By Peter Lockhart based on Psalm 139
I want you invite you to think for a moment about the people that you know.
Who do you think knows you the best of all?
It may be your best friend. It may be a sister or brother.
Maybe it’s your spouse. Or maybe it’s one of your parents.
How long have they known you?
What secrets do you share with them?
What secrets do you keep from them?
How will do you think they really know you?
Do they know everything?
I know when I think about the most intimate relationships that I have there are still things that the other person does not know about me. Things that they do not see about, feelings I have that I do not share. Thoughts that I keep to myself. The same is true for all of us. No one knows us or anyone else perfectly.
Yet, these intimate friendships are so important to us because we feel that when others know us, and more importantly love us, it affirms our very existence.
In Psalm 139 we hear a strange and mysterious message that God knows us in a way that no other person does or can. We hear that God is acquainted with all of our ways, God sees through the barriers we construct and the personas with put on.
God knows us. And it is an incredibly intimate knowledge.
The word in Hebrew for know that is used here is the same word that is used in Genesis 4 when we read that Adam knew Eve and conceived and bore a son.
God knows you and I intimately, personally, lovingly and in being known by God in this way there is a wonderful affirmation for each one of us that we matter in our life and that we matter in our existence.
For many people this notion that God knows us so thoroughly can be more than a little confronting, for we know ourselves and the darkness we hide from others, and the dark thoughts that beset our minds.
Yet, the promise of the Psalm is that “even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is as bright as the day, for darkness is as light to you.”
God sees beyond the darkness that we might perceive within ourselves and others, and in God’s knowing of us in this intensely intimate and personal way God continues to love us.
Despite this intensity of the intimacy describe in the words of the Psalmist there is a paradox, an irony even, and this Psalmist knows this too well:
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
It is so high that I cannot attain it.
The experience of the intensity of God’s knowing of us is beyond the Psalmist, so high he cannot attain it. To return to the story that we heard from Genesis at the beginning of the service, this conundrum is express in Jacob’s words:
You were in this place, but I never knew.
I sometimes wonder whether it is our inability to connect with this God who knows us so well that is the cause of so much pain and anguish in the world. Feeling disconnected from the intimacy of God’s embrace we become anxious about our own identity and anxious about the world and the people around us.
In this state of feeling anonymous our anxiety causes us to turn away from God and so also each other.
The message of Jesus presence in the world comes to us as God’s way of reaffirming us and confirms the fact God knows us so well. Through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus God goes beyond the darkness we experience and perpetuate and draws into the intimacy of God’s own life through the power of the Holy Spirit.
In his letter to the Romans Paul meditates on this reality reminding the early Christians, “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.”
Of course like the Psalmist there is a grounded realism in Paul’s meditation as he too declares:
Now hope that is seen is not hope.
For who hopes for what is seen?
But if we hope for what we do not see,
we wait for it with patience.
As Christian people we hope for what we do not see: the perfection not simply of our personal relationship with God in which we discover and experience the full weight of God’s love, but that very same renewal for all things and all people.
In this matter we need to be reminded that our relationship with God is intensely personal but it is not private. The intimacy God has with each of us God desires and has with all people and all things.
So it is that Paul describes the creation groaning in longing for the fulfilment of God’s loving promises and we too groan as we wait: our hearts break as we wait.
Our hearts break as we hear of children killed in the conflict between Palestine and Israel.
Our hearts break as we see the images of the airplane wreckage in the Ukraine.
Our hearts break as we read about the millions of Syrian refugees.
Our hearts break as we wonder about asylum seekers and their children in limbo on the high seas.
Our hearts break as we hear of the breakdown of relationships and the terrible blight of family violence in our Australian culture.
And our hearts break as we hear bad news again and again and again and we groan with longing for the promises of God to be fulfilled.
It is more than a little difficult to be patient in the face of such disasters. The Psalms are always gritty and honest and in Psalm 139 we hear the Psalmist cry out in frustration:
O that you would kill the wicked, O God, and that the bloodthirsty would depart from me
It can be more than a little difficult to be a people of hope and love, yet this is what we are called to be. We are reminded week by week in this place the intensely personal and intimate way God knows us and loves all things. It is in these reminders that we can long to be transformed into people who do not want to respond to violence with violence but with love.
The reality though is this: we hope in what we cannot see, and even in what we do not fully experience for ourselves: that God knows us, that loves us so deeply, that in Christ God has renewed all things and that through the Spirit we have been drawn into God’s life together.
Know and believe this good news: you are known intimately and you are loved deeply. Amen.