Speaking of Life 3008 | Lukewarm Coffee Cara Garrity I have a friend who likes her coffee lukewarm. Her husband on the other hand will only drink it piping hot. Early in their marriage this created a moment of tension. One morning her husband prepared some fresh hot coffee just the way he would like it. Then he surprised her with a cup to enjoy for her morning reading. She seemed touched by the gesture, but he noticed that she didn’t drink it. In fact, she let it sit so long that he knew it would no longer be any good. From his perspective she had wasted his efforts of kindness. But, instead of showing frustration, he took her coffee and went to heat it up in the microwave. Now it was her turn to be frustrated. From her perspective he was about to undo her patient waiting for the perfect cup of coffee. Thankfully, with some sharing of coffee preferences, marital disaster was averted. The problem wasn’t that her husband didn’t know how to brew coffee. It was that he didn’t know his wife. I think we could all agree that the best gifts come from those who know us best. With that in mind, listen to this Psalm that speaks of the Lord’s knowing of us. “O Lord, you have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from far away. You search out my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, O Lord, you know it completely.” Psalm 139:1-4 (NRSV) We could read more of this passage to discover that the Lord knows us better than we know ourselves. As the one who created us, we can know that he is the only one who knows us perfectly. And that means he knows the perfect gift to give us. The Christmas season we just celebrated was all about that perfect gift—Jesus Christ his one and only Son. In this gift, God the Father has given us himself to be known. This is what we were created for, to know the Father like the Son knows the Father. When we receive the gift of Jesus, we will also have an epiphany about ourselves. As we come to know Jesus, we will come to know ourselves the way our Creator knows us. It’s only after receiving the gift of Jesus that we come to see that knowing the Father and being known by him is the life we are made for. And since he knows us perfectly, we can trust he knows how to brew the perfect cup of coffee—even if it’s lukewarm coffee. I’m Cara Garrity, Speaking of Life.
Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18 • 1 Samuel 3:1-10, (11-20) • 1 Corinthians 6:12-20 • John 1:43-51
This week’s theme is being known in the Lord. The story from 1 Samuel recounts Samuel’s first encounter of hearing the Lord’s personal call into service. 1 Corinthians 6 maps out some moral implications of being a disciple who lives “in Christ.” The Gospel text in John 1 presents Jesus’ intimate knowledge of those he calls to walk with him. While the Psalm is normally the call to worship, we built the sermon on Psalm 139, which explores God’s presence to us and his intimate knowledge of us.
The Gift of Being Known
Psalm 139:1-18 (NRSV)
There was a recent poll by a local news station that showed 94 percent of participants agreed with the statement, “Nobody really knows me.” In an age where the front porch has been replaced by a back deck hidden behind a wrap-around fence, our society seems bent on remaining “unknown.” But this comes at a cost. All the technological advances to help people “stay connected” have done little to offset the growing feelings of isolation and loneliness that are widespread in our culture. Today we discover a breath of fresh air that comes to us from Psalm 139. This is a beloved favorite for many, as it reminds us that no matter how alone we may sometimes feel, there is One who knows us more deeply than we know ourselves.
The Psalmist finds this truth to be a marvelous reality to meditate on. He seems to take long strides in saying what could be said very quickly. He begins with “O LORD, you have searched me and known me.” He could just end there but instead he goes to great length to make the same point over and over. This truth of being known by the Lord is like a diamond of great beauty that one wants to examine at every angle to capture all the sparkling interrelated facets.
We will linger today with the Psalmist so we too can be dazzled by the glimmering beauty of being known by our gracious Lord.
Before we start, it will be helpful to acknowledge that the Psalm seems to be written by someone seeking vindication—possibly from false accusations. The writer is beseeching the one who knows the truth of his situation and knows his heart. He wants the Lord to weigh in and judge him and his situation according to his perfect knowledge. He is seeking refuge in the Lord’s saving knowledge of himself. We may not feel we can be so bold in such a prayer. Do we really want God’s all-seeing gaze to search our innermost thoughts? Do we really want him to search our hearts to the core? Surely it wouldn’t take long for God to see that we have no grounds for vindication. Even we are aware that we have hidden sins. But for the believer, we must add to this the fact that we are hidden in Christ. Who we truly are is who we are becoming in Jesus. We do not fully know who we are yet, but the Father does, and when he searches us, he finds Jesus living in us. And there is our rock-solid vindication. Ultimately then, this Psalm points us to Jesus, in whom we have our life and our vindication, not on our righteousness but on his. So, with that in mind, let us continue.
O Lord, you have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from far away. You search out my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, O Lord, you know it completely. You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is so high that I cannot attain it. (Psalm 139:1-6 NRSV)
The first section of this Psalm highlights God’s insight that he has of his creatures. This insight is expressed in several ways, primarily by using opposites. The Lord knows when we sit down and rise up. This means he knows us for who we truly are whether we are inactive or active. There is a lie that goes around that what we do defines us. We are often told that our value is measured by what we can contribute or produce. As long as we are producing, we can be known to have some value. But God knows us beyond our utility. He knows us as his son or daughter, and his pleasure in us is not determined by our activity or inactivity. In this knowledge we can work and play and not fear that he turns his face from us when we grow too weary to do either.
The Lord also knows us in our inward thoughts “from far away.” The Lord is never so far to not know what is going on inside us. In fact, he knows what is going on inside us even more than we do. There is no long-distance relationship with the Lord. This means we can always bring to him our inner conflicts, our unresolved tensions and questions. We never have to fear creating distance between us and the Lord by sharing too much. He already knows from afar.
Verse 3 speaks of the Lord knowing our “path” and our “lying down.” Whether we are on the go or are at rest, the Lord never loses sight of us. When our lives become hectic and frantic, we may lose sight of where we are going and who we are, but the Lord does not. When we reach the end of our rope and run out of “get up and go,” the Lord does not walk on without us. The Lord has no problem with a change of pace. The psalmist writes, “You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me.” There are times with our walk with the Lord that we need his hand to give us a push from behind. There are other times when we need the Lord’s hands to drag us forward. Either way, the Lord knows when to push and when to pull. We can trust that his nail-scarred hands do both out of his passionate love for us. All this language using extreme opposites are ways to express that the Lord knows us completely in the totality of our lives. As the psalmist confesses, this knowledge is “too wonderful for me.”
Where can I go from your spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there. If I take the wings of the morning and settle at the farthest limits of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me fast. If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light around me become night,” even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is as bright as the day, for darkness is as light to you. (Psalm 139:7-12 NRSV)
The second section of this Psalm describes God’s divine oversight that he has for his creatures. Here the psalmist lets us know that there is nowhere we can go to escape God’s presence. Jonah would heartily agree. Some metaphorical language is used in this section to relay this truth—again using opposites. The psalmist covers all directions from up (heaven) to down (sheol) to east (winds of the morning) to the western horizon (sea). No matter what direction one takes, God will find us. I guess you could say the Lord never loses at hide and seek. How comforting it is to know that the Lord does not lose sight of us even when we may want him to. Verse 10 reminds us that no matter what direction our lives turn, Jesus will still be there to lead us and hold us to himself.
For it was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; that I know very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes beheld my unformed substance. In your book were written all the days that were formed for me, when none of them as yet existed. How weighty to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! I try to count them—they are more than the sand; I come to the end—I am still with you. (Psalm 139:13-18 NRSV)
These verses describe God’s foresight of his beloved creatures. We are not accidents of nature or a random collision of atoms or arbitrary expressions of matter. We are “fearfully and wonderfully made.” That is an amazing truth to meditate on. The infinite and almighty God thought you up so he could spend the rest of eternity with you. That’s what you are created for. Not to be forgotten when your atoms and matter return to the dust, but to be re-membered in Christ, to be known and loved for all eternity. You were created to know God for who he is and to be known by him for who he created you to be. This is a level of knowing and being known that is so complex, we have but scratched the surface today.
Jesus knows the Father perfectly and the Father knows Jesus perfectly, and it is in Jesus that we are invited to participate in their perfect knowledge of one another. In Christ we will be known in a way that sets us free from all hiding and secrecy. We will be perfectly safe being known by the Father. In Jesus we will also know the Father in the same way (although not to the same extent) the Son knows the Father. In his perfect knowledge of the Father, we will know we are safe and secure in his presence. We will know his amazing love for us in the same way the Son has experienced the Father’s love for all eternity. We will find knowing the Father to be the absolute thrill of our existence.
After contemplating the overwhelming beauty of God’s knowledge of us, the Psalmist then proceeds to ask for God’s vindication. On the assurance that God sees all with his perfect saving knowledge, we too can bring all our concerns to him, knowing he will search it out and set it right according to his insight, oversight and foresight. All this is given to us in Jesus. In Jesus we never have to fear falling out of sight.
Small Group Discussion Questions
From Speaking of Life
- The Speaking of Life video stated that the “best gifts come from those who know us best.” Can you think of experiences in the positive or the negative that would agree with this statement?
- What are the implications of God’s perfect knowledge of us and his gifts to us?
From the sermon
- Would you have agreed to the statement “Nobody really knows me”? Share a time you felt unknown or misunderstood.
- The sermon identified three ways in how God knows us—insight, oversight and foresight. Compare and contrast these three aspects of God’s knowing. Which one speaks to you to most in your present walk with the Lord?
- How does the thought that God knows us so intimately strike you? Is it a comforting thought, or is it a fearful thought? What difference does it make to know that the Father sees Jesus in us? How does seeing ourselves “in Christ” change our experience of being known by the Father?