I feel like this psalm is a peak into king David’s head when he spends all that time in God’s presence. I’ve commented before about how in the thrilling narrative of Samuel he reacts to stress by slowing down and filling his mind with God.
The thoughtlines here have all the time and space they need to go where they want to go, though he also has the economy of a poet in the way he evokes them.
It starts and ends talking about being searched by God. I love how he reverses the tenses from what you would expect. He starts by saying God has searched him, and ends by asking God to search him. Its open ended.
He first chases that idea of being known by God into his daily activities… His going out and coming in, God is before him and behind him. He finds it mind boggling. And it is.
I mean, he’s a VIP, king David, so maybe it would make sense that God would give him special consideration, but it’s the same for me, for every soul, including the ones we haven’t the time or energy to care about ourselves. The last shall be first. Each flower of the field more glorious than Solomon, all known, each of us of infinite value.
Then the vision of God goes into scale: forget the daily movements, look beyond the village. You could zoom to the highest, furthest; be hidden in the darkest where you’d think no one or nothing could see, and God would be higher, further, and exposing the darkness like day.
Then the God who is eternal. The idea of God knowing and planning our days before he knits us together in the womb. I’m not a medical man, or indeed a philosopher, but I can appreciate that much is evoked in the phrase “fearfully and wonderfully made”.
He considers the number and value of God’s thoughts… infinite, like grains of sand, but hugely valuable.
These are the sorts of places David’s mind goes when he hears assassins are out to get him. This depth of love and certainty about God is why he can trust him so decisively.
So this is a psalm to go to in distress, when you need to pursue your own thoughtlines about the presence and control of God.
And people do, I feel like most of the lines of this psalm have turned up on posters, or on Facebook image memes!
David ends it with a capper we are used to by now… He’s not actually in a situation that lends itself to being relaxed and ruminative, he’s in a serious pickle. Hence, I guess, the dramatic shift from thinking about the delicate preciousness of God knitting us in the womb to asking God to side with him in the coming fight and slay his enemies.
That’s why the fiddling with tense: you have searched me God, please search me! Expose and calm my anxious thoughts, purify my motives to align with your character.
We go forward into the mess, as messy people with God’s spirit: in front and behind, highest, farthest, deepest, forever.