July 17

Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise: Living Ethically in the Light of the Bible

Reading schedule

Luke 8:40-48; 1 Thessalonians 3:1-6; Psalm 139:17-24; 2 Chronicles 20-21

Having reflected on God’s activity while forming and shaping him in the womb, the psalmist turns to God’s thoughts about him. He realises God thinks highly of him, and thus God’s thoughts are precious to him. He realises God’s thoughts are innumerable. He tries to count them anyway, and maybe he drifts into sleep. When he wakes up, God is still there with him.

The poem brings us back to its context. We can imagine the psalmist being in danger, and turning to God’s thoughts about him. This allows him to fall asleep, in spite of the danger and his anxieties. When he awakens, he remains sure that God is there with him. He can thus face his enemies with confidence. We too can learn from this as we face our anxieties and trials. Having expressed our worries and concerns, do we move into God’s precious thoughts about us? Do we allow these to calm our hearts, allow us to sleep, and then face life’s uncertainties and challenges confident that God is with us?

We see something similar in Jehoshaphat’s prayer as he faces the invading armies of his enemies (2 Chronicles 20:5-12). He reflects on who God is and all his power and might. He thinks about all God has done to protect Israel in the past. He remembers that when under attack or being afflicted, they are to cry out to God in prayer, much as the psalmist has been doing. Jehoshaphat acknowledges his inability to face his enemies, humbly expresses his dependence on God, and takes comfort in knowing that God is watching over him.

Likewise, the psalmist appeals to God for help with his enemies. He must rely on God to deal with them. They hate God, so he hates them; this reminds him of the potential for evil in his own heart. He knows his motivations and thoughts may not be good. Remembering God’s intimate involvement in his formation, he knows God knows his thoughts and feelings intimately. Knowing God’s thoughts of him are precious, he is not fearful of God’s searching analysis of his heart and his mind. The psalmist wants God to root out any ‘offensive’ way within him.

This Hebrew word more usually means painful or sorrowful. The context implies God is the one sorrowed. The psalmist is concerned that his thoughts will offend or cause sorrow in God. We have a caring God who can experience pain because of us. This concerns the psalmist more deeply than any embarrassment about revealing his offensive ways. At the same time, his confidence in God’s acceptance allows him to see and address his sinfulness. Such is the freedom that comes from the confidence that we are precious to God, in spite of our sinful ways.

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