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Bible Commentaries

James Nisbet's Church Pulpit Commentary

Psalms 139

Verses 1-2

THE INDWELLING GOD

‘O Lord, Thou hast searched me, and known me. Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, Thou understandest my thought afar off.’

Psalms 139:1-Exodus :

‘Our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ.’

1 St. John 1:3

What do you mean by God? On a man’s answer to that question depends ultimately all his thinking about the world and all his living within it. We cannot escape from God in our daily life.

I. How are we to conceive of this indwelling God?—All nature is a revelation of God, and nature must be interpreted by what is highest in man. God in His nature cannot be less, He can only be infinitely more, than what is really revealed in man. That is, if there be in man the power of a rational ordering of things there must be in God also mind and purpose. If there be in man the power to will, so there must be sovereignty of will in God. But in man there are higher things than mere will and intelligence; there is the power of conscience. You may remember how a great philosopher said that the two things which most loudly spoke of God were the stars of heaven without and the voice of conscience within. God, therefore, cannot be less, He can only be infinitely more than all the highest goodness disclosed in the best of men. Yet one step more. When we think of man we think not only of his will, his mind, and his goodness, but of something higher still of which he is capable—the quality of love. God, therefore, cannot be less, He can only be infinitely more than all we can conceive of love in its utmost intensity and self-sacrifice. In Him, wisdom, will, goodness, love, reach to the highest imaginable point of intensity and reality, and this God is every moment within you—closer than your breathing, nearer than your very selves, ‘so close that He is not even so far off as to be near.’

II. What is the right relationship with this indwelling God?—We know love to be the highest revelation of God in man, and we know that what love yearns for is fellowship in the lower orders of life. He is satisfied with the creature which fulfils the law of its life; we can think of God rejoicing in the beauty of the flower or the song of the bird, but when we come to man we come to gifts which he shares with God; a man has a heart that can feel and a will that can choose. So what God is yearning for is that we may enter into fellowship with Himself.

III. Are you not conscious as you think of this necessary fellowship between you and the indwelling God of at least two obstacles to our attaining to it?—(1) The first is our ignorance. If we are really to know a man it is not sufficient to know the attributes of his character—that he is able, kind, brilliant, unselfish, and the like; we must know him closer, we must come into contact with the man as he is—the man himself; he must disclose himself if we are to become aware of the real man. So must it be with us if we are to become acquainted with God.

(2) The second obstacle—what is it? Your conscience gives the answer—it is sin! There is in me, in you, a self-chosen will of aversion from God, as well as a God-chosen will of conversion to Him, and unless that self-will were conquered and overcome there would be at the root of life always a breach in the harmony with God. We might expect surely that God would overcome this obstacle, for the very freedom which makes it possible to sin is the freedom which makes possible a willing fellowship with God. Once again an historical answer comes: this Man Christ Jesus came claiming to be a Saviour of His brethren from their sins; the Man Jesus has come to us not only as a revelation of God in human flesh, but also as a power by which our sin can be overcome. Our relationship with this God must be the primary fact of our life. It is to be a relationship of communion of heart and will made possible for us through the Manhood of Jesus. In Him the character of God is disclosed; by Him we are redeemed, restored to God. Therefore, to take Christ as God and Saviour is to be ‘put right with God’—that is, ‘to be saved.’

—Bishop C. G. Lang.

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Bibliographical Information
Nisbet, James. "Commentary on Psalms 139". Church Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/cpc/psalms-139.html. 1876.