Monday Reflection – November 18, 2019
Hem Me in Lord!
You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me.Psalm 139:5
Two themes emerge from Psalm 139 – God’s omniscience and God’s omnipresence. Both themes continue throughout the twenty-four verses of the Psalm. In today’s Watchword, David describes God’s omnipresence as one who hems him in. Other versions use the words, enclosed, beset, encircle, go before me and follow me. The Hebrew word is ‘tsuwr’. It means to bind, besiege, confine, cramp.
One commentator says that David’s initial response to the staggering knowledge of God’s omnipresence was that he was troubled. He thought it was confining, that God had besieged him and cupped his hand over him. This thought of such confining knowledge may have prompted David’s desire to escape, as verses 7-12 suggest. Moreover, if he could fly at the speed of light from the east across the sky to the west he could not escape from the Lord. God’s presence then began to take on a new meaning for the Psalmist, as if the light were dawning on him. This led him to acknowledge that the hand of the Lord would lead and comfort him.
Spurgeon points out that the text conveys the sense as though we were caught in an ambush, or besieged by an army which has wholly beleaguered the city walls. So are we surrounded by the Lord. God has set us where we be, and beset us wherever we be. Behind us there is God recording our sins, or in grace blotting out the remembrance of them; and before us there is God foreknowing all our deeds, and providing for all our wants. We cannot turn back and so escape him, for he is behind; we cannot go forward and outmarch him, for he is before.
Not only does God hem us in, but he lays his hand upon us. There is no chance of escape and his surrounding presence is not at a distant; he is right next to us, with his hand upon us. It provides the imagery of a prisoner who marches along surrounded by a guard, and gripped by an officer. God is very near; we are wholly in his power; from that power there is no escape. Yet, this is not a hand of harm or danger. Rather, our heavenly Father has folded his arms around us, and caressed us with his hand.
When we love the Lord, we want to be surrounded by him at all times. We want him to change our thinking to his. Therefore, we are not afraid to ask him to search us, and know us, and change us. We are not bothered by his hand hemming us in. On the contrary, having the Lord cup his hand over us is a good thing; it is comforting and reassuring.
Today’s New Testament text is a beautiful confirmation, “Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?” Romans 8:35. Paul answers this question in verses 37-39, “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”