Pastor's Weekly Newsletter

Each Friday, Dr. Daniel Hagmaier posts his weekly newsletter. Catch up on what's happening and plan ahead.

PSALM 139 | THE INESCAPABLE GOD

THE INESCAPABLE GOD

PSALM 139

SEPTEMBER 4, 2016

 

 

WHAT IF YOU COULDN’T ESCAPE FOR A WHILE?

 

YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN, NO ANNUAL VACATION; NO OCCASIONAL WEEKENDS AWAY; NO DAYS OFF; NO DOWNTIME AT NIGHT OR ON THE WEEKENDS.

 

WHAT IF THERE WAS NO ESCAPE?  NO WAY OUT?  NO TIME OFF?  ALWAYS ON – 24/7/365.

 

I GOT TO THINKING ABOUT THAT WHEN READING THIS PSALM FOR THIS MORNING.

 

AND I ALSO THOUGHT ABOUT ALL OF THE WAYS WE DO ESCAPE, CHECK OUT, TAKE TIME OFF, RETREAT FROM TIME TO TIME.

 

GREAT WEEKEND GETAWAYS – THE TRAVEL SITES WILL SEND OUT ABOUT MID-WEEK IN CASE WE’RE LOOKING TO GET AWAY THIS WEEKEND.

 

OTHERS OF US GO FOR A WALK OR RUN WHEN WE NEED TO GET AWAY;

 

AROUND HERE PEOPLE GET OUT ON THE WATER, AND IF WE’RE LUCKY, OUT OF CELL PHONE RANGE FOR A TIME;

 

MOTHERS SOMETIMES RETREAT TO AN ELUSIVE, CHILD FREE, UNINTERRUPTED BUBBLE BATH; MEN HEAD TO THE RECESSES OF THEIR MAN CAVES OR WORKSHOPS;

 

SOME OF US TAKE A NAP; A GOOD NIGHT’S SLEEP IS OFTEN OUR RESPITE;

 

PEOPLE LOSE THEMSELVES IN A GOOD BOOK; LISTEN TO MUSIC USING HEADPHONES TO SHUT OUT THE WORLD; HEAD OUT TO THE MOVIES FOR A COUPLE OF HOURS; WATCH SPORTS; OR JUST TURN OFF THEIR PHONES TO GET A LITTLE PEACE AND QUIET FOR A WHILE.

 

WE ALL NEED TO GET AWAY FROM “IT” WHATEVER OR WHOMEVER “IT” IS FOR US.  WE NEED TIME OFF; TIME AWAY; TIME OUT; TIME ALONE.

 

WHY, WE EVEN CALL THE PLACE WE COME TO WORSHIP A “SANCTUARY” A PLACE AWAY FROM THE REST OF THE WORLD FOR A TIME.

 

I MENTION OUR NEED TO ESCAPE IN THE FACE OF WHAT THE PSALMIST WOULD SEEM TO SUGGEST IS AN INESCAPABLE GOD.

BY THAT I MEAN TWO THINGS: 1.  GOD NEVER GETS A DAY OFF – 24/7/365/FOR ETERNITY; AND 2. THERE’S NO WAY FOR US TO ESCAPE GOD – EVER…

EVEN IF ONLY FOR A LITTLE WHILE.

 

AT THE RISK OF THAT MAKING GOD OUT TO BE SOME SORT OF STALKER – A GOD WHO SEES ALL, KNOWS ALL, IS EVERYWHERE;

 

WATCHING US, WATCHING OVER US, JUDGING US, FORGIVING US, RENEWING AND PRESERVING US;

 

GOD NEVER TAKES A DAY OFF; TIME OUT; A VACATION FROM BEING GOD; OR FROM BEING THERE FOR US EITHER.

 

THIS IS SUPPOSED TO MAKE US FEEL GOOD.  THIS IS SUPPOSED TO ASSURE US OF GOD’S CONSTANT AND ETERNAL WATCH CARE.  THIS IS SUPPOSED TO CONFIRM FOR US THAT GOD IS ALWAYS AND FOREVER WITH US.

 

THIS IS WHAT THE PSALMIST IS TRYING TO SAY; TO SING; TO PRAY; IN THE WORDS OF THE 139TH PSALM; AND FOR THAT REASON, WHY THIS PSALM IS SO OFTEN READ AT PEOPLE’S FUNERALS.

 

THAT THE GOD WHO HAS BEEN WITH US EVERY STEP OF THE WAY, EVEN BEFORE OUR FIRST STEPS, FROM THE MOMENT WE WERE CONCEIVED IN OUR MOTHER’S WOMB, WILL BE THERE FOR US FOR ALL ETERNITY.

 

VERSE 8 SEEMS ESPECIALLY APPROPRIATE FOR THIS BEING A FUNERAL PASSAGE: “IF I ASCEND TO HEAVEN, YOU ARE THERE; IF I MAKE MY BED IN SHEOL, YOU ARE THERE.”

 

IN OTHER WORDS, WHEREVER I END UP, HEAVEN OR HELL, GOD’S GOING TO BE THERE FOR ME.

 

THAT’S WHAT THE PSALMIST SAYS IN VERSE 8.  IT’S ALSO WHAT WE SAY WHEN WE RECITE THE APOSTLES’ CREED: “(JESUS) DESCENDED INTO HELL.”

 

THERE’S NO LIMIT TO WHERE GOD WILL GO FOR US, BUT THAT’S A WHOLE OTHER SERMON FOR ANOTHER TIME.

 

WHAT THIS PSALM AFFIRMS, CONFIRMS, VERIFIES IS THAT GOD IS GOD; WE ARE WE; AND THE GOD WHO NEVER TAKES A DAY OFF FROM BEING GOD IS ALWAYS AND FOREVER INTERESTED IN WHAT’S GOING ON IN OUR LIVES.

 

SO FIRST, LET’S SAY SOMETHING ABOUT WHAT THIS PSALM SAYS ABOUT GOD.

 

WHILE IT DOESN’T ACTUALLY USE THESE WORDS, AND NEITHER DO WE MUCH ANYMORE, FOR A LONG TIME PEOPLE SPOKE OF GOD BEING:

OMNISCIENT, OMNIPRESENT, OMNIPOTENT, AND FOR THIS MORNING I’D LIKE TO ADD TWO MORE, OMNIFICENT, AND OMNIJUDGEMENT.

 

I’M NOT GOING TO SPEND A LOT OF TIME DETAILING EACH OF THESE; FOR ONE THING, MOST OF US ALREADY KNOW WHAT THEY MEAN;

 

AND FOR ANOTHER THING, KNOWING THESE THINGS ABOUT GOD DOESN’T AMOUNT TO A HILL OF BEANS, IF WE DON’T HAVE A RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD; WHICH IS REALLY WHAT THIS PSALM IS ABOUT.

 

OMNISCIENT MEANS GOD IS ALL KNOWING.

 

THIS IS THE VERY FIRST THING THE PSALMIST SAYS IN THE 139TH PSALM: “O LORD, YOU HAVE SEARCHED ME AND KNOWN ME.”

 

AND THEN HE TALKS ABOUT ALL THE WAYS GOD KNOWS US – WHEN WE SIT DOWN, WHEN WE RISE UP; DISCERNING OUR THOUGHTS FROM AFAR;

 

SEARCHING OUT OUR PATH, AND WHEN WE ARE LYING DOWN, ACQUAINTED WITH ALL OUR WAYS; EVEN KNOWING THE WORDS WE ARE GOING TO SAY BEFORE THEY ARE ON OUR TONGUE.

 

GOD IS BEFORE US AND BEHIND US; GOD’S HAND IS UPON US; WHAT GOD KNOWS IS MORE THAN WE’LL EVER KNOW.

 

GOD KNOWS US!  AND NOT JUST US, BUT EVERYONE!  AND NOT JUST EVERYONE, BUT EVERYTHING.  GOD IS OMNISCIENT.  ALL KNOWING.

 

GOD IS OMNIPRESENT – EVERYWHERE PRESENT AT ONCE.

 

ONCE AGAIN, THE PSALMIST TRIES TO SAY AS MUCH: “WHERE CAN I GO FROM YOUR SPIRIT?  WHERE CAN I FLEE FROM YOUR PRESENCE?”

 

THEN THE PSALMIST TRIES TO THINK OF EVERYWHERE AND ANYWHERE GOD IS OR ISN’T, MIGHT OR MIGHT NOT BE – HEAVEN OR HELL, AT THE ENDS OF THE EARTH, OR THE FAR REACHES OF THE SEA, IN LIGHT AND IN DARKNESS;

 

ANYWHERE AND EVERYWHERE… GOD IS.  GOD IS OMNIPRESENT.  EVERYWHERE AT ONCE.

 

GOD IS OMNIFICENT.  ALL CREATING.

 

WHAT’S INTERESTING, HAVING JUST BEEN EVERYWHERE, ALL OVER CREATION, FROM HEAVEN ABOVE TO HELL BELOW AND EVERYWHERE IN BETWEEN IN PROVING GOD IS OMNIPRESENT, WHEN THE PSALMIST TRIES TO MAKE THE POINT THAT GOD IS ALL CREATING, HE FOCUSES ON HIMSELF; ON HIS OWN CREATION.

 

“FOR IT WAS YOU WHO FORMED MY INWARD PARTS; YOU KNIT ME TOGETHER IN MY MOTHER’S WOMB.  I PRAISE YOU, FOR I AM FEARFULLY AND WONDERFULLY MADE.  WONDERFUL ARE YOUR WORKS; THAT I KNOW WELL.”

 

GOD IS OMNIFICENT.  ALL CREATING.  GOD CREATES US.

 

FROM HERE THE PSALMIST SLIDES VERY EASILY INTO THE IDEA THAT GOD IS ALSO OMNIPOTENT.  ALL POWERFUL.

 

AGAIN, FOCUSING MOSTLY ON HIS OWN LIFE, AND HIS OWN INTERACTIONS WITH GOD, THE PSALMIST SEEKS TO SHOW THAT GOD’S POWER IS LIMITLESS.

 

SECRETLY, INTRICATELY WOVEN IN THE DEPTHS OF THE EARTH; GOD BEHOLDING HIS UNFORMED SUBSTANCE; WRITING THE DAYS OF HIS LIFE, EVEN BEFORE ANY OF THEM EXISTED.

 

EVEN GOD’S THOUGHTS ARE ALL POWERFUL; TOO WEIGHTY TO BE COMPREHENDED; TOO VAST TO BE COUNTED; AS MANY AS THE GRAINS OF SAND ON THE EARTH!

 

AND HERE, IN VERSE 18 IS SOMETHING KIND OF FUNNY, IF WE WERE READING THIS IN ITS ORIGINAL HEBREW.

 

WHEN THE AUTHOR SAYS THAT HE HAS TRIED TO COUNT THE THOUGHTS OF GOD, AND FOUND THEM TO BE MORE THAN THE SAND; HE THEN SAYS “I COME TO THE END;”

 

WHICH HERE, LITERALLY MEANS, I FELL ASLEEP.  YOU FELL ASLEEP?!

 

THE REASON I SAY THIS IS FUNNY, IS BECAUSE IF THIS PSALM IS FIRST AND FOREMOST A PRAYER; IT MEANS THE PSALMIST FELL ASLEEP WHILE HE WAS PRAYING!  WHILE HE WAS PONDERING ALL OF THE THOUGHTS OF GOD.

 

WHO OF US HAS NOT DONE THAT ON OCCASION?  FALLEN ASLEEP WHILE SAYING OUR NIGHTLY PRAYERS?!

 

BUT WHAT MAKES THIS SO WONDERFUL IS WHAT THE PSALMIST SAYS NEXT: “I COME TO THE END” – I FELL ASLEEP – “I AM STILL WITH YOU.”

 

IN OTHER WORDS, THE PSALMIST FALLS ASLEEP WHILE PRAYING, AND WHILE ASLEEP, AND WHEN HE AWAKENS, GOD IS STILL WITH HIM!  ISN’T THAT GREAT?!

 

GOD IS OMNIPOTENT.  ALL POWERFUL.

FINALLY, THE PSALMIST SAYS, GOD IS OMNIJUDGEMENT.  ALL JUDGING.  HE DOESN’T EXACTLY USE THAT WORD;

 

IN FACT, THE WORDS HE DOES USE SOUND PRETTY HARSH TO MOST OF US:

 

“O THAT YOU WOULD KILL THE WICKED, O GOD, AND THAT THE BLOODTHIRSTY WOULD DEPART FROM ME – THOSE WHO SPEAK OF YOU MALICIOUSLY, AND LIFT THEMSELVES UP AGAINST YOU FOR EVIL!”

 

TRUTH IS, WHILE WE MAY NOT BE AS EMBOLDENED AS THE PSALMIST IS IN USING THESE KINDS OF WORDS FOR OUR ENEMIES, AND FOR THOSE WE BELIEVE TO BE THE ENEMIES OF GOD, WE DO THINK THESE THINGS FROM TIME TO TIME.

 

AND NOT ONLY THAT – WE ARE PRETTY CERTAIN, IN OUR MINDS, EXACTLY WHO GOD’S ENEMIES ARE, WHO OUR ENEMIES ARE; AND WE HAVE NO TROUBLE AT ALL BELIEVING THAT GOD WILL JUDGE THEM!

 

IN FACT, THE PSALMIST CAPTURES THIS VERY IDEA AS HE ALIGNS HIMSELF WITH GOD AGAINST THE ENEMIES OF GOD.  “IT’S YOU AND ME, GOD, AGAINST…

 

“DO I NOT HATE THOSE WHO HATE YOU, O LORD?  AND DO I NOT LOATHE THOSE WHO WILL RISE UP AGAINST YOU?  I HATE THEM WITH A PERFECT HATRED; I COUNT THEM AS MY ENEMIES.”

 

AND THEN, IN THE MIDST OF ALL THIS CERTAINTY AS TO EXACTLY WHO GOD’S ENEMIES ARE… AND HOW THEY ARE THE PSALMIST’S ENEMIES AS WELL…

 

THE PSALMIST CHECKS HIMSELF A BIT, REALIZING THAT THE GOD WHO IS THE JUDGE OF HIS ENEMIES, IS ALSO THE JUDGE OF EVERYONE.  OMNIJUDGEMENT.

 

AND BECAUSE OF THIS, AND TO HIS CREDIT, THE PSALMIST ASKS GOD TO TAKE A LOOK AT HIS LIFE AS WELL:

 

“SEARCH ME, O GOD, AND KNOW MY HEART; TEST ME AND KNOW MY THOUGHTS.  SEE IF THERE IS ANY WICKED IN ME, AND LEAD ME IN THE WAY EVERLASTING.”

 

HOW EASY IS IT FOR US TO LOOK AT THE LIVES OF OTHERS, TO JUDGE THEM, TO BELIEVE THAT GOD JUDGES THEM;

 

BUT HOW HARD IS IT TO ASK GOD TO JUDGE OUR OWN LIVES BY THE SAME STANDARDS WE WANT GOD TO JUDGE OTHERS?

 

TALK ABOUT TRUE FAITH; AND CONFIDENCE IN GOD!

AT THE START OF THIS I MENTIONED HOW THE PSALMIST’S INTENTIONS WERE NOT SO MUCH TO TELL US ABOUT GOD; OR TO USE BIG, TWENTY-FIVE CENT WORDS TO DESCRIBE GOD:

 

OMNISCIENT, OMNIPRESENT, OMNIFICENT, OMNIPOTENT, OMNIJUDGEMENT;

 

BUT RATHER, TO TALK ABOUT A RELATIONSHIP, A PERSONAL RELATIONSHIP, BETWEEN GOD AND HIMSELF.

 

THAT THE ONLY WAY FOR HIM, FOR US, TO TRULY KNOW GOD, TO BELIEVE IN GOD, TO ENCOUNTER GOD, TO EXPERIENCE GOD, IS TO BE IN A RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD.

 

SOME HAVE DESCRIBED THIS RELATIONSHIP AS “I – THOU” OR IN THE MORE MODERN PARLANCE, “I – YOU”.

 

THIS IS WHAT THE PSALMIST DOES.  HE SPEAKS OF HIS RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD.  HE SPEAKS OF GOD BEING PRESENT EVERYWHERE AT ONCE, BUT MOST ESPECIALLY, AND PERSONALLY, WHERE GOD IS FOR HIM, THE PSALMIST.

 

THE PSALMIST DOESN’T GENERALIZE.  HE DOESN’T TRY TO OVERWHELM US WITH THE GOD OF ALL CREATION.

 

HE DOESN’T SPEAK ONLY OF THE HIGH AND LIFTED UP GOD; THE FAR OFF GOD; THE GOD OF ALL THAT IS; OMNI THIS AND OMNI THAT

 

BUT RATHER, OF THE GOD WHO IS HERE, THERE AND EVERYWHERE, FOR HIM.

 

I THINK THE PSALMIST KNEW, THAT WE WOULD FIGURE IT OUT; THAT IF GOD IS HERE, THERE, AND EVERYWHERE FOR HIM, THEN GOD IS HERE, THERE, AND EVERYWHERE FOR US AS WELL.

 

THE PSALMIST MAKES NO EXCLUSIVE CLAIMS ON GOD; THAT GOD BELONGS ONLY TO HIM AND TO THOSE LIKE HIM.

 

INSTEAD, THE PSALMIST SAYS THAT GOD IS FOR EVERYONE, FOR EACH ONE, HERE, THERE, AND EVERYWHERE;

 

ALL THE TIME AND FOREVER!  24/7/365/FOR ETERNITY!

 

 

 

Want more information?

Pastor Daniel writes and posts a weekly newsletter that keeps members and friends of the congregation up-to-date. His earlier newsletters are also online, so if you missed something, check those past editions.

On being Presbyterian

Learn more

Peace Covenant Presbyterian is part of the PCUSA church. We are a mainstream, inclusive congregation.

Contact us

Peace Covenant

2610 Flagler Ave.
Key West, FL 33040
(305) 294-1223

  • About Key West
  • About Us
  • Our Mission
  • Our History

 

  • Committees
  • Membership
  • Baptisms & Weddings
  • Give
  • Choir & Bells
  • Calendar
  • Newsletter
  • Sermons
  • On Being Presbyterian 

Welcome to Peace Covenant

Contact us

Peace Covenant Presbyterian Church | 2610 Flagler Ave., Key West, FL 33040 | (305) 294-1223 | contact@peacecovenantkeywest.com