Lesson 3 –
Psalm 139: 1-6; 13-18
To the leader. Of David. A Psalm.
1 O Lord, you have searched me
and known me.
2 You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from far away.
3 You search out my path and my lying down,
and are acquainted with all my ways.
4 Even before a word is on my tongue,
O Lord, you know it completely.
5 You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is so high that I cannot attain it.
13 For it was you who formed my inward parts;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works; that I know very well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes beheld my unformed substance.
In your book were written all the days that were formed for me,
when none of them as yet existed.
17 How weighty to me are your thoughts, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!
18 I try to count them—they are more than the sand;
I come to the end—I am still with you.
This text is a popular lectionary text. We just read it six months ago, if you remember! Psalms are a unique genre of biblical text. They are historic documents in that they
capture the tone of a given moment. They are poetry. They are laments. They are protest lyrics. They are prayers. The entire Psalm we read today holds multiple emotions at
once. In your own devotional period, read Psalm 139 in its entirety. What verse feels most like where you are right now? What would you add to it?
Today’s lesson will focus on the bigness of God and God’s Creation.
Read the scripture out loud together. Discuss with someone in your home. When was the last time you looked up into the sky? What did you observe?
What’s happening during this passage?
This psalm is an account from David. He imagines God as an inescapable God. God is characterized as someone who knows “all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, you know it completely.” God is the one who formed the writer. The writer knows that God’s works are wonderful, including himself! Using a metaphor, David says that “in your book were written all the days that were formed for me, when none of them as yet existed.” The passage closes with the writer’s fascination in God’s bigness. “How weighty are your thoughts! How vast is the sum of them!”
What are weighty thoughts?
There are just some things that don’t make sense. Can you believe that the same God who made the “sun, moon, and stars in their courses above” also made you? Have you ever watched sea creatures swim about like ballerinas? Isn’t it cool to watch flowers open up and close, or turn towards the Sun depending on the time of day? What “wonderful works” do you imagine David is reflecting on?
So much in our world doesn’t make sense. But even though it seems beyond our comprehension, it’s still beautiful. David can’t wrap his mind around the imagination of God. He attempts to “count them– they are more than the sand; I come to the end– I am still with you.” All David has to reference is the cosmic universe. And he can’t even understand God using the metaphor of sand. It’s too much to consider!
Why does it matter that the writer sees God’s other works as “wonderful?”
We are still in the first quarter of the New Year. Every year, fitness and diet programs make billions of dollars off the most popular New Year’s Resolution– to lose weight. But this scripture reminds us that God loves us as we are. It’s important to hear this message over and over again! Especially because quarantine has forced us to become more sedentary than we’d like to be, and many people cope with a loss of control with disordered eating, we have to be even that more mindful about the messages we allow into our hearts.
It’s not just weight. It’s skin color. It’s hair texture. It’s age. It’s money. It’s relationship status. We are bombarded with images of what beauty and success are, and it rarely feels like something attainable. When we feel overwhelmed, we can encourage ourselves with the reminder that, “I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” God makes no mistakes!
We can always work towards being the best versions of ourselves, but remember, there’s only one YOU! And praise God for that!
What questions do you still have of this scripture? How will you commit to journeying with this text this week?
Connection to Today’s World
It’s Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. weekend! A fun fact about Dr. King is that he and his wife would let their children stay up late to watch Star Trek featuring Nichelle Nichols. It was groundbreaking to have a character like Lieutenant Uhura on national television. A Black woman in space? Unheard of! At an event, actress Nichelle confessed to Dr. King that she was considering leaving the cast. He told her “no! You can’t leave! You have such an impact on this nation!” She needed that boost. She stayed on.
Fast forward a few decades, and Dr. Mae Jemison becomes the first Black woman to take part in an outer space mission. Who does she credit as her inspiration for pursuing space-exploration? Nichelle Nichols, of course! We never know who is watching us, who is being inspired by our witness, who feels encouraged by us doing what we’re called to do. It’s okay to be overwhelmed and frustrated. Remember that nothing we do is in vain. You never know… someone may be inspired to follow in your footsteps one day. Because you are fearfully and wonderfully made, just as you are!
Journal: The writer talks about “weighty thoughts” in the mind of God. What do you wish you understood more?
Closing: Listen to “Search Me Lord,” by Rev. Charles Nicks and the St. James Adult Choir.
You know Lord, whether I’m right.
You know Lord, whether I’m wrong.
You know Lord, whether I’m right or wrong.
Whether I’m right or wrong.
While I’m down here praying, Lord search my heart (x3)
Search me! Search me Lord!
You have ordered the sun, moon, and stars in their courses above. You have created order where there was none and shuffled the things that needed to be shaken. We take our cue from you.
We know that you see things before we do. You have us in your Book. You are consistently writing our stories and giving us room to grow. You have high expectations for us, but they’re not unattainable.
Remind us to love ourselves when we feel unworthy. Show us how to give love to others who feel unlovable. Keep us from withholding love as punishment from those who really need it.
In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.