Saturday, October 15, 2011

Thoughts Men Don't Like to Think

In American culture, men are taught to be independent. Men are portrayed as not needing anyone, any place, or anything. All men need is themselves. In fact, the most iconic illustration of an American man is still the western cowboy, totally free from all cares. He is a man's man--independent, self-sufficient, and free. All the cowboy needed was the horizon to ride into. The problem with this cultural mindset is that no one can live an independent life. The image that our culture wants to put on men is not real. The fact is, even the manliest of men have needs that they cannot meet. We all need clothing, shelter, food, and more. Even the breath we breathe must be given to us.

David records in Psalm 139 a meditation that men in American culture don't like to think. But Psalm 139 opens our eyes to a reality that we must face in order to live successfully as Christian men in a society that desperately wants us to believe in a false reality. The reality is that we are not autonomous. We are dependent. We are not the highest beings in the universe. We are all under God. I've broken following psalm down into four basic points:

1. God knows us completely - v. 1-6

Verse one is a summary statement for the following 5 verses. David reflects, "O Lord, You have searched me and known me." God knows everything about me. He has searched me out. Nothing is hidden from Him. He knows our sitting down and rising up. He knows our thoughts before we think them. He knows and understands the paths we take. Proverbs 16:9 even tells us that God directs our steps. God is acquainted with all our ways. He knows our words before we speak them. His hand is upon our lives.

Men in our culture are not trained to think this way. We are trained to think that we are not known by anyone. We are trained to think that being completely known is a weakness. But being fully known is not weakness. The fact that God fully knows us ought to be a relief. We don't even fully know ourselves. Being fully known by God is proof that we are dependent upon Him.

David's conclusion in verse 6: "Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain it." What a glorious, unreachable--nigh incomprehensible thought. We are fully known.

2. God surrounds us completely- v. 7-12

Again, verse 7 serves as a summary statement for this section of verses. David writes, "Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence?" Anywhere we could go, God would be there. Follow David's thoughts here: If we were to go up to heaven, God is there. If we were to go down to Sheol, God is there. If we were to fly away or go to the deepest part of the sea, God is there. If we were to try to hide in the darkness, we would see that even the darkness is as light to God. Darkness cannot hide us from Him. We cannot flee from God's presence.

If being fully known is anti-cultural to our western, independent, self-sufficient minds, than being completely surrounded by God is worse. We like to think that we get alone when we want to. If that were true, we could to whatever we wanted to with no consequence. But we need to realize that God is everywhere we go and He sees everything we do.

I like what Spurgeon says here: "We must be, whether we will it or not, as near to God as our soul is to our body. This makes it dreadful work to sin; for we offend the Almighty to his face, and commit acts of treason at the very foot of his throne. Go from him, or flee from him we cannot: neither by patient travel nor by hasty flight can we withdraw from the all-surrounding Deity. His mind is in our mind; himself within ourselves. His spirit is over our spirit; our presence is ever in his presence."

We are completely known and completely surrounded by God.

3. God makes us completely - v. 13-18

This next stretch of verses also challenges our American independent manly mindset. The American man is a self-made man. The American man is who he is because he has done what he has done. While there is some truth to that statement, it is not true that the American man is self-made. All mankind, according to David (and God), has been intricately created by God.

Look at David's description of God's creative power in verses 13-18: "For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother's womb. I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvelous are Your works, and that my soul knows very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them. How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How great is the sum of them! If I should count them, they would be more in number than the sand; when I awake, I am still with You."

God is intimately involved in the forming of each and every person. But it doesn't stop there. God is also intricately involved in every person's life. Indeed, He knows the number of our days before we even experience one of them. David realized how involved God was in his life. From beginning to end, God was his Maker, Sustainer, and God. The self-made man rejects this truth. To admit that God created him and even numbered his days before he even knew one of them goes against the very nature of the autonomous, independent man. But reject it or not, every man has been completely formed by God.

4. God protects us completely - v. 19-24

This is a thread of thought that is woven throughout this meditation by David. Verse 5 - "You have hedged me behind and before". Verse 10 - "Your right hand shall hold me". God protects us completely. Consider these verses: "Oh, that You would slay the wicked, O God! Depart from me, therefore, you bloodthirsty men. For they speak against You wickedly; Your enemies take Your name in vain. Do I not hate them, O Lord, who hate You? And do I not loathe those who rise up against You? I hate them with perfect hatred; I count them my enemies.

David had plenty of enemies. David had victory in many battles and defeated many kings. There was no shortage of wicked men that wanted to see David dead. He needed protection. For his protection, David turned to God, the all-knowing, all-powerful, everywhere-present God. American, self-made, self-sufficient men don't think they need protection. They think that they are able to protect themselves. There is no danger that the self-made man cannot it seems. But sooner or later, the self-made man will realize that life can throw a mean curve-ball and this man will find himself in want of protection and provision. They must turn to God or face destruction--turn to God or face despair.

Not only did David have enemies seeking to destroy his life, David also realized that he had an enemy within--the sinful flesh--that was seeking to destroy him. David makes a prayer of commitment to end this psalm: "Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my anxieties; and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting." 

We must all see the reality of life: we are not self-made, self-sufficient, autonomous men. We are men completely known, completely surrounded, completely made, and completely protected--both outwardly and inwardly--by the all-wise, all-powerful, everywhere-present, holy God. Reject what culture seeks to impress upon you. Reject the false reality that you are independent. Accept that you are completely dependent upon God.

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