T. H. Reynolds.
Christian Friend vol. 15, 1888, p. 85.
What is brought before us in this psalm is the searching power of the Spirit of Jehovah. It is not merely the omniscience of God, nor His omnipresence, which is felt when the truth of this psalm is realized, but the soul is brought into the presence of God. The very innermost recesses of the heart are pervaded by an all‑searching power. "Thou understandest my thought afar off." The conduct, the walk, and the words - indeed, all that flesh is and does - are known, but known in such a way that the soul becomes conscious of the searching power of the Spirit of God.
Moreover, there is no hiding from it, no place where it is not. "Whither shall I go from thy Spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence?" Heaven? Not only God is there; His presence fills it. Hades?" Hell is naked before Him, and destruction hath no covering." (Job 26:6.) No wonder the psalmist should say, "Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain unto it." It is not that anyone might say, "God knows everything; and, of course, He knows all about me." A person might have that consciousness and yet not know what it is to be searched by the Spirit of God. We must come into the sense of it. Until it is so there will not be the full sense of what the salvation of God is.
It is in reference to the subject of this psalm that in Hebrews 4:13 it is written, "All things are naked and opened unto the eyes of Him with whom we have to do." Two things are brought before us in the end of this chapter - the piercing, discerning power of the word of God; and "His sight." The Word is the instrument of the Spirit. By it the Spirit of God deals with me; but, further, He makes me conscious of being manifest to God. There is no created thing that is not manifest in His sight. Thus I am not only sensible of the action of the discerning power of the Word, but of the all‑pervading, all‑searching power of the Spirit and presence of God; for "all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of Him with whom we have to do." Everything is open before Him - heaven and hades, the place of the dead, as well as the recesses of the heart of man.
We could not say perhaps that we have Christ personally in this psalm; but we could not understand it in its completeness, if we do not see Him in connection with it. He is the filling out of all Scripture. Supposing I quiver, in the sense of the searching out of the Spirit of God, and am ready to say, "Whither shall I flee from thy presence?" I know the Spirit has also searched Christ. Through the eternal Spirit He offered Himself without spot to God. He has taken flesh, and as such been fully tested, only to find absolute perfection. At His birth He was "that holy thing" formed by the Spirit of God. The sealing of the Holy Ghost, and the voice from heaven at His baptism, attest the Father's good pleasure in Him; but it was upon the cross that the full testing of the Holy One of God took place. There He was searched in the most solemn way. He offered Himself as the burnt‑offering to God. The searching in the burnt‑offering was upon the altar. First the blood was shed in atonement, then the animal was flayed. The skin answers to the outer character, what is seen before men. We may have a fair outer appearance, covering the moral depravity within; but lovely as His ways were among men, He was all perfect within. The animal was divided, and the. very inwards exposed and offered, subjected to the searching power of the all‑penetrating judgment of God. In Christ it discovered nothing but absolute perfection; nothing but a heart that turned to God at the moment when as the Sin‑bearer He was forsaken. There, in those moments of suffering under the eye of God, sin got its character as nowhere else. It was searched out there, when He who knew no sin was made sin for us. Death, too, as the judgment of God on flesh - what it is as the Lord Jesus knew it in all its terribleness - has been met. Hades, the place of the power of death, is naked before God, but Jesus has been there; He has filled it. If now we look up into heaven, every ray of glory in that blessed place shines in Him, and proclaims His title to be there. He fills it. He who has thus been searched has filled the place of death and judgment, and He fills that bright scene of glory.
There is a further truth disclosed. The psalmist recognizes himself to be the handiwork of God. "Thou hast possessed my reins . . . I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well." Here, again, if we could not connect Christ with this psalm, and so pass on to being the workmanship of God created in Christ Jesus, where all has been wrought under the eye of God, instead of praising, we should quail under the sense of being manifested in His presence. "Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord." (Luke 5: 8.) We have then, in Ephesians 2:1‑10, the fulness of that which the Spirit of Christ utters in Psalm 139. There we have Christ in death. He descended into the lower parts of the earth. (Psalm 139:15; Eph. 4:9.) It is there we see Him in this epistle, and that is the birthplace of the Church; we are quickened together with Him. He is the Head of the body, the Church, who is the firstborn from the dead. "Curiously wrought," is the word used for the embroidery of the hangings for the doors of the tabernacle. (Ex. 26: 36; Ex. 36:37.) The veil was of "cunning work." This word has the sense of "purpose" or "device." That was represented in the inside veil. What was seen outside was the beautiful embroidery which answered to that which was of cunning device inside - every grace that was manifested in Christ and reproduced by the Spirit in the saints. In Psalm 45:14 it is mentioned in connection with Israel: "She shall be brought unto the King in raiment of needlework." That is the reproduction of Christ outwardly, as the wrought gold is the glory within.
We may note another point in connection with the workmanship of God. "I am fearfully and wonderfully made." Why "fearfully"? Because the travail of the soul of Christ in death is the birthplace of the Church. Her origin is from the place of His sorrows and sufferings. A passage in Exodus 34 will help to illustrate the connection of these sorrows with Psalm 139. The future birthplace of Israel as a nation will be in the terrible moment of Jacob's trouble, but in the depth of their misery they will find their deliverance in One who has borne their griefs and carried their sorrows. Their salvation is entirely the result of the death of their Messiah. In verse 10 the Lord thus answers the intercession of Moses, to take a stiff-necked people as His inheritance (z. 9): "Behold, I make a covenant: before all thy people I will do marvels." The people are looked at entirely in relation to the mediator, as in verse 27: "After the tenor of these words I have made a covenant with thee and with Israel." The Lord proceeds, "And all the people among which thou art shall see the work of the Lord: for it is a terrible thing that I will do with thee." "Terrible" is here the same word as "fearfully" in Psalm 139, and in its full application refers to the great tribulation through which Israel will pass. Moses does not actually pass through it, but as the mediator he has to take it up in spirit. Christ, as we have seen, has taken into His own soul those terrible, fearful sorrows here announced. There too, as we have said, in those unutterable depths of anguish, where not only governmental wrath against an ungodly nation was tasted, but where all the power of death and the judgment of God were fully known, did He travail, according to the will and purpose of God, for the members written in His book. We may well say, "I will praise thee: for I am fearfully and wonderfully made." The birthplace of glory could only be in the sufferings of Christ. All has been wrought in the lower parts of the earth. There were the members formed that are quickened together with Him.
In the closing verses of the psalm the Spirit of God leads the soul to desire this searching in order to its treading the upward path - the way everlasting - without hindrance. This way leads up to where He, who has traversed the whole path of sorrow, even to the lower parts of the earth, is now in the glory of God. It was all traversed under the searching eye of God, and now awake in resurrection He is still with Him. He has reached that place of perfection for man in divine righteousness and glory. Having been made perfect through sufferings, the many sons are being brought to the glory where their Leader is. That is the way everlasting; and if our hearts are in that path which He has trodden, we shall desire the searching which would expose any and everything in us that would prove a hindrance.
It is the office of the Spirit of God to take of the things of that glorified Man, and show them to us; but if there is a "way of grief" in us, He has then to search us as to it, so that there may be no hindrance to the soul being in the light of heavenly glory. There all is Christ. We are indeed in the scene where He suffered, but we understand what brought Him into it - the needs be for those sufferings under the eye of God; and in our measure, and according to the grace given us, we learn to suffer with Him. It is natural for us to shrink from suffering. But when we see how not only flesh, but the whole created scene is searched by the eye and Spirit of God, we shall seek to avoid savouring of the things of men, as Peter did when he said, "That be far from thee, Lord." We understand those sufferings as the introduction to that glory which can never be disturbed. May the Lord give us to tread the upward path which leads thither, accepting through grace something of the fellowship of His sufferings. T. H. R.