You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from afar.
You search out my path and my lying down
and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.
You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is high; I cannot attain it.
Psalm 139:1-6 (ESV).
We studied the 139th Psalm in Sunday School class this morning. The first five verses of the Psalm outline all the ways that God knows us: our actions and thoughts (2), the direction of our lives (3), our words - before we speak them (4), indeed; us completely (1). Later in the Psalm, in the King James translation, the Psalmist says, Thine eyes did see my substance.
After laying all the knowledge that God has of us, in the sixth verse Psalmist says, that “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it.” What knowledge is unattainable? Self-knowledge equal to God’s. Not only are God’s thoughts about himself higher than us, but his very knowledge about us is unattainable. We can’t ever know ourselves as well as God does.
So does the Psalmist ask for greater self-knowledge? Teach me about myself, oh Lord, so that I may know what you know? On the contrary, the Psalmist invites God to widen the gap even further “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts!” (23).
In the Psalm, there is only one action on the part of the Psalmist: praise (14). Once it is understood how much more God knows us and how we can never have perfect self knowledge, the only appropriate response is to invite him to an even deeper knowledge and then to praise him.