12 July 2022

Praying with the Psalms in Ordinary Time:
12 July 2022 (Psalm 139)

‘You search out my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways’ (Psalm 139: 3) … following a pathway through the fields at Tombs Meadow beside the River Ouse in Stony Stratford (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

Patrick Comerford

In the Calendar of the Church, we are in Ordinary Time. Before today begins, I am taking some time this morning to continue my reflections drawing on the Psalms.

In my blog, I am reflecting each morning in this Prayer Diary in these ways:

1, Short reflections on a psalm or psalms;

2, reading the psalm or psalms;

3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary.

Psalm 139:

Psalm 139 is the second psalm in the final Davidic collection of psalms, Psalm 138 to Psalm 145, which are specifically attributed to David in their opening verses. Psalm 139 is known for its affirmation of God’s omnipresence.

In the slightly different numbering system in the Greek Septuagint and the Latin Vulgate, this is Psalm 138. Its name in Latin is Domine probasti me et cognovisti me.

The Psalm continues the theme of God’s call: ‘O Lord, you have searched me out and known me’ (Psalm 139: 1).

Not only did God knit us together in our mother’s wombs, but this whole passage reads like we are in God’s womb, hemmed in by God behind and before. God knows everything the Psalmist thinks and his does, God finds him wherever he goes, and the psalmist cannot escape from God even if he tries.

The ‘depths of the earth’ is a figurative or poetic way of referring to the womb.

Our life is in God’s womb, which is a peaceful and comforting thought. We cannot go where God is not, and God, in a sense, is also chasing after us, insisting on having a relationship with us.

Psalm 139 is one of the psalms in this group of psalms (Psalms 138 to 145) attributed to David. According to the Midrash Shocher Tov, however, Psalm 139 was written by Adam. Verses 5 and 16, for example, allude to the formation of the First Man.

Some say verse 16 is the only place in the Bible where the word גָּלְמִ֚י (galmi), from the same root as golem, appears. In describing the creation of Adam hour by hour, the Talmud states that in the second hour the dust from the earth was gathered into a golem or unformed mass (Sanhedrin 38b).

A Midrash on Genesis 5: 1 also describes Adam’s creation as a golem of immense size, stretching from one end of the earth to the other. This is reflected in verse 16, in which Adam says to God, ‘Your eyes saw my golem.’

Figures of the Golem on a shop shelf beside the Old-New Synagogue in Prague … some traditions associate Psalm 139: 16 (‘Your eyes beheld my unformed substance’) with the word Golem (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Psalm 139 (NRSVA):

To the leader. Of David. A Psalm.

. 1 O Lord, you have searched me and known me.
2 You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from far away.
3 You search out my path and my lying down,
and are acquainted with all my ways.
4 Even before a word is on my tongue,
O Lord, you know it completely.
5 You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is so high that I cannot attain it.

7 Where can I go from your spirit?
Or where can I flee from your presence?
8 If I ascend to heaven, you are there;
if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there.
9 If I take the wings of the morning
and settle at the farthest limits of the sea,
10 even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me fast.
11 If I say, ‘Surely the darkness shall cover me,
and the light around me become night’,
12 even the darkness is not dark to you;
the night is as bright as the day,
for darkness is as light to you.

13 For it was you who formed my inward parts;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
that I know very well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
16 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.
17 How weighty to me are your thoughts, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!
18 I try to count them—they are more than the sand;
I come to the end—I am still with you.

19 O that you would kill the wicked, O God,
and that the bloodthirsty would depart from me—
20 those who speak of you maliciously,
and lift themselves up against you for evil!
21 Do I not hate those who hate you, O Lord?
And do I not loathe those who rise up against you?
22 I hate them with perfect hatred;
I count them my enemies.
23 Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my thoughts.
24 See if there is any wicked way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.

Today’s Prayer:

The theme in the prayer diary of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel) this week is ‘Partners in Mission.’ It was introduced on Sunday.

Tuesday 12 July 2022:

The USPG Prayer Diary invites us to pray today in these words:

Let us give thanks for partnership. May we cherish the joy of being and working together.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org

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