|<< Psalm 139 >>|
Barnes' Notes on the Bible
This psalm purports to be a psalm of David, and there is no reason to doubt that it is properly attributed to him. See introduction to Psalm 138:1-8. At what time it was composed is, however, unknown. It contains reflections which might have occurred at any period of his life; yet it would seem most probable that it was not written in his early years, but that it is a record of his most mature thoughts on a great and very important subject.
The psalm relates to the omnipresence of God, and contains such reflections as would occur to one meditating on that attribute of the Deity. It is the most distinct and full statement of that doctrine which is to be found in the Hebrew Scriptures, and the doctrine is presented in language which has never been surpassed for sublimity and beauty. The leading idea in the psalm seems to be that of comfort from the fact that God is everywhere; that he knows all that pertains to us; that we can never be hidden from his view; that he has known us from the beginning; that as he fashioned and formed us - making us what we are - he knows all our necessities, and can supply them. The psalm consists of three parts:
I. A celebration of the Omniscience and Omnipresence of God, as a ground of confidence and hope, Psalm 139:1-18.
(a) The fact that he knows all that there is in the heart, Psalm 139:1-6.
(b) The fact that he is everywhere present, Psalm 139:7-12.
(c) The fact that all in our past life has been known to God; that he has created us, and that his eye has been upon us from the beginning of our existence, Psalm 139:13-16.
(d) The fact that his thoughts toward us are precious, and numberless as the sand, Psalm 139:17-18.
II. The feelings of the psalmist in relation to the acts of the wicked as a proof that he loved God, Psalm 139:19-22. These reflections seem to have sprung from his contemplation of the divine character and perfections, as leading him to hate all that was opposed to a Being so pure, so benevolent, so holy. On looking into his own heart, in view of what God was, he was conscious that he had no sympathy with the enemies of God as such; that such was his love for the character of God, and such his confidence in him, that he could have nothing in common with them in their feelings toward God, but wished to be dissociated from them forever.
III. The expression of a desire that, as God saw all the recesses of the human soul, he would search his heart, and would detect any evil he might see there, and deliver him from the evil, and lead him in the way which conducted to life eternal, Psalm 139:23-24. Anyone may feel, and must feel, that after all which he knows of himself - after all the effort which he makes to ascertain what is within his heart - there are depths there which his eye cannot penetrate, and that there may be sins of thought and feeling there which he has not detected; but it is only from the consciousness of sincerity, and a true desire to honor God, that one can pray that God would search him, and that he would detect and bring out every form of sin which he may see concealed and lurking in the soul He who can sincerely offer this prayer is a pious man.
1‹‹To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David.›› O LORD, thou hast searched me, and known me.
O Lord, thou hast searched me - The word rendered searched, has a primary reference to searching the earth by boring or digging, as for water or metals. See Job 28:3. Then it means to search accurately or closely.
And known me - As the result of that search, or that close investigation. Thou seest all that is in my heart. Nothing is, or can be, concealed from thee. It is with this deep consciousness that the psalm begins; and all that follows is but an expansion and application of this idea. It is of much advantage in suggesting right reflections on our own character, to have this full consciousness that God knows us altogether; that he sees all that there is in our heart; that he has been fully acquainted with our past life.
2Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, thou understandest my thought afar off.
Thou knowest my downsitting ... - In the various circumstances of life, thou knowest me. Thou knowest me in one place as well as in another. I cannot so change my position that thou will not see me, and that thou wilt not be perfectly acquainted with all that I say, and all that I do. In every posture, in every movement, in every occupation, thou hast a full knowledge of me. I cannot go out of thy sight; I cannot put myself into such a position that thou wilt not see me.
Thou understandest my thought - Hebrew, "As to my thought." That is, Thou seest what my plans are; what I design to do; "what I am thinking about." A most solemn reflection! How unwilling would bad people be - would even good people be - to have those round about them know always "what they are thinking about."
Afar off - Not when the "thought" is far off; but "thou," being far off, seest us as clearly as if thou wert near. I cannot go to such a distance from thee that thou wilt not see perfectly all that I am thinking about.
3Thou compassest my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways.
Thou compassest my path ... - Margin, "winnowest." The Hebrew word - זרה zârâh - means properly "to scatter," to cast loosely about - as the wind does dust; and then, to winnow - to wit, by throwing grain, when it is thrashed, up to the wind: Isaiah 30:24; Jeremiah 4:11; Ruth 3:2. Then it means "to winnow out;" that is, to winnow out all the chaff, and to leave all the grain - to save all that is valuable. So here it means that God, as it were, "sifted" him. Compare Isaiah 30:28; Amos 9:9; Luke 22:31. He scattered all that was chaff, or all that was valueless, and saw what there was that was real and substantial. When it is said that he did this in his "path and his lying down," it is meant that he did it in every way; altogether; entirely.
And art acquainted with all my ways - All the paths that I tread; the whole course of my life. All that I do, in all places and at all times, is fully known to thee.
4For there is not a word in my tongue, but, lo, O LORD, thou knowest it altogether.
For there is not a word in my tongue - All that I say; all that I have power to say; all that I am disposed at any time to say.
But lo, O Lord, thou knowest it altogether - All that pertains to it. What is "said," and what is "meant." Merely to "hear" what is spoken does not imply necessarily a full knowledge of what is said - for it may be false, insincere, hypocritical. God knows exactly what is said and what is "meant."
5Thou hast beset me behind and before, and laid thine hand upon me.
Thou hast beset me behind and before - The word rendered "beset" - צור tsûr - means properly to press; to press upon; to compress. It has reference commonly to the siege of a city, or to the pressing on of troops in war; and then it comes to mean to besiege, hem in, closely surround, so that there is no way of escape. This is the idea here - that God was on every side of him; that he could not escape in any direction. He was like a garrison besieged in a city so that there was no means of escape. There is a transition here (not an unnatural one), from the idea of the Omniscience of God to that of His Omnipresence, and the remarks which follow have a main reference to the latter.
And laid thine hand upon me - That is, If I try to escape in any direction I find thine band laid upon me there. Escape is impossible.
6Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain unto it.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me - literally, "Wonderful knowledge away from me," or, more than I can comprehend. It is beyond my reach; it surpasses all my powers to comprehend it.
It is high, I cannot attain unto it - It is so exalted that I cannot grasp it; I cannot understand how it can be.
7Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence?
Whither shall I go from thy spirit? - Where shall I go where thy spirit is not; that is, where thou art not; where there is no God. The word "spirit" here does not refer particularly to the Holy Spirit, but to God "as" a spirit. "Whither shall I go from the all-pervading Spirit - from God, considered as a spirit?" This is a clear statement that God is a "Spirit" (compare John 4:24); and that, as a spirit, he is Omnipresent.
Or whither shall I flee from thy presence? - Hebrew, From his face; that is, where he will not be, and will not see me. I cannot find a place - a spot in the universe, where there is not a God, and the same God. Fearful thought to those that hate him - that, much as they may wish or desire it, they can never find a place where there is not a holy God! Comforting to those that love him - that they will never be where they may not find a God - their God; that nowhere, at home or abroad, on land or on the ocean, on earth or above the stars, they will ever reach a world where they will not be in the presence of that God - that gracious Father - who can defend, comfort, guide, and sustain them.
8If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there.
If I ascend up into heaven - The word "heaven" here, in the original is in the plural number - "heavens," - and includes all that there is above the earth - the highest worlds.
If I make my bed - Properly, "If I strew or spread my couch." If I should seek that as the place where to lie down.
In hell - Hebrew, "Sheol." See the notes at Isaiah 14:9, where the word is fully explained. The word here refers to the under-world - the abodes of the dead; and, in the apprehension of the psalmist, corresponds in depth with the word "heaven" in height. The two represent all worlds, above and below; and the idea is, that in neither direction, above or below, could he go where God would not be.
Thou art there - Or, more emphatically and impressively in the original, "Thou!" That is, the psalmist imagines himself in the highest heaven, or in the deepest abodes of the dead - and lo! God is there also! he has not gone from "him"! he is still in the presence of the same God!
9If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea;
If I take the wings of the morning - literally, "I will take the wings of the morning." That is, I will take this as a supposable case; I will imagine what would occur, should I be able to take to myself the wings of the morning, and endeavor to escape "by flight" from the presence of God, or go where he could not pursue me, or where he would not be. The "wings of the morning" evidently mean that by which the light of the morning "seems to fly" - the most rapid object known to us. It is not to be supposed that the psalmist had an idea of the exact velocity of light, but to him that was the most rapid object known; and his language is not the "less" striking because the laws of its flight have become accurately known. The word rendered "morning" refers to the dawn - the daybreak - the Aurora - the "first" beams of the morning light. The beams of light are in fact no swifter then than at any other time of the day, but they seem to be swifter, as they so quickly penetrate the darkness.
And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea - The end of the sea; that is, the "west," as the sea referred to undoubtedly is the Mediterranean, which was west of Palestine, and which became another name for the west. The idea is, that if he could fly with the rapidity of light, and could be in an instant over the sea, even beyond its remotest border, still God would be there before him. He could not escape from the divine presence.
10Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me.
Even there shall thy hand lead me - I shall find thee there; thy hand would be upon me; I should not have gone from thy presence.
And thy right hand shall hold me - Still hold me; still be laid upon me. I should find myself there, as certainly as here, in thy hand; and in the same sense - either to seize upon me if I went astray, or to protect me, if obedient, supported by thee in all the perils of the flight. God, still the same - the same in all respects - would be with me there as he is here.
11If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me; even the night shall be light about me.
If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me - If I seek to find refuge in the darkness of the night so that God would not see me. The word rendered "cover" - שׁוף shûph - means properly to snap, to gape after; then, to lie in wait for; and then, to attack, or fall upon anyone, unexpectedly. It is rendered "bruise" (twice) in Genesis 3:15, "He shall "bruise" thy head, and thou shalt "bruise" his heel;" "breaketh" in Job 9:17, "He "breaketh" me with a tempest;" and in this place "cover." It does not occur elsewhere. Here it means to fall upon; to overpower; to cover. The idea is, If it should come suddenly upon me; if I should be involved in sudden darkness - "as if" the darkness should come and attempt to "snatch" me away from God. All this would be in vain, for it would be, so far as God is concerned, bright day around me.
Even the night shall be light about me - In respect to me. It shall be as if I stood in the full blaze of light. God can see me still; he can mark my goings; he can perceive all that I do as plainly then as at mid-day. This "is" so: and what a thought this is for a wicked man who seeks to escape detection in his crimes by perpetrating them in the night! What a thought for a good man, that in the darkest night of sorrow, when there seems to be nothing but deep midnight, when there appears to be not a ray of light in his dwelling, or on his path that all to the eye of God is as clear as noon-day! For in that night of sorrow God sees him as plainly as in the brightest days of prosperity and joy.
12Yea, the darkness hideth not from thee; but the night shineth as the day: the darkness and the light are both alike to thee.
Yea, the darkness hideth not from thee - Margin, as in Hebrew, "darkeneth not." Darkness does not make darkness to thee. It makes things dark to us; not to him. So it is in natural darkness; so in moral darkness ness. It seems dark to us; it is not so to him. Things appear dark to us - disappointment, bereavement, trouble, care, losses; but all is light to God. The existence of sin and suffering on the earth seems dark to us; not to him, for he sees the reasons and the end of all.
But the night shineth as the day - One is as bright and clear to him as the other.
The darkness and the light are both alike to thee - Margin, as in Hebrew, "As is the darkness so is the light." To thee there is no difference. All is light.
13For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my mother's womb.
For thou hast possessed my reins - The word here rendered "possessed" means properly to "set upright," to "erect," and hence, the derivative of the verb is applied to a cane or reed, as being erect. Then the word means to found, to create, Genesis 14:19, Genesis 14:22 - as the heavens and the earth; and then, to get, to gain, to purchase, etc. Here the word seems to be used in its original sense, to make, create, etc. The idea is, not as in our translation, that God "possessed" or "owned" them but that he had "made" them, and that, "therefore," he knew all about them. The word "reins" means literally the "kidneys;" and then, it comes to denote the inward part, the mind, the soul, the seat of the desires, affections, and passions. Jeremiah 11:20. See Psalm 7:9, note; Job 19:27, note. The meaning here is, that God had made him; that the innermost recesses of his being had been constituted as they are by God; and that, "therefore," he must be able to see all that there is in the very depths of the soul, however it may be hidden from the eye of man.
Thou hast covered me in my mother's womb - The word here rendered "cover" means properly to interweave; to weave; to knit together, and the literal translation would be, "Thou hast "woven" me in my mother's womb, meaning that God had put his parts together, as one who weaves cloth, or who makes a basket. So it is rendered by DeWette and by Gesenius (Lexicon). The original word has, however, also the idea of protecting, as in a booth or hut, woven or knit together - to wit, of boughs and branches. The former signification best suits the connection; and then the sense would be, that as God had made him - as he had formed his members, and united them in a bodily frame and form before he was born - he must be able to understand all his thoughts and feelings. As he was not concealed from God before he saw the light, so he could not be anywhere.
14I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.
I will praise thee - I will not merely admire what is so great and marvelous, but I will acknowledge thee in a public manner as wise, and holy, and good: as entitled to honor, love, and gratitude.
For I am fearfully and wonderfully made - The word rendered "fearfully" means properly "fearful things;" things suited to produce fear or reverence. The word rendered "wonderfully made" means properly to distinguish; to separate. The literal translation of this - as near as can be given - would be, "I am distinguished by fearful things;" that is, by things in my creation which are suited to inspire awe. I am distinguished among thy works by things which tend to exalt my ideas of God, and to fill my soul with reverent and devout feelings. The idea is, that he was "distinguished" among the works of creation, or so "separated" from other things in his endowments as to work in the mind a sense of awe. He was made different from inanimate objects, and from the brute creation; he was "so" made, in the entire structure of his frame, as to fill the mind with wonder. The more anyone contemplates his own bodily formation, and becomes acquainted with the anatomy of the human frame, and the more he understands of his mental organization, the more he will see the force and propriety of the language used by the psalmist.
Marvellous are thy works - Fitted are they to excite wonder and admiration. The particular reference here is to his own formation; but the same remark may be made of the works of God in general.
And that my soul knoweth right well - Margin, as in Hebrew, "greatly." I am fully convinced of it. I am deeply impressed by it. We can see clearly that the works of God are "wonderful," even if we can understand nothing else about them.
15My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.
My substance was not hid from thee - Thou didst see it; thou didst understand it altogether, when it was hidden from the eyes of man. The word "substance" is rendered in the margin, "strength" or "body." The Septuagint, the Latin Vulgate, the Syriac, the Arabic, and Luther render it, "my bone," or "my bones." The word properly means strength, and then anything strong. Another form of the word, with different pointing in the Hebrew, means a bone, so called from its strength. The allusion here is to the bodily frame, considered as strong, or as that which has strength. Whatever there was that entered into and constituted the vigor of his frame, the psalmist says, was seen and known by God, even in its commencement, and when most feeble. Its capability to become strong - feeble as it then was - could not even at that time be concealed or hidden from the view of God.
When I was made in secret - In the womb; or, hidden from the eye of man. Even then thine eye saw me, and saw the wondrous process by which my members were formed.
And curiously wrought. - Literally, "embroidered." The Hebrew word - רקם râqam - means to deck with color, to variegate. Hence, it means to variegate a garment; to weave with threads of various colors. With us the idea of embroidering is that of working various colors on a cloth by a needle. The Hebrew word, however, properly refers to the act of "weaving in" various threads - as now in weaving carpets. The reference here is to the various and complicated tissues of the human frame - the tendons, nerves, veins, arteries, muscles, "as if" they had been woven, or as they appear to be curiously interweaved. No work of tapestry can be compared with this; no art of man could "weave" together such a variety of most tender and delicate fibres and tissues as those which go to make up the human frame, even if they were made ready to his hand: and who but God could "make" them? The comparison is a most beautiful one; and it will be admired the more, the more man understands the structure of his own frame.
In the lowest parts of the earth - Wrought in a place as dark, as obscure, and as much beyond the power of human observation as though it had been done low down beneath the ground where no eye of man can penetrate. Compare the notes at Job 28:7-8.
16Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them.
Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect - This whole verse is very obscure, but the "idea" in this expression clearly is, "Before I had shape or form thou didst see what I was to be." The single word in the original translated "my substance, yet being unperfect," is גלם gôlem. It occurs only in this place, though the verb - גלם gâlam - is found in 2 Kings 2:8, where it is used in reference to the mantle of Elijah: And Elijah took his mantle, and "wrapped it together," etc. That is, he rolled it up, or he folded it. The noun, then, means that which "is" rolled or wrapped together; that which is folded up, and hence, is applicable to anything folded up or undeveloped; and would thus most aptly denote the embryo, or the foetus, where all the members of the body are as yet folded up, or undeveloped; that is, before they have assumed their distinct form and proportions. This is undoubtedly the idea here. Before the embryo had any such form that its future size, shape, or proportions could be marked by the eye of man, it was clearly and distinctly known by God.
And in thy book - Where thou recordest all things. Perhaps the allusion here would be to the book of an architect or draftsman, who, before his work is begun, draws his plan, or sketches it for the direction of the workmen.
All my members were written - The words "my members" are not in the original. The Hebrew is, as in the margin, "all of them." The reference may be, not to the members of his body, but to his "days" (see the margin on the succeeding phrase) - and then the sense would be, all my "days," or all the periods of my life, were delineated in thy book. That is, When my substance - my form - was not yet developed, when yet an embryo, and when nothing could be determined from that by the eye of man as to what I was to be, all the future was known to God, and was written down - just what should be my form and vigor; how long I should live; what I should be; what would be the events of my life.
Which in continuance were fashioned - Margin, "What days they should be fashioned." Literally, "Days should be formed." DeWette renders this, "The days were determined before any one of them was." There is nothing in the Hebrew to correspond with the phrase "in continuance." The simple idea is, The days of my life were determined on, the whole matter was fixed and settled, not by anything seen in the embryo, but "before" there was any form - before there were any means of judging from what I then was to what I would be - all was seen and arranged in the divine mind.
When as yet there was none of them - literally, "And not one among them." Before there was one of them in actual existence. Not one development had yet occurred from which it could be inferred what the rest would be. The entire knowledge on the subject must have been based on Omniscience.
17How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God! how great is the sum of them!
How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God! - On the word "thoughts," see the notes at Psalm 139:2. Compare Psalm 139:23. The remark is made here doubtless in view of the numberless "thoughts" involved in planning and forming a frame so wondrous, and in the care necessary to bring it to perfection; to develop it; to provide for it; to guard and defend it. How many "thoughts" of a parent are employed in behalf of his children, in providing for them; teaching them; counseling them; anticipating their needs. How manymore thoughts are needful on the part of God in reference to each one of us: for there are numberless things necessary for us which cannot occupy the mind of a parent, since he cannot accomplish these things for us; they do not lie within his province, or in his power.
How great is the sum of them - literally, "How strong are the heads of them." That is, The heading of them, or the summing of them up, would be a task beyond the power of man. And who "could" estimate the number of the "thoughts" necessarily bestowed on himself by his Maker in all the care exercised over him; all the arrangements for his development and growth; all that is done to defend him from danger; all that is indispensable in providing for his needs; all that was necessary to secure the salvation of his soul! See the notes at Psalm 40:5.
18If I should count them, they are more in number than the sand: when I awake, I am still with thee.
If I should count them - If I could count them.
They are more in number than the sand - Numberless as the sand on the sea-shore.
When I awake, I am still with thee - When I am lost in deep and profound meditation on this subject, and am aroused again to consciousness, I find the same thing still true. The fact of "my" being forgetful, or lost in profound meditation, has made no difference with thee. Thou art still the same; and the same unceasing care, the same thoughtfulness, still exists in regard to me. Or, the meaning may be, sleeping or waking with me, it is still the same in regard to thee. Thine eyes never close. When mine are closed in sleep, thou art round about me; when I awake from that unconscious state, I find the same thing existing still. I have been lost in forgetfulness of thee in my slumbers; but thou hast not forgotten me. There has been no change - no slumbering - with thee.
19Surely thou wilt slay the wicked, O God: depart from me therefore, ye bloody men.
Surely thou wilt slay the wicked, O God - Compare the notes at Isaiah 11:4. The literal translation of this would be, "If thou wilt slay the wicked." It is not easy to account for the sudden and remarkable transition or diversion of the train of thought from the main subject of the psalm, in these verses Psalm 139:19-22, in which the psalmist gives vent to his feelings toward the wicked, and prays that they may depart from him. Perhaps the explanation of it may be, that as the psalmist was reflecting on the fact that God is everywhere present, that he searches the hearts of people, that he must know all their conduct, he was suddenly struck with the idea of the condition of wicked people in the presence, and under the eye, of such a Being. As God knows all things, he must know them; and this instantaneously suggested the idea of their guilt and danger. People of such characters could not deceive such a God. They could not but be known to him, and could not but be objects of his aversion. They could not, therefore, but be in danger.
Depart from me, therefore, ye bloody men - See Psalm 119:115. The Hebrew is, "Men of bloods;" that is, men who shed blood. The language is used to denote wicked men in general. The idea here is not that the psalmist was in danger from them at that time, but that he desired to be separate from that class of people; he did not wish to be ranked with them, to partake of their conduct, or to share in their fate. He had no sympathy with them, and he desired to be separate from them altogether.
20For they speak against thee wickedly, and thine enemies take thy name in vain.
For they speak against thee wickedly - This is one form or manifestation of their character as wicked people, that they speak maliciously against God. The psalmist, therefore, desired to have nothing to do with them. It is always a sufficient reason for avoiding the society, the friendship, and the fellowship of others, when they profane, blaspheme, or calumniate the name of God. From such men we should at once withdraw. Piety shrinks from the society of such men, whatever may be their rank, or their social qualities, and turns away in pain, in sorrow, in abhorrence. See the notes at Psalm 26:9.
And thine enemies take thy name in vain - It is proof that they are thine enemies that they take thy name in vain, or that they are profane men; it is a sufficient reason for desiring to be separated from them.
21Do not I hate them, O LORD, that hate thee? and am not I grieved with those that rise up against thee?
Do not I hate them, O Lord, that hate thee? - This is in the consciousness of the psalmist a proof of his own real piety, as derived from his feelings toward those who were the enemies of God. The word hate here, as applied to them, must be understood in the sense that he disapproved of their conduct; that he did not desire to be associated with them; that he wished to avoid their society, and to find his friends among men of a different character. See the notes at Psalm 1:1. Compare Isaiah 5:5.
And am not I grieved with those that rise up against thee? - The expression here - "grieved" - explains the meaning of the word "hate" in the former member of the verse. It is not that hatred which is followed by malignity or ill-will; it is that which is accompanied with grief - pain of heart - pity - sorrow. So the Saviour looked on people: Mark 3:5 : "And when he had looked round about on them with "anger," being "grieved" for the hardness of their hearts." The Hebrew word used here, however, contains "also" the idea of being disgusted with; of loathing; of nauseating. See the notes at Psalm 119:158. The feeling referred to is anger - conscious disgust - at such conduct; and grief, pain, sorrow, that people should evince such feelings toward their Maker.
22I hate them with perfect hatred: I count them mine enemies.
I hate them with perfect hatred - With no approval whatever of their conduct; with no sympathy for the evil they do; with no words of apology for their sinful acts; with entire disapprobation.
I count them mine enemies - As they are the enemies of God, so I regard them as my enemies. I do not wish to be associated with them, or to be regarded as one of them.
23Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts:
Search me, O God - The word "search" here is the same as in Psalm 139:1. See the notes at that verse. The psalmist had stated the fact that it is a characteristic of God that he "does" search the heart; and he here prays that God "would" exercise that power in relation to himself; that as God could know all that there is within the heart, he would examine him with the closest scrutiny, so that he might be under no delusion or self-deception; that he might not indulge in any false hopes; that he might not cherish any improper feelings or desires. The prayer denotes great "sincerity" on the part of the psalmist. It indicates also self-distrust. It is an expression of what all must feel who have any just views of themselves - that the heart is very corrupt; that we are liable to deceive ourselves; and that the most thorough search "should" be made that we be "not" deceived and lost.
And know my heart - Know or see all that is within it.
Try me - As metal is tried or proved that is put to a "test" to learn what it is. The trial here is that which would result from the divine inspection of his heart.
And know my thoughts - See what they are. The word rendered "thoughts" occurs only in one other place, Psalm 94:19. The idea is, Search me thoroughly; examine not merely my outward conduct, but what I think about; what are my purposes; what passes through my mind; what occupies my imagination and my memory; what secures my affections and controls my will. He must be a very sincere man who prays that God will search his thoughts, for there are few who would be willing that their fellow-men, even their best friends, should know all that they are thinking about.
24And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.
And see if there be any wicked way in me - Margin, "way of pain," or "grief." The Hebrew word properly means an image, an idol Isaiah 48:5, but it also means pain, 1 Chronicles 4:9; Isaiah 14:3. The word in the form used here does not occur elsewhere. Gesenius (Lexicon) renders it here idol-worship. DeWette, "way of idols." Prof. Alexander, "way of pain." The Septuagint and Vulgate, "way of iniquity." So Luther. The Syriac, "way of falsehood." Rosenmuller, "way of an idol." According to this, the prayer is that God would search him and see if there was anything in him that partook of the nature of idolatry, or of defection from the true religion; any tendency to go back from God, to worship other gods, to leave the worship of the true God. As idolatry comprehends the sum of all that is evil, as being alienation from the true God, the prayer is that there might be nothing found in his heart which tended to alienate him from God - would indicate unfaithfulness or want of attachment to him.
And lead me in the way everlasting - The way which leads to eternal life; the path which I may tread forever. In any other way than in the service of God his steps must be arrested. He must encounter his Maker in judgment, and be cut off, and consigned to woe. The path to heaven is one which man may steadily pursue; one, in reference to which death itself is really no interruption - for the journey commenced here will be continued through the dark valley, and continued forevermore. Death does not interrupt the journey of the righteous for a moment. It is the same journey continued - as when we cross a narrow stream, and are on the same path still.