At my church we are in the middle of a month-long worship series called “Honest to God”. In it we take an honest look at the whole gamut of human emotions, from anger and despair to praise, comfort and justice. We are using the Psalms as a resource for expressing our deepest feelings – towards ourselves, towards God and towards each other.
It was my turn to preach last Sunday and I landed with Comfort. I chose Psalm 139, sometimes called “The Inescapable God.” It is one of my favourites and so I approached it with slight trepidation, remembering the time I chose my favourite Neruda poem (oh, go read it, it is stunning!) for a presentation to my seminar class in second year Spanish and the lecturer completely trashed my reading of it, spoiling it for me for years…but reading Psalm 139 in the light of where I’m at and with the desire to speak to others of God’s inexhaustible – inescapable – comfort was nothing like that. It was how I remembered it – heart-stoppingly compelling. Gut wrenchingly beautiful. Comforting almost to the point of being unbearable.
You see, God pursues us. The Psalmist – David – wants to run away from God, God who is too much for him, too much light, too much knowledge, too much comfort. He wants to run away to the heights, to the depths, to the far corners of the world, even to Sheol, that is, the deepest pit. He wants to hide under the cover of darkness. He wants to say “God, I am NOT fearfully and wonderfully made”. But God does not give up the search. God is there in all of those places. Even the darkness is not dark when God is present in it.
God knows us. God has “searched us and known us” (Ps 139). The Hebrew word for “search”here is a word that suggests searching by digging deep underground – like looking for hidden treasure. God sees our worth when we don’t. God sees our worth when other people can’t. God sees our worth even when it is buried underneath layers of earth and scar tissue. In another Psalm David writes “even if my mother and father forsake me, God will take me up”. The Amplified Bible gives alternate meanings here: God will take me up, will adopt me as a child, will carry me. God will hold me.