O Lord, you have searched me and known me! 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. – Psalm 139:1-3 ESV
This prayer of David is an interesting and informative one. In it, he focuses the majority of his attention on God Himself. I have a hard time remembering the last time (possibly only) that I did that. My prayers tend to be about me. My needs, my wants, my desires, my agenda, my suggested solutions to God for my problems. Rarely do I take the time in my prayers to focus all my attention on Him. But when I read a prayer like this one, I am reminded that my understanding of God will dictate so much of what I think about the world. My view of God will alter my view of life and my circumstances. And it will radically change the way I pray. David starts out his prayer with an acknowledgement that God (Jehovah, the Existing One) has already thoroughly searched him and knew him well. Nothing in David’s life was news to God. He knew David from the inside-out. In fact, David admitted the somewhat disconcerting, bu also comforting fact that God knew when David sat down and when he stood up. He knew all of his thoughts, even from a distance. The phrase, “from afar” probably refers to time, not space. It most likely refers to David’s motives. So God knows what we are going to do before we even do it, just when we’re thinking about doing it. That should change the way we look at God and sin. He really is omniscient – all knowing. David was fully aware that God was watching his every step, even when he traveled or when he was rest at home. And God was well acquainted with ALL his ways. For David, there was no thought of trying to pull one over on God. He knew he couldn’t sneak anything past a God who kept him constantly in His sights. God knew his most intimate thoughts before they ever became action. He watched David every moment of every day, and He knew his most inner thoughts. Now that reality could produce in us either fear and dread, or it could result in comfort and a sense of God’s love and sovereign watchfulness over our lives. David doesn’t seem to be recounting all this about God as a complaint. He was quite content to have a God who was that powerful, yet intimately involved in his life. The God of the universe knew him and was watching over him. What an amazing thought. But that amazing thought escapes most of us who claim to be followers of Christ and sons and daughters of God. We somehow think that God doesn’t see us, fails to watch over us, is oblivious to what is happening to us, and far too busy to give much thought to us. But David would argue against that strongly. He would tell us that our God is omniscient (all-knowing) and omnipresent (present in all places at all times). But David was not alone in this regard. Jeremiah the prophet recorded these words directly from God. “Can a man hide himself in secret places so that I cannot see him? declares the Lord. Do I not fill heaven and earth? declares the Lord” (Jeremiah 23:24 ESV). Even Jesus spoke of God’s ability to see the unseen. “But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you” (Matthew 6:6 ESV). God sees all. He knows all. He is never surprised or caught off guard. I like to say that God is never up in heaven, wringing His hands in worry, wondering how something happened to one of His children without His knowledge. He is never shocked by our actions or surprised by our words. He knew what we were going to say or do beforehand. He knows the thoughts of our hearts and the expression those thoughts will take. So our prayer lives should be far less about informing God of our faults, failings, and sins. He already knows. Confession is not us telling God something He doesn’t already know. It is us agreeing with God that what He knows about us is true. If anyone has been living in in denial or in a state of ignorance, it has been us. God uses His Word and His Spirit to convict us of sin. He reveals our heart to us. Then He invites us to confess that sin and allow Him to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Knowing that God knows – everything – should come as a relief, not some form of bad news. There is nothing we can hide. While we can spend years attempting to hide our sin from others, we can come to God openly and honestly, because we are not going to tell Him anything He doesn’t already know. He is fully aware that we have a sin problem. We are the ones who tend to live in a state of denial. God isn’t appalled by our sin as much as He is by our lack of confession and repentance. He convicts and we justify our actions. He points out our sin and we make excuses or pass blame. In another one of his prayers, David said, “You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God” (Psalm 51:17 NLT). The question isn’t whether God knows our sin. It’s whether we do. And if we do, are we willing to agree with God about it and admit it to Him? At the close of this same prayer, David prays, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life” (Psalm 139:23-24 NLT). God knows things about us that we don’t know. We need to tap into His knowledge and allow Him to reveal secret sins, hidden motives, and anything that might keep us from living the life He has called us to. God knows and He stands ready to forgive. What a relief.