Psalm 139:4-5 - The Verses Project

Bible Psalm 139:4-5

Posted May 05, 2014

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.

We continue our journey memorizing Psalm 139 over 9 weeks. In verses 1-3, we celebrated both the perfect knowledge of God as well as His personal knowledge of us. He is not a God who stays away at a distance, but rather knows us intimately, and that’s exactly where we pick up this week. If God’s knowledge is perfect and personal, discerning our very thoughts, it follows that before we speak a word already God knows it. God even knows the words we refrain from speaking… He is the Great Knower and Searcher of hearts. The psalmist illustrates this using two different pictures:


The first picture is that of God hemming us in behind and before. The verb “hem” means “to surround”. The picture here is of complete surrounding, not just partial. If God knows when we sit down and when we rise, and knows our very thoughts before we even speak them. There is nowhere we could go to escape Him. As we mentioned last week, this thought brings great comfort to some and terror to others. There is no hiding from the God who hems you in completely and thoroughly.


The psalmist teaches that not only does God hem us in, but He also lays His hand upon us. Bruce Waltke stated, “On the one hand, God's hand can shelter a person (Exod. 33:22) or graciously impart power and benefit (Ezra 7:6; Neh. 2:8). On the other hand, more often the figure signifies the imposition of a will opposed in some way to another's own. When used with sit ("set, place"), the gesture of laying one's hand on another exhibits full authority. The gesture crushes people or destroys the person in judgment (Exod. 7:4; Ezek. 39:21). Job pleads for the removal of God's hand upon him (Job 13:21; see also 41:8 [40:32]).” The point remains: God is forever and always near. If you are in Christ, upon you is the hand of a gracious & disciplining Father. If apart from Christ, upon you is the hand of a holy & righteous Judge. May we run to Christ for refuge and be met by a hand of grace!


Song by Charlie Hall.
Production by Dustin Ragland.
Artwork by Lauren Miller (graphite & collage).