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   This has been my favorite psalm for many years. It brings me comfort when I feel alone or abandoned. It brings me strength to be honest when I am feeling ashamed. It brings me confidence when I am feeling less than myself. It reminds me of my inherent belovedness and brings me back to a sense of who I am. I love this psalm.   Beyond my own experience… Psalm 139 presents to us an image of God that is immanent, intimate and maternal.  A God who takes an abiding interest in creation and deep care in how it’s created. The Psalms authorship is credited to King David and if that is the case it tells us a bit about how David perceived God. You remember King David?.  The shepherd boy who was anointed King of Israel while still in the fields.  Grew to battle Goliath.  Was involved with endless bitter and life threatening quarrels with King Saul and felt a deep abiding love for Saul’s son Johnathan. David who fought wars and became King.  Tried to honour God with a temple and was refused.  Tried to rule with righteousness and got bored, raping his neighbours wife, killing her husband and becoming corrupted by power.  King David who repented time and again when he recognised his sins and went on to become the most famous and beloved King of Israel.  Knowing this context…David wrote psalm.. O Lord, you have searched me out and known me…  One of the images that I love about this psalm is the way God acts like a lover.  Now I don’t mean a physical lover…but one who loves you deeply and knows you well.  For those of you who are or have been in lifelong relationships this part of the psalm could be about your spouse. You know when they go to bed, and when they wake.   Often times words are not needed, a look, the way that they are standing… the smoke coming from their ears… means you can discern their thoughts from afar. These are the words of someone you knows you well.  Better than you know yourself. Even before a word is on my tongue, you O Lord know it completely. Therein lies the difference.  With longstanding friends or partners we can often put words in their mouths that are not what they planned to say…and then we end up putting a foot in our own mouths.  Not so with God.  God does know…not simply because God is God and God is all knowing.  But because God spends so much time getting to know us. You are acquainted with all my ways the psalm say…every word, every movement, every thought.  In some ways this does sound a little creepy, but I find it less so since I became a mother. When Sydney was born…the love I felt was absolutely overwhelming…I would examine his every eyelash and toe nail…I knew every tooth that came in and what every cry meant.  At night I would wake up every time his breathing changed…I still wake up when he stirs. The experience of motherhood has changed how I read the Psalm…to know that God knows us…so deeply, loves us so absolutely, that even when we sit or stand it draws God’s attention.  And because God is God…that same loving attention is lavished on all of us. Such knowledge is too wonderful…so high we cannot attain it. And building on the understanding that God knows us so deeply, cares for us so profoundly and is aware of us so constantly …the next stanza of the psalm makes perfect sense. Where can I go from your Spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there.  If I say; surely darkness shall cover me and he light around me become night, even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is as bright as the day. Now how you interpret this part really depends on where your relationship with God stands on any given day.  Is this a promise? Or a threat? If you are not on especially good terms with God at the moment it may be exceptionally frustrating and anger provoking that God will just follow you and you can’t get away. There are times of grief, anger, sin or shame when you wish with all your might that you could wrap yourself in darkness and disappear. Yet God is there.  Yet, for myself at least.  Knowing nothing can be hidden helps keep me honest…why hide yourself when you know the one you try to lie to knows your very words before you say them.  How can you speak anything but truth when God hems you in behind and before, lays hand on your shoulder and gives you that long searching look. Even the night is as bright as the day….and all my sins can be brought into light and seen for the shallow self centered things they are.  Then I, then David, then we repent…and place our hand in God’s.  Where even in the midst of our darkest hours, deepest griefs and most grievous sins God’s hand shall lead us and God’s own right hand shall hold us fast. Leading and guiding us, despite all the times we sin and err, regardless of the times we try to hide ourselves and even when we desperately try to run away.  One of the challenges that people face today is a drive to be inauthentic.  To change who you are to become what become what you perceive other people wanting you to be. Whether that is physically stronger, thinner, fashionable or more good looking.  Or mentally smarter, faster, or with greater ability.  Perhaps there is pressure to pray in a certain way, preform in a certain way or even to have particular abilities that aren’t natural to you. God knows who we are at our core better than we do.  God knows we change over time, we age, we evolve and that we at deferent times of life struggle with different aspects of ourselves.  God knows and our psalmist knows that we have a hard time accepting ourselves. I love how this psalm speaks to all those who are dissatisfied with who they are…who don’t believe that they are good enough, or worthy, or who deny who they are to better fit in to a society they fear will reject them.  So many hurting and so many hiding. 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. 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. Wonderful are your works; that I know very well.   David when he went to fight Goliath was mocked for being too small, not strong enough, too unskilled to get the job done.  The king tried to fit David into the armour of a warrior, to make him carry spear and shield like all the other warriors.  David tried…and it weighed him down.  Dressed as a warrior and equipped as a warrior just like the others…if David would have tried to fight Goliath like a warrior he would have failed. David, who later wrote this psalm, knew who God had made him to be…he knew that at that time and place he was not a warrior in the midst of warriors…he was a shepherd.   Stepping  out of place and authentically accepting who he was and how God made him.  David, the shepherd triumphed. We too are made unique among many and we are called to acknowledge and accept that.  To recognize that with all our faults, failings and various blemishes we are fearfully and wonderfully made. God is the great and ultimate creator, the artist who created the beauty of sunsets, the majesty of roaring waterfalls, the delicate grace of hummingbirds…and of course you…the greatest of God’s creation.  You were crafted by God as an artist sculpts a masterpiece so God created each of us. We are as God made us and just because society tells us we too old, or young, or pretty or dark, happy or whatever…it doesn’t mean we have to listen.  If we are shepherds then we shouldn’t live our lives pretending to be warriors.  God created us, knows us and loves us as we are. This is why I love this psalm so much.  The intimate love the psalmist feels describes how I see God. As a God whose love is so rich, so complex, so absolute that I must always come back to its embrace.  As a God who knows me so very well, that there is no point hiding who I am, no point in boasting my accomplishment or wallowing in my failures.  God loves me as I am, just as God loves you…each of you.  I love this psalm, because it reminds me, it reminds all of us the essence of God’s relationship with us.  You are known, you are beloved, you are beautiful, you are God’s own. amen