top of page
  • Writer's pictureCandice Watters

860 Million Words, Each Known by God (Psalm 139:4-5)

Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O LORD, you know it altogether. ⁵You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. —Psalm 139:4-5

On average, a 20-year-old American knows 42,000 words,¹ will speak 16,000 of them in one day,² and will say 860,341,500 words over his lifetime.³ That’s like reading the King James Bible, out loud, from cover to cover–more than 1,110 times!⁴ Multiply that by 8 billion people alive in the world, plus all those who went before, and you’re talking about exponential multiplication. Still that number is too small. We may say 16,000 words a day, but how many more do we think that never make it past our lips? Thesethe words each person forms in his mindare what God knows. 

Consider, a number that‘s too big for my calculator is just one thing to God. David has every reason to marvel. God who knows all things is never near capacity for knowing. His knowledge is infinite. It’s not just the number of our thoughts that God knows, but their content. This is sobering. John said anger is as murder and Paul talked about the coming judgment for despising a brother in your heart (1 John 3:15, Romans 14:10). 

Again we ask of Psalm 139, how can a person long survive being thus known by God? Yet David not only marvels that God knows his thoughtsthat alone makes me tremblehe also rejoices that God hems him in and lays His hand upon him. 

David knew well the displeasure of God’s discipline. In Psalm 32, he writes about the misery of keeping his sins hidden. He says of it, “day and night your hand was heavy upon me.” It was a painful experience; he compares it to having his “strength…dried up as by the heat of summer.” 

But God’s hand is not heavy in Psalm 139. Here, God lays his hand upon David and David considers it “too wonderful for me” (v. 6). This is a thing to be pondered.

No matter where we go or what we do, we cannot hide our sin from God. He knows all of itour words, actions, and thoughtsin all its ugly detail. The choice before us is clear: confess our sins, receive God’s forgiveness and help to turn away from it, and walk in obedience, or deny our sin and remain under God’s wrath. 

Apart from God’s mercy and grace, we are without hope. But thanks be to God, He has made a way. Jesus paid the penalty for our sins so that we might be saved. Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord, who has God’s Spirit abiding in him, can rejoice that God lays His hand upon us and hems us in. This is for our everlasting joy.

We see David’s joy as he exults in being known by God. He submits to God’s authority and receives the benefits of living under it. Rather than try to hide from God, which David knows he cannot do, he runs to God and asks for help to live in a way that pleases Him. 

Believer, remember what God knows about you and tremble. Then remember the cross and marvel. All of this leaves me saying with Job, “Behold, these are but the outskirts of his ways, and how small a whisper do we hear of him!” (Job 26:14a). 

Knowing that God knows my 860 million words, I’m dumbfounded. But the book of Psalms teaches me to say with David, “O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise,” and to pray, “Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips!” (Psalm 51:15, 141:3).

Knowing our thoughts is not wearisome to God. It doesn’t max out His capacity or diminish His attention to what He has made. He is all knowing and all powerful. He never tires. He never misses a detail. Not one. Sing praises to this God:

Sing to him, sing praises to him;

tell of all his wondrous works!

Glory in his holy name;

let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice!

Seek the LORD and his strength;

seek his presence continually! (Psalm 105:2-4)




For Reflection

  1. When your thoughts are troubled, what do you do with them?

  2. Remember that the Lord knows what you’re thinking and ask Him to help you take every thought captive to obey Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5).

  3. How might meditating on Scripture make your thought life more honoring to the Lord?


Candice Watters is a wife, mother of four, and author. She edits the Fighter Verses blog in between loads of laundry and planning the upcoming VBS for Clifton Baptist Church in Louisville, KY. She and her husband Steve blog at


Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page