreat): --grave, pit.

Based on the meaning here, he may indicate that God is there even when we die.

2. The Prominence Of His Presence In Hellish Places Is Confirmed

Regardless of who else may be there, “behold” God is there!

behold – Hebrew 2009. hinneh; lo!:--behold, lo, see. “Lo and behold, God is there!”

C. God Is There With Us When We Are In The Hidden Places

(Psalms 139:9-10) If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; {10} Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me.

Because verse 7 has presented the idea of escaping or running away from God, the actions of verse 9 seems to suggest that…

1. The Psalmist Speaks Of A Traveling Prodigal

(Psalms 139:9) If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea;

The word “wings” means the edge or the extremity. “Uttermost” means the last or the end.

Do you think you can get up early enough or go far enough to get away from God?

Cf. (Isaiah 43:6) I will say to the north, Give up; and to the south, Keep not back: bring my sons from far, and my daughters from the ends of the earth;

2. The Psalmist Speaks Of A Tender Pattern

(Psalms 139:10) Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me.

a. He Will Guide Us

lead – Hebrew 5148. nachah; to guide; by implication it means to transport (into exile, or as colonists): --bestow, bring, govern, guide, lead (forth), put, straiten.

b. He Will Guard Us

The “right hand” often speaks of the place of favor.

hold – Hebrew 270. 'achaz; to seize (often with the accessory idea of holding in possession): -- (catch, lay, take) hold, come upon, fasten, handle, portion, (get, have or take) possess (-ion).

III. God Is Qualified To Search Us Because He Knows Our Weaknesses

(Psalm 139:11-22) He Knows What I’m Going Through

In the first four verses, we see the Omniscience of God. In verses 5 thru 10, we see the Omnipresence of God. But in verses 11 thru 22, we see that God is Omni-directional. And Omni-directional is a word that means “capable of transmitting or receiving a signal in all directions like an antenna or perhaps a microphone. God is able to transmit a message to and receive a word from His children in any direction, regardless of our location. An AM radio station ceases it’s transmission after dark, but not God.

A. God Can Reach Us In The Place Of Darkness

(Psalms 139:11-12) If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me; even the night shall be light about me. {12} Yea, the darkness hideth not from thee; but the night shineth as the day: the darkness and the light are both alike to thee.

darkness – Hebrew 2822. choshek, kho-shek'; from H2821; the dark; hence (lit.) darkness; fig. misery, destruction, death, ignorance, sorrow, wickedness:--dark (-ness), night, obscurity.

1. Notice The Covering Of This Darkness

a. This Darkness May Seem Oppressive

cover – Hebrew 7779. shuwph, shoof; a prim. root; prop. to gape, i.e. snap at; fig. to overwhelm:--break, bruise, cover.

b. This Darkness May Seem Overwhelming

cover – Hebrew 7779. shuwph, shoof; a prim. root; prop. to gape, i.e. snap at; fig. to overwhelm:--break, bruise, cover.

2. Notice The Conquering Of This Darkness

a. Darkness Is Powerless Against God

(Psalms 139:12) Yea, the darkness hideth not from thee; but the night shineth as the day: the darkness and the light are both alike to thee.

b. Darkness Is Perceptible To God

(Psalms 139:12) Yea, the darkness hideth not from thee; but the night shineth as the day: the darkness and the light are both alike to thee.

The circumstances would conceal us in the night, but God will comprehend us in the light. With God, the darker the night, the brighter the light.

B. God Can Reach Us In The Place Of Development

(Psalms 139:13) For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my mother's womb.

God’s knowledge is the ultimate ultrasound!

1. We See God’s Supernatural Care In This Realm

a. He Has Revealed His Ownership thou hast possessed my reins

Spurgeon said that the “reins signifies the kidneys, which by the Hebrew were supposed to be the seat of the desires and longings. But perhaps here it indicates the most hidden and vital portion of man.”

b. He Has Revealed His Oversight thou hast covered me

covered – Hebrew 5526. cakak; to entwine as a screen; by implication to fence in, cover over, (fig.) protect:--cover, defence, defend, hedge in, join together, set, shut up. It’s like he covered us with a uterine blanket. He swaddled us in-utero.

2. We See God’s Superior Craftsmanship In This Realm

(Psalms 139:14-16) I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well. {15} My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. {16} Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them.

a. He Made Something Marvelous

fearfully – Hebrew 3372. yare'; to fear; to revere; to frighten.

wonderfully – Hebrew 6395. palah; to distinguish: --put a difference, show marvellous, separate, set apart, sever, make wonderfully.

His work in our lives is to be revered and distinctive.

b. He Made Something Meticulous

curiously wrought – Hebrew 7551. raqam; to variegate color, i.e. embroider; to fabricate:--embroiderer, needlework.

Spurgeon said, “ ‘Embroidered with great skill’ is an accurate poetical description of the creation of veins, sinews, muscles, nerves, etc.”

The “lowest parts of the earth” is a picturesque suggestion of the womb.

C. God Can Reach Us In The Place Of Distress

(Psalms 139:19-22) Surely thou wilt slay the wicked, O God: depart from me therefore, ye bloody men. {20} For they speak against thee wickedly, and thine enemies take thy name in vain. {21} Do not I hate them, O LORD, that hate thee? and am not I grieved with those that rise up against thee? {22} I hate them with perfect hatred: I count them mine enemies.

God hears my distress call across enemy lines.

1. The Psalmist Describes The Harmfulness Of These Enemies

a. They Are Bloody Men

bloody (vs. 19) – indicates those that bring death and bloodshed.

b. They Are Blasphemous Men

(Psalms 139:20) For they speak against thee wickedly, and thine enemies take thy name in vain.

wickedly – Hebrew 4209. mezimmah, mez-im-maw'; from H2161; a plan, usually evil (machination), sometimes good (sagacity):--(wicked) device, discretion, intent, witty invention, lewdness, mischievous (device), thought, wickedly.

2. The Psalmist Declares His Hatred For These Enemies

(Psalms 139:21-22) Do not I hate them, O LORD, that hate thee? and am not I grieved with those that rise up against thee? {22} I hate them with perfect hatred: I count them mine enemies.

hate – Hebrew 8130. sane'; to hate (personally): --enemy, foe, odious. He was repulsed by them.

a. There Is Attitude Of Grief

grieved (vs. 21) – Hebrew 6962. quwt; to cut off, i.e. (fig.) detest:--be grieved, lothe self.

b. There Is An Alignment With God

I hate them … that hate thee. I count them mine enemies.

E. Stanley Jones said, “Prayer is surrender – surrender to the will of God and cooperation with that will. If I throw out a boathook from the boat and catch hold of the shore and pull, do I pull the shore to me, or do I pull myself to the shore? Prayer is not pulling God to my will, but the aligning of my will to the will of God.”

Again, the prayer is not merely a petition. It is the expression of a willingness to submit to the search. He began by recognizing the fact; he ends by welcoming it; rejoicing in it and desiring to experience it in his own case.

(Alexander Maclaren from The Biblical Illustrator)

God, because you know me so well, You search me.

(Psalms 139:23-24) Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: {24} And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

1. Notice The Penetration Of The Search

search – Hebrew 2713. chaqar; to penetrate; hence to examine intimately:--find out, (make) search (out), seek (out), sound, try.

2. Notice The Panorama Of The Search

know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me

3. Notice The Purpose Of The Search

lead me in the way everlasting

To keep us in the preferable path.

A man went to his doctor to find out what was wrong with him. The doctor said, “Your problem is you’re too fat.” And the man said, “I’d like to get a second opinion.” And the doctor said, “OK, you’re ugly too.” 

We are saying to God that we value His opinion so much that we don’t want to get a second opinion.

Conclusion

In his book Why Prayers are Unanswered, John Lavender retells a story about Norman Vincent Peale.

When Peale was a boy, he found a big, black cigar, (then) slipped into an alley, and lit up. It didn’t taste good, but it made him feel very grown up … until he saw his father coming. Quickly he put the cigar behind his back and tried to be casual. Desperate to divert his father’s attention, Norman pointed to a billboard advertising the circus.

“Can I go, Dad? Please, let’s go when it comes to town.”

His father’s reply taught Norman a lesson he never forgot. “Son, he answered quietly but firmly, “never make a petition while at the same time trying to hide a smoldering disobedience.”

(http://www.sermonillustrations.com/a-z/p/prayer_unanswered.htm)