A Reading from Psalm 139
1 LORD, you have searched me out and known me; *
you know my sitting down and my rising up;
you discern my thoughts from afar.
2 You trace my journeys and my resting-places *
and are acquainted with all my ways.
3 Indeed, there is not a word on my lips, *
but you, O LORD, know it altogether.
4 You press upon me behind and before *
and lay your hand upon me.
5 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; *
it is so high that I cannot attain to it.
6 Where can I go then from your Spirit? *
where can I flee from your presence?
7 If I climb up to heaven, you are there; *
if I make the grave my bed, you are there also.
8 If I take the wings of the morning *
and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
9 Even there your hand will lead me *
and your right hand hold me fast.
10 If I say, "Surely the darkness will cover me, *
and the light around me turn to night,"
11 Darkness is not dark to you;
the night is as bright as the day; *
darkness and light to you are both alike.
12 For you yourself created my inmost parts; *
you knit me together in my mother's womb.
13 I will thank you because I am marvelously made; *
your works are wonderful, and I know it well.
14 My body was not hidden from you, *
while I was being made in secret
and woven in the depths of the earth.
15 Your eyes beheld my limbs, yet unfinished in the womb;
all of them were written in your book; *
they were fashioned day by day,
when as yet there was none of them.
16 How deep I find your thoughts, O God! *
how great is the sum of them!
17 If I were to count them, they would be more in number
than the sand; *
to count them all, my life span would need to
be like yours.
18 Oh, that you would slay the wicked, O God! *
You that thirst for blood, depart from me.
19 They speak despitefully against you; *
your enemies take your Name in vain.
20 Do I not hate those, O LORD, who hate you? *
and do I not loathe those who rise up against you?
21 I hate them with a perfect hatred; *
they have become my own enemies.
22 Search me out, O God, and know my heart; *
try me and know my restless thoughts.
23 Look well whether there be any wickedness in me *
and lead me in the way that is everlasting.
Our house has its original windows from more than 40 years ago. They’re not what we now call “energy efficient,” so over time I’ve accumulated well-lined curtains to put up in the winter. I finally got some for my big front window this year, and while they do help keep the cold out, they also block out the light. I never quite appreciated before how convenient it was to be able to see enough by the light of the street lamp to navigate my house in the middle of the night. What we commonly consider darkness in a world of omnipresent electricity really just doesn’t do justice to the concept. If the dark isn’t really dark — “pitch black” — then “the darkness isn’t dark to you” doesn’t have the same weight. For most of human history, when the sun went down, if there wasn’t a moon, there was no light. Everyone knew what darkness really was. I didn’t until I put up thermal curtains. It was surprisingly disorienting.
I have a keen memory of reading this psalm when, for some random reason, I was hanging out around the church, and I got roped into reading the lessons for the funeral of someone who had committed suicide. “If I make the grave my bed, there you are there also.” God is there in the disorienting dark, whether or not the darkness is literal. We think in our darkness, “Surely it will cover me up, the light will all go out.” And we would be right plenty of times. If the power goes out on a moonless night, it will get very dark. There are plenty of times when we don’t know what’s going to happen and we don’t know how to face the things that might be lurking in the dark. It’s then that faith matters, when it changes everything to be able to say, “The darkness is not dark to you,” “You know and have always known me”; moreover, “the Lord will make good his purpose for me; O Lord, your love endures for ever; do not abandon the works of your hands.”
Elizabeth Baumann is a seminary graduate, a priest’s wife, and the mother of two small daughters. A transplant from the West Coast, she now lives in “the middle of nowhere” in the Midwest with too many cats.
Daily Devotional Cycle of Prayer
Today we pray for:
Academy of Classical Christian Studies, Oklahoma City
The Missionary Diocese of Pathein – The Church of the Province of Myanmar