Plead For God’s Probing Light (Psalm 139:23-24)
Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! 24 And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting! —Psalm 139:23-24
The normal human response when caught doing something wrong is to run away and hide. Adam and Eve tried it in the garden (Genesis 3), as has every generation of their offspring since. But God’s light sees all. David felt God’s light, describing it in verses 11 and 12 of Psalm 139: “even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you.”
That which would make an unregenerate man recoil—the probing attention of the all-knowing, all-seeing God—makes David exult with joy. He breaks out in praise as he meditates on God’s access to even his secret thoughts. All his hidden places are not hidden from God.
This reality—something to which our conscience bears witness (Romans 1:20)—leaves many people hiding from, even raging against, God. But David’s response is opposite. He runs toward God. He invites Him in, urging God to search him and know not just his actions, but also his heart—the motivation behind his actions. David had things to hide: adultery, murder, treachery, and more, but God exposed them. He disciplined him and He cleansed him (Psalm 51). David knew firsthand that God’s discipline, though painful, was good. He had seen enough to know the alternative: if he did not belong to God, God would have destroyed him.
God’s discipline and call to repentance were evidence that David belonged to God. God was treating him as a son (Hebrews 12:5-8). This is why David urges God saying, “Search me! Know my heart! Find my hidden offenses. But don’t leave me in my sin; lead me away from it to the everlasting way, the ancient way, the good way; the way out of your wrath toward peace.” This searching, revealing and repenting, David knew, was his only hope of ongoing fellowship with a holy God. This is why he asked the Lord who had searched, to keep on searching.
David was found by God and responded to Him in faith. He repented and turned away from his sin. This is not everyone’s response. But it is the right response—the life-giving response. This is the path to freedom from holy anger. This is the path to joy.
Psalm 139 is one man’s reflection on, and response to, God’s character, even as it is an invitation to every man and woman to go and do likewise. Believer, consider God’s omniscience, omnipresence, omnipotence—He knows all, occupies all, and sees all—and respond with faith.
A faith-filled response is not a given. There are many who bristle at God’s power. They are the wicked, the bloodthirsty whom David longs to see God kill (Psalm 139:19). He is eager to be rid of those who defame God and speak against Him “with malicious intent,” those enemies of God who take His name in vain (v. 20). But David does not end there—as if the wicked were his biggest problem. He knows better.
David ends Psalm 139 where he began—with his own heart. He knows it is not clean; he knows the only path to forgiveness runs right through the searchlight of God. This is why his observation “God you have searched me” becomes the urgent plea, “O God, search me!” He wants God to keep on shining His marvelous light, exposing his sin, and leading him to everlasting life.
What sins tempt you to run and hide from God?
If you’ve felt His searching light, recall the freedom that comes from repentance and run toward Him for grace.
If you’re still trying to hide, confess your sins to God and to another faithful believer and ask for prayer, so that you might be healed (James 5:16).