O LORD, THOU HAST SEARCHED ME, AND KNOWN ME - Prof. Benne Holwerda
Sing: Ps. 139: 2, 3; Ps. 139: 10.
Read: Psalm 139.
Sing: Ps. 139: 4, 5, 6. 7, 8; Ps. 139: 14.
Without any doubt our hearts are presently filled with much care. War threatens on all sides. The situation is truly dangerous indeed, little is needed for the spark to reach the powder. And how serious the explosion will be, no one knows. But no one has any illusions in that respect.
Everything considered, one feels an oppressing uncertainty, unsafe in many ways. Infinitely forsaken in a terrible world. The mighty confer, make decisions, make treaties, hasten themselves, if possible, to overcome their backlog in arms. But all this will not give us back our feeling of safety.
What do you think? Our world is far removed from the peace of Psalm 139. Did the poet really know what to expect in this world? Did he know what was going on among people and what hellish powers can do to ruin us?
It becomes clear right away that this man knows a deep peace and serene rest. 'Thou hast searched me and known me'. With this in mind he writes the whole psalm. It is altogether beautiful and tender. But is it true and real? Does it give strength for facing today's problems?
I will begin by saying this poet did not go through the world with his eyes closed; not like poets who do this so often and in foolish idealism attempt to dance on the stars. He knew he lived on a volcano. He knew that people are untrue and false, and how horrible their hypocrisy. He knew what to look for. He knew he was surrounded by 'bloody men'.
He wrote this psalm with his eyes open to an oppressing reality: there were men who systematically ruined lives and they also threatened him. In a world where blood flows and where many attempt to shed more blood -- in that hopeless, unsafe world he sang his psalm: 'O LORD, thou hast searched me, and known me'. And with an eye to all the terrible things around him he prayed to be led in the way everlasting.
In essence this present world is the same as it was then. No, it is no comfort that it has always been like that. But the God of that day, so long ago, is still the same today and into all eternity. His goodness to us His people is infinitely great under all circumstances. O LORD, thou hast searched me, and known me. When we follow the outcome of this theme in the psalm, we discover three things. David has:
1. confessed the riches of that reality;
2. suffered from resisting that reality;
3. prayed for the fulfillment of that reality.
1. We don't know anything of the time this psalm was written, neither of the circumstances in which David found himself. It really does not matter, it is a psalm for all times, even for today. Therefore I will not weary you for one second with all kinds of claims and presumptions about the background of the psalm. We will instantly begin by reading what it says in verse one, 'LORD Thou hast searched me and known me'.
Here, David prays to the LORD. That word is written here with capital letters. In the Hebrew that means Jahweh, Him Who saw the misery of His people in Egypt and therefore led them out with a strong hand. After that He led them through the wilderness into the good land of Canaan, to be a gracious Father to them for evermore. Of course, you have heard at some time that when our language has Lord (that is with lower case letters!), it means God as He rules all things. But when the word is written with only capital letters, then - we used to say - we think of His covenant as an expression of His faithfulness to the covenant. Undoubtedly, we are not far amiss here. But yet, the content of the name LORD is much richer.
It does not only speak of God's faithfulness to the covenant, but it emphasizes that He is active in that covenant. He does not just speak beautiful words of redemption, but He makes that redemption real. He not only speaks, but also makes His word come true. He speaks first, but then also confirms it. That is where the God of Israel is distinct from the idols, who do nothing and never change anything. When David addresses Him as LORD, he thinks of all God's works of deliverance in earlier days, and also of his own days; he thinks of the power with which He fulfills His promises. Since that is so, we must say more, for since that time has been Christmas, and Good Friday, and Easter and Pentecost. David could not think of them, for in his days these facts were still a long way off, in the far future. But the LORD continued with His works of deliverance. When I now read that name LORD, it has a much deeper meaning, 'the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ'.
David prayed: 'LORD, Thou Who hast redeemed Thy people out of Egypt'. We pray with him, yet we can say more than David, 'LORD, Thou Who in Christ hast revealed Thyself as redeemer and Who in Him art our eternal merciful Father.' It is to this God that we say, O LORD, thou hast searched me and known me!
In the first place, 'searched me'. Of course it means that His eyes went searching and seeking through everything, He sees me, all the way down to the bottom of my existence. He looks right through me. I cannot hide myself from Him. To say it in New Testament language: 'All things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do'.
Is that something to be afraid of? Many commentators answer this question in the affirmative. They point out that after this David considers the possibility of fleeing away from God and escaping from His grasp. He finds the inquiring eyes of His God unbearable. He cannot stand these eyes, as search lights looking into the bottom of his existence.
But you must not forget, there is more. Right in front is His Name LORD, that is to say, God in the majesty of His deliverances. Then follows: Thou not only searchest me, but Thou also knowest me.
Do not be too hasty and say, 'that is no wonder'. When the LORD looks right through you, of course He sees everything. But by doing so, you have mutilated the beautiful biblical word 'knowing'. Of course, we could speak here of God's omniscience. But omniscience in itself is a terror. Knowledge as such is yet without interest and without love. But when you read of God's 'knowledge' in the Bible, be careful. It really does not mean that He knows everything and that nothing escapes Him. But it means in the first place that He is interested, He sympathizes, He is moved.
'Knowledge' is cold, but 'knowing' is altogether different. I think for instance of the last words of Exodus 2. It says that the Israelites were oppressed in a terrible manner and they sighed about their harsh slavery. But then it is written of their God, 'He heard their complaining; He remembered His covenant; He looked at the children of Israel; and He knew them!'
Now you understand at once what it means that the LORD 'knows' you. He was concerned about the suffering of His people. He was hurt by it. In all their oppression, He was oppressed. Anyone would be afraid of God's 'searching'. But what does the Lord mean by that? What is behind it? Is He the cold Inquisitor, the one Who mercilessly looks in all the corners, Who brings all your secrets out into the open, and then without mercy brings everything into judgment? Beloved,with the LORD it is pure interest and warm sympathy. He knows me and is moved with tenderness, with compassion. He is never indifferent concerning me. He searches everything in my life, even what remains hidden from man's eyes, even things that escaped me. He does it because He loves me.
We are dealing here with something very tender. The Lord looks at you, He loves you, and therefore you are not for one second out of His eye. It is so very personal: Thou hast searched me and known me, just as if I were the only one for Him. As if there was no one else in need of His love and care.
Is this psalm written for us to know more about God's omniscience? Happily not! It is this: He is interested in everything that concerns me; the loving Father's heart is extended in mercy to me. Now, I am never alone aymore!
And because this is about His love for the smallest things in my life, we find here no theorizing and philosophizing about God's omniscience. All David attempted to see was the practical riches of this knowing-in-love. He saw no chance to explain something here. Repeatedly he says in this psalm, 'His ways are past finding out'. There is a limit to his thinking here which he cannot exceed. But he can accept these riches without understanding, and set them before him. That is what happens here!
In verses 2-6, David begins with speaking about his life at this moment. It is remarkable that he does not deal with the high points and the great moments. He does not speak of the day he married, or the day when he ascended the throne. He only mentions merely everyday matters.
What do people do in everyday life? When I ask you about your work, one will say that he is baker, another that he works at the office. We mention the things that distinguish us from others. But what does everyone of us do without exception? Well, we 'sit' down for a while, then we 'stand' up again; in the mean time our thoughts go over many things. One moment we 'go', but at night we 'lie down'; in the mean time we 'traveled many roads'.
I don't think we can say it more simply. What is our everyday life? A change of sitting and rising up, of going and lying down. But it is in these things the LORD 'knows' us. He is involved, He follows it with interest, He enters into our feelings. His heart is in it, and His love in Christ is in it when a mother is so busy all day long. Don't you think He does not see it when it becomes almost too much for her? Does He not see it when finally, late at night she can sit down with a sigh of relief? He is there, with His care and His compassion, when our men toil in difficult labours; and His heart is moved when they go to bed at night, dead tired from their labours. His smile is upon the children when they play, but also when they sit at their desk doing their math.
"Thou knowest my sitting down and my standing, and art acquainted with all my ways". Thou knowest everything I do, the most simple and smallest thing, thou knowest it all. Do you know now beloved, Who the LORD is?
He did the greatest things, things that boggle our minds. He created the world, and keeps it with His eternal power and providence -- I can not explain it. He led His people out of Egypt with a strong arm - I do not understand it. He made His holy child Jesus to be born from the virgin Mary, He resurrected Him from the dead, and set him on His right hand in heaven -- it is a wonder from beginning to end. But 'LORD' also means that now in the extension of those miraculous works He is interested in the chair on which I sit; the shoes - they may be wooden shoes - that I wear; the blankets that I pull over me. Is it pedestrian to say things like that? But that is how great is His activity in redeeming us and the wonder of it belittles the things of which I hardly ever think. His heart reaches out to me and therefore to the most trivial things in my life.
That is how the Lord Christ says it later, 'the hairs of your head are all numbered!' Then you must not say, 'the infinite Creator of earth and heaven has other things to do than to pay attention to my hair.' That is how great He is, nothing escapes Him. So great that He pays attention to the smallest things in the life of His children. Great in His 'searching', fully inscrutable. Yes, yes, as long as you do not forget His 'knowing'. Unfathomable in understanding? Yes, as long as you add that He is immeasurable in compassion!
There is one more thing very common-place. Our thinking. Our thoughts do not halt for one minute. At times they are pleasant things of which you think with a smile. Then again they are difficult problems, but while you keep on thinking, you make progress. But often - especially today - there are times you wish it was no longer necessary to think. How often is our thinking nothing but a miserable brooding, a dismal worrying. Cares about the home, business problems and so on. Heavy and difficult, your brains work in the same circle, and at the end you are just as far as when you began. If you could only shake them off, but you begin anew, again and again, and it makes one so very, very weary.
The sick run a fever and their mind is rarely at ease; their thoughts turn around in their head, it makes them confused. Or our nerves cannot keep up with it any longer, one cannot think coherently anymore. You find yourself in a horrible pit that keeps on turning and people feel bewildered in their head. Even at night when you go to sleep, you take your thoughts along, and one can lie there for hours tossing around, and when sleep finally arrives, one's thoughts are still busy and the dream is a terror.
That is why we read here in verse 2, 'thou knowest my thoughts afar off'. The Lord knows everything about them, even from far; when my thoughts escape me, still I am not alone. Then His thoughts surround my confused thinking.
I don't need to tell Him. Of course, I must pray, and David also prays; but what do I pray for? Not to tell Him what is wrong, for He knew everything already before I opened my mouth. Not to draw His attention, for His heart was open to me, before I could say anything. 'For there is not a word in my tongue, but, lo, O Lord, thou knowest it altogether'.
Of course we must pray and tell Him with our words. Is our prayer not the most important part of gratitude? But beloved, do you not over-estimate your prayers? When you are healthy you start the day with prayer. But a moment later your work draws all your attention. You pray before meals, and before you go to bed. But thus we may not pray one half hour per day. Above that, how much is there that we cannot say, bring under words? There is unspeakable joy, but also immeasurable suffering I cannot put into words. Praying? But our words do not avail. We cannot find words anymore when we are so confused inside.
Pray? I have stood at many deathbeds. The torch of life burnt very low; the hands were lying powerless on the blankets, the tongue could no longer speak. But now you understand Who the LORD is. For there is not a word on my tongue, even when no more words shall leave my lips, lo, O LORD, thou knowest it altogether'. That is why verse 5 says, 'thou hast beset me behind and before, and laid thine hand on me'. God in Christ stands beside me. He goes ahead and keeps the storm from me. He covers my back. He holds His arm around me and forever holds on to me. O yes, this 'knowing' of God we do not understand. I do not know how He can do this. That He will do it, that He is interested in everything I do, I understand much less, for I am not worthy. I do not search Him in His knowing, which is all and only love. But He knows me, for He has searched me.
It will be even greater. For until now it was about God's interest in us and our little existence. But in verses 7-12, David suddenly sees the great world around him. I am really nothing but a dwarf in this great cosmos. One cannot find a needle in a haystack, much less one of the children of man in this wide world. That is why the poet shudders for the immeasurable distance. Here, God is with him. But when he will be hurled through this world today or tomorrow, what will happen? When, small and little as he is, will he be swallowed up in infinite space?
But now he holds on to his psalm, 'LORD, thou hast searched me and known me'. Thy hand will hold on to me, even when I will be lost in the immeasurable distance. For - verse 7 - 'Whither shall I go from thy Spirit?' No matter how far I go, God's Spirit which searcheth everything, sees me and does not lose me out of sight. Whither I am here or a thousand miles distant, I will not be lost in this great cosmos. 'Whether shall I flee from thy presence?' Remember this: when the Bible speaks of God's presence, often His immediate nearness is meant, His most intimate presence.
David says here, I cannot move so far that I escape the attention of Thy Spirit. I cannot go that far, for, 'behold thou art there'.
He continues by writing about imaginary travels he is going to make. Suppose I would go from here to heaven, right across the sky, high above the stars -- Thou art there. Or even lie down in hell, in the heart of the earth - I do not know where - but when I came there, I would find Thee there also!
Yet, it is the same as Paul says later, 'nor height, nor depth, shall separate me from the love of God in Christ Jesus'. Terrific heights, nor unfathomable depths can separate me from the nearness of the LORD. He is always near me.
There are still other distances in the world. Not only high or low, but also from East to West. This poet saw dawn glimmer after the night. He saw that light, as on wings, was carried to the far West in a moment. He thinks of it, 'when I would be carried on these wings to the utmost sea, what then?' But he believes that there are no distances for God and therefore distance does not separate from Him. 'Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me'. The poet has more imagination than people have today. At times you read in the paper of people who constructed a sphere to descend into the deepest sea. Or man dreams of a flight by rocket to the moon. Distances? In the age of airplanes, we say with modern man, 'there are no more distances'.
But let us be sober. Your children emigrate to Canada or Australia. You can say one hundred times over, distances do not exist. In reality they are far away and maybe you will not see them again. They are there in a strange land, alone, and you are here, alone. Is it a comfort perhaps that you can be with them within a few days? The only comfort is that God upholds them there far away, just as he upholds you here. We are never alone.
Suppose - for we live in a horrible world - we got into another war; we would be in great trouble, we would be deported. The first thing we would discover in Siberia would again be, 'the presence of the LORD', the immediate nearness of God in Christ Jesus. I said a while ago the poet imagined, he was thinking of things that for us are unthinkable, an ascent into heaven, a descent into hades. We can not imagine that. But let us be very sober -- at a given moment thetime will come that the spirit returns to God, its Creator. Then it willhappen that I travel a road where I never have been before, that my spirit ascends high above the stars and I will be all alone in that hour. The moment will also arrive that I descend into hades -- I don't know the way and I go all alone. My spirit will be devoured by the light, my body swallowed up in the darkness. But God is there, and His Spirit, and His 'Presence', when darkness and the night encloses me, for the night is to Him light as the day. Even then He will not leave me, but again I meet His presence.
I cannot say anything about the mystery of dying - I don't know -and the way we have to go, I do not know. There is finally only one thing important - His hand holds me! Is this everything there is to say about God's knowing, as it is directed to me?
This psalm is so beautifully put together, 'O LORD, thou hast searched me and known me'; in my present, simple and insignificant existence. Thou also knowest me as I stand little and lost in the immeasurable spaces of this cosmos (verses 7-12). Now we have to add a third, 'Thou hast searched me right from the beginning to the very last' (verses 13-18). For David asks himself the question, 'when did this begin, that God's hand held on to me in love?' Then he thinks of the time he was born and what went on before that. 'How is it, that the Lord knows my inside and looks right trough me?' Well, says verse 13, "For thou hast possessed my reigns". In the Bible, kidneys are the seat of the most deep feelings, what no man sees of us.
What we are hardly aware of in ourselves may be found in the kidneys. It is possible that today we would speak of the subconscious. But the LORD fathoms it to the bottom, for He Himself formed my kidneys. I was curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth (his mother's womb). It is a great wonder; I do not at all understand. But the LORD Himself made me, body and soul, with tender care and a concern that cannot be put into words.
At the end of verse 14 it says in our translation, 'and that my soul knoweth right well.' This really does not fit the context, for the poet repeatedly says that he is faced with an unsearchable mystery. It would be better translated, 'My soul - Thou knowest it very well'. And then verse 15 follows directly, 'My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth'.
Never spoke anyone so piously and comforting about the first beginnings of human life, about the things preceding birth. You know, much is said about these things. Mostly from a poisoned perspective, where everything is low, troubled and cloudy. And that is why speaking of these things is often shabby, shady and mean. But it can be different, done in faith, so that thinking about beginnings of life can be a great comfort all during life, until the hour of your death. What exactly happened when 'my substance was yet imperfect?'
That is a complete mystery. We know as little about it as what happens in the depths of the earth. No human eye has ever penetrated into these things. Has medical science fathomed this mystery? They know much today but these beginnings are still hidden from the best doctors. We must not attempt to lift that veil. What are we concerned with? That from the very beginning He knew my soul in love. From the first beginning God's presence was there with my substance. Already then there was that warm interest of my God for me, in love His fingers made me, 'when He curiously wrought me in the lowest parts of the earth.' His eyes already followed me and watched over me when there was nothing but a formless mass. It was already written in His books whether I would be born as a boy or as a girl. Everything was written about my bones, my muscles, my nerves, my skin. It was all planned by the Lord.
It happens that children are born without planning by parents. I am afraid this happens too often, in as far as some parents are concerned. They live for themselves and the children are the victims. Often there is no care whatsoever, no sense of responsibility, no love when it concerns the beginnings of life. But it is different with the LORD in His covenant. No matter how the parents lived with God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, there is from the first moment the greatest attention, the most tender care, an infinite providence. 'When as yet there was none of them', I had no bones as yet, no heart, no brains, no flesh, no blood -- but His eyes already watched over me. It was no accident when He began to make me in secret; He followed a pattern that was written in His book. All of it was considered before in love, there was no mistake and no oversight. He knew what He was going to do, and why He did it when there was not even a form. Already then He knew me; He loved me from the very beginning!
Here is no more desire to make fun of these things! All this is a great comfort to us!
I think of expecting mothers in these evil days. Over their expectation hovers the shadow of fear. It is no small matter to give life to children in times when dictators speak cynically of cannon fodder. It happened in Korea not long ago that thousands of young lives were sent into the fire of war. 'Loss of life is not important', it says in the paper. In spite of this, never forget who the LORD is. People play when they beget new life; they still play when they cut off life. But the LORD never plays in this horrible world! Each of your children are 'curiously wrought' after His pattern.
He is always completely serious. Especially perfect in love! Whatever may happen in Korea and what may happen in some other places, that does not take the Lord off course, His book will not fall out of His hand. See, that is now predestination! Fore-knowledge! We sometime shudder when we hear that word. It is often felt as fatalistic, it cannot be changed. But do you not see that it is something altogether different? That it is God's 'knowing', that is His love, interest, being moved, tenderness, and all this from before the time there was anything. Chance is terrible, the lot turns as it turns and nothing has meaning anymore. Fate is just as bad, it comes as it comes, with iron necessity but without mercy. But fore-knowledge is great glory. His love was already over me before I began to live. Everything was written in His book!
That the beginnings of life are 'in the presence of God', in His most intimate nearness - that is predestination!
When you have children, it is likely with you as it is with me - you see them play and they are happy, but the smile fades from your lips, for suddenly these young lives can be cut off in the hellish violence of war. That is how it is in our day. Last winter the radio told about thousands of refugees that filled the roads, under freezing temperatures -- how many children would have there been among them? The papers show pictures of refugees and displaced persons; what happens to the children among them? We read of children from Greece who were carried off by the thousands and only a handful returned when they were almost full-grown.
I don't want to make you afraid, but something like that could happen to our children. But never forget that God's presence goes with them and His Spirit will not depart from them. Also if they would be raised as communists. Should they be taken from us and we can do nothing for them anymore, He still holds on to them. Do you think that God Who so curiously wrought them in the lowest parts of the earth would forget them? That He would lose sight of them? Never! I don't know how He does it. But He shall do it, He said so Himself when their beginnings were laid, there was with Him an ecstasy and infinite tenderness. At that time His Spirit moved and His presence was a light! Even if they would take our children to the utmost sea, even there His hand would lead them. Even there He will be with them, before them and behind them and His arm around them!
It is a great comfort to confess the Lord in the beginnings of life. But also when you grow older! For then the weak spots in our life are revealed. We are invalids, all of us, one has heart problems, another has troubles with the nerves. I do not under-estimate the difficulties here. But you must tell yourself and also tell your sick ones, this is what His book says. It is not chance which is working in your life. But with Him there is care, tenderness and nearness. He knew what He did when He made your heart weak and your nerves sensitive.
Why did He do it like that? Ah, I do not know. God's thoughts are precious, how great is the sum of them! I do not understand. Would I attempt to number His thoughts - it cannot be done. It would be better for me to sit down on the sea shore and count the grains of sand. All these things are inscrutable and unsearchable. But it remains a knowing-in-love!
You may say - that is good and well. But these unborn children are born into a horrible world. And those playing children may be the object of God's special care, but what of their future? I myself, I am an invalid; today I see the doctor, tomorrow the specialist, I will be around a little longer; one day I am somewhat better, the other day a little less. But the end is irreversibly death!
But Scripture says, 'when I awake, I am still with thee!' After a while I awake from death, then is not this the greatest, that I live again, but that I am still with Him! Much can happen in a short life -- sit down, stand up, go, lie down, think, speak. The world is very big, heaven is high, the abyss is deep and the distance from East to West I cannot measure. There is so much between the cradle and the grave. There is much more between the first beginnings, before the cradle is made ready, and the end, awaking from the dead on the other side of the grave. But ultimately it changes nothing from the fact, this one thing, that I am always with Him!
Let us say it with Paul, "I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor any other creature shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Beloved, is it thus you have seen and believed the riches of the Lord, this reality: 'O LORD, thou hast searched me, and known me?' Then you will also understand why David suffered resisting this reality and you will suffer with him.
2. For suddenly we see a wave of wrath leaping through this siren song. A curse is heard through the tender melody of this prayer. 'Surely thou shalt slay the wicked, O God! Do not I hate them , O LORD, that hate thee? I hate them with perfect hatred!'
Unbelievers do not believe these verses (19-22) belong in the Bible. They wreak havoc with the harmony of this song. So away with them! We bestow more reverence to the Bible. But let us be honest: we too have our difficulties with the imprecatory psalms. How can we square these utterances with the love which God requires from us? But when you understand the beginning, you will also understand immediately the rest.
David said, 'LORD, thou hast searched me, I can never search (fathom) thee. But in thy unsearchableness, Thou knowest me, thou dost love me, and art always near me.' He was delighted about this God. He wants to say, 'if I can never fathom Thee, I do know thee; I love Thee for that tender care for my life!'
But what does he see in the world around him? There are the godless! People who hate this God. He does not speak of the heathen who do not know God, who are ignorant of Him and His wonderful works. No, these people know about God's majestic grace, but they consciously reject this God and fight against Him.
The translation of verse 20 is somewhat uncertain. It is likely we have to read, 'who craftily resist Thee, and take Thy name in vain'. These people have come to know the name of the LORD; they know about His deliverances and his tender love for His people, of His book and His marvelous works. But they misuse His name and 'take it in vain' for the sake of evil and ungodliness.
From the words of the third commandment we know the words, "Take the name of God in vain". This sin is not that someone curses off and on. Of course that also is not allowed, but the third commandment does not speak of that in the first place. It is this, that the revelation and manifestation of God's love are used to attain unto ungodliness.
That is why he says, 'they craftily resist the Lord.' They take the name of God on their lips and have a Bible under their arm. That is how they cover their intentions. This is about people who seem to be pious, but in reality they resist the LORD, and would ruin His work. They have seen the God of Psalm 139 in His beauty; they know with how much love He marvelously makes his children. And then they dare to be 'men of blood', who intend to ruin that marvelous work of God.
David said, 'how is this possible!' He does not complain about a personal insult. It is not that someone hurt him. But this is what hurts him -- they do it to his God! That in such a way they would break His work. Because he said 'yes' to this God, therefore his 'no' against the haters of God is just as absolute.
Anyone can curse. But only he can sing an imprecatory psalm who has confessed God in His love and therefore greatly suffers because of those who resist Him. That is why David says, 'I have no use for these men of blood, I hate them with a perfect hatred'. He knew indeed about loving his neighbour, he prayed for his enemies, he pled for repentance of the heathen. But this willful, hypocritical revolution against God he could not stand.
I tell you, be careful with this word. Do not hastily take an imprecatory psalm on your lips when someone does you a bad turn. I tell you, be careful with this word. Be not proud like many Christians today who say, 'all we want is love!' Really with that thought - we love so much - we have outgrown the phase of imprecatory psalms. It is a good question whether these loving people really love the Lord! They who really love the LORD must finally hate all those who hate this God.
To love the neighbour is therefore not so simple. There are all kinds of people in many lands. I love them and may the missionaries reach all of them with the message of God's love in Christ. But with a view to loving our neighbour, are all of these people the same to us?
Russians and Negros? Americans and Africans? I don't think so. Those heathen do not yet know the LORD. But the gospel was in Russia, in America, and was there rejected. The Russians speak much of 'communal fellowship', but ruination and misery are in their ways. The United Nations speak great swelling words of peace, but they have not known the way of peace. In the modern world, and also in the Netherlands, the name of God is used in vain. In that case they speak about politics which respect the great principles of 'justice', mercy and love for one's fellowman. But in practice it meant that our soldiers went to Korea, while those in Ambon were left to die. Exactly those people who shouted loudest the peace slogans of the United Nations, and defended it as 'Christian', precisely those people became known as 'men of blood' in what they did. O, that we would understand this. Someone told me some time ago, 'we live in a strange world'. At the most only five percent of people want war, the rest does not want it. And yet, another war seems inevitable.
Is it true that only a few men are men of blood and the great masses love life? I don't believe it. Everyone is afraid for his own self, but life, the way God made it, is not respected. How is it that in Korea they play so lightly with the lives of so many young men? Because before this, they bungled with the beginnings of life in such a horrible way. Do you wonder about the cruelties displayed in Korea? But how can someone love his neighbour at the battlefield when he first failed to prove that in the bedroom? How shall he be able to live a holy life there when he did not first confess the name of the LORD in the Church and sing the praises of His great works of redemption?
3. That is why David ends the psalm with prayer. These men of blood were precisely men who had known the name of God, and had tasted His love in all His works. Afterwards they hated Him! Now, David is afraid for himself!
When he cursed God's enemies, it was not with the proud feeling that this would never happen to Him. But he fears and trembles. He knows that when left to himself it could happen to him. For there is so much in his own heart that is not right! And therefore he prays at the end of the psalm the same as he confessed at the opening as the glory of his existence, 'O LORD, thou hast searched me, and known me'.
'LORD, thou knowest everything about me.' David knows that the Lord looks right through him. That is Thy love to me. To me in my humble existence. To me in this big world. To me from the time before I was born, until the other side of the grave. Thou Who in love knows and searches my thoughts, continue in me this work of grace. Let Thy love hold on to me, when I sit down and stand up, when I rise up and lay me down to sleep. Especially in my thoughts! 'Search me, and know my thoughts!' For what I think is not much good.
From being absorbed in thought, from my worrying, it is so easy to fall into sin. There are many who hate Thee, but I don't hate Thee, I will not hate Thee. But my heart is also sinful, the thoughts of my heart are only evil continually. Before I know it, I could be on 'a wicked way', which takes me to the abyss and to the men of blood. Wilt thou keep my thinking from evil, thou knowest everything. Keep on looking at me in love. Take those evil thoughts away from me, 'and lead me in the way everlasting', on a way which abides and leads me to eternal joy.
LORD, with all my heart I said 'yes' to Thee, Who searcheth me and knows me. I have said 'no' to those who hate Thee. But leave me not to myself and the evil thoughts of my heart. LORD, I have said, 'thou art always near me'. Oh, remain near me with Thy grace, Lord Jesus, that the rule of the enemy shall never harm me.
The Lord will certainly hear such a prayer.
Beloved, I have proclaimed to you Who the LORD will be for each of His children. This is the answer you must give Him, "For this God is our God! Make it as personal as David did:
This God is our God,
For ever and ever;
He will be our guide even unto death."
And when I awake, I am still... with Thee!