In Psalm 139, David marvels at the pervasive, minute knowledge of God over all things. God knit David together in the womb, having established his days before any of them came to pass. Thus, God’s knowledge extends beyond what is simply happening at this moment: His knowledge includes His plans and will for all things that He invariably brings to pass.
In light of this, the psalm’s ending seems out of place. God knows everything exhaustively and determines everything according to His wisdom. So why, then, would David pray,
“Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my concerns.
See if there is any offensive way in me;
lead me in the everlasting way” (Psalm 139:23-24 HCSB)?
God already knows David more extensively than even David himself, so what point is there in inviting divine scrutiny? Especially when that divine scrutiny is already always happening?
David’s prayer is a terrifying one to me, because of what I do see in my own heart. I don’t see the depths, but the shallows that I can see are full of unspeakable wickedness. To use another of David’s expressions, “the words of My mouth and the meditations of my heart” are not acceptable in His sight–and those are just the ones I know of!
As it turns out, Psalm 139 is ultimately intended to be terrifying only to those in verses 19-22: those who slander God’s name by rebelling against Him and claiming His name and sanction for their lives of evil.
God knows the depths of evil even in believers’ hearts, yet He is kind to lead them in the everlasting way. Because of the sin still in our hearts, our “spiritual GPS” is constantly sending us bad directions. We’re sent down one-way streets the wrong way. We’re sent the opposite direction we need to go. We’re sent to “shortcuts” that always end in wrecks and disaster. David pleads for himself (and on our behalf) to be shown where his own “GPS” goes awry, not to dwell or wallow in despair, but to be reminded again Whom to trust.
The Holy Spirit’s directions may not make sense, but they are never wrong. Those who trust in Jesus have the Spirit, who leads us “in the everlasting way” into the joy and delight of the Father and Son and Holy Spirit.