If I place an opened cookie jar on the table in the middle of my three daughters, I’m pretty sure I know what is going to happen. Isabelle will negotiate an agreement to obtain a cookie. Annaleigh will bat her eyes and ask through pouted lips, “Daddy, can I have a cookie?” Cecilia will impatiently wait until her sisters get the cookie, and then she will take it from them. If I place unprotected cookies in the center of the table I know what’s going to happen. Does that mean I can tell the future? I don’t think so, but it does mean that I know my daughters better than they know themselves.
“O Lord, you have searched me and known me,” begins Psalm 139. God knows us better than we know ourselves, and the good news is that God still bothers to be our God. “Even before a word is on my tongue, Lord, You know it completely.” Some would ask, “Then what’s the point?” Indeed. What is the point of singing “How Great is Our God.” I’m assuming today isn’t the first time you’ve heard it, and if it was I pray that it was a blessing to you. “In an old house in Paris that was covered with vines lived twelve little girls in two straight lines.” A few days ago I read Madeline to my girls during bed, bath, and beyond. We all know the story. That doesn’t mean we only read it once. God knows the words that are on your tongue and in your heart, and we are called to share them. God is not a manager who is interested in the daily report. God is fundamentally interested in you. Saying “I love you” to my wife is not a conveyance of information; rather it is an investment in relationship. God knows what is on our heart, and the good news is that God will take the time to listen anyway.
“You know when I sit down and when I rise up.” How purposefully mundane is that? I would expect that God would take notice of when we saved the company or reinvented public education or solved world hunger and certainly God smiles because of the big stuff, but God is also there when we first open our eyes in the morning and when we close them at night. When we can find God in those moments between breaths we begin to grasp at the awesomeness of God.
These first six verses remind us of God’s unlimited knowledge, and the next six verses reveals God’s unlimited presence. “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven you are there. If I make my bed in Sheol you are there.” It is easy to miss the scandal of presence the poet suggests. After God offered the Law to Moses and the Ancient Israelites he commanded that they built a tent or tabernacle so that God could travel with them. Later after the kingdom was established, Solomon built a Temple in which God could live. When the Temple was in Jerusalem, God dwelt in the Holy of Holies. You would bring your sacrifice to the Temple. You would bring your offering to the Temple. You would go to God, in essence. The poet, here, doesn’t mention the Temple. He specifically mentions God being outside of the Temple. We like walls. We like boundaries and borders. It helps us define who we are and who we are not.
Borders do have a purpose and are important, but they can be taken too far. Do we really believe that God can be in both Israel and Gaza? Do we really believe that God is in both Russia and Ukraine? Do we have faith that God is traveling with immigrant children forced to find a better way? It is a complex issue, and there will be great politicking and posturing. Will not be able to solve Israeli/Palestinia and Russian/Ukrainian and North and South American border disputes in the context of this worship service today, but what I want to say is this. Can we with the Psalmist also proclaim the scandal of God’s unbound presence? If I make my bed on this side of the wall or that side of the wall, on neither side can I run from God’s presence, and that should give us pause when tension escalates to violence.
God is omniscient, unbound by human intellect. God is also omnipresent, unbound by the walls we build, whether the walls surround nations or buildings or they are the walls into which we put each other or the walls we build around our own heart. If I ascend to heaven, when I’m enjoying the best of times, you are there. When I make my bed in Sheol, when I have hit rock bottom, you are there. When my soul leaps for joy you are there. When my heart breaks your heart breaks as well. Where can I go to flee from your presence?
A God who is all-knowing and always present is one thing, but the next few verses reveal that the very essence of God resides in our own fingertips. “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.” The more you learn about a painter the more you are able to recognize the fingerprints of his or her own work. The more you know about a musician the more you are able to hear their identity in their music. As we grow in faith we begin to see the face of Christ in each other. You are wonderfully made. Do you believe that? If you are wonderfully made then so is your neighbor, so is the person who was born on the wrong side of the tracks, so is the person at work that you can’t stand, so is your enemy. My how the world would be different if we just meditated on that one verse. We don’t always follow the master’s design, but we all have the capacity to change the world.
God is omniscient, which means that God knows you better than you know yourself. God is omnipresent, which means there are no human-made borders in the kingdom of God. God is omnificent, which means God has unlimited creativity, and it is God’s omnificence which continues to work on you by the power of the Holy Spirit. God is not finished with us, and how thankful I am for that. In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.