Doctrinal and Practical Remarks on Psalm 139 – Wm. Plumer

Doctrinal and Practical Remarks on Psalm 139 – Wm. Plumer

Doctrinal and Practical Remarks on Psalm 139:1-24

Screen Shot 2015-09-08 at 8.28.37 AM1. There is no better shape, in which to mould our highest views in theology, than that of devotion, a psalm, a prayer, as this poem shows. Henry: “Divine truths look full as well when they are prayed over,
as when they are preached over: and much better than when they are disputed over.”

2. If, as some think, this Psalm was written, when David’s good name was through calumnies under a cloud, it tells all the slandered what to do. Let them go to God in such an hour with the joyous testimony of a good conscience; and he will be to such the God of all comfort. 

3. Each of the divine perfections is in its turn for our consolation and edification. Omnipotence protects, mercy forgives, faithfulness preserves, omniscience searches us, vv. 1, 23. It is God’s plan and our interest to have our hearts and ways subjected to the scrutiny of omniscience, which is thorough, infallible and infinitely holy in all its examinations.

4. It is a sign of true piety, when we are pleased with all the divine attributes, even the omniscience and justice of God, and implore the examination to which the intuitive and unerring knowledge of the Most High subjects us, vv. 1, 23. The better our spiritual state, the more will we betake ourselves to God, and rest satisfied only as we can approve ourselves to him alone.

5. The knowledge of God is absolutely perfect in kind and degree. There can be no addition made to it, vv. 1-6. Of course we can no more comprehend God’s knowledge, than his eternity. We can wonder and adore, and there we must stop. 

6. If our dealings are with God as the Searcher of hearts, hypocrisy is both superlative folly and superlative wickedness. It cannot effect any of its objects, and it is a direct insult to God. Before omniscience simulation and dissimulation are alike futile. False pretenses have no power to hide anything from God. The hope of the hypocrite shall both justly and terribly perish.

7. How great is human ignorance when brought into comparison with divine knowledge, v. 6. No man knows a millionth part of the propositions which constitute universal truth. Men are blind and cannot see afar off. The greatest are but as children, 1 Cor. 13:11, 12. Men have but broken fragments of truth in this life. Luther: “All we are, and all we do, are not our own wisdom or doing.” Dickson: “We see most of God, when we view him as incomprehensible, and we see ourselves swallowed up in the thoughts of his perfection.”

8. The doctrine of the omnipresence and omniscience of God is of excellent use in many ways. By the help of divine grace it warns and encourages us at the same time. Were we not exceedingly prone to sin, it would powerfully control us. A man has been held back from a crime by the presence of his little child. How then should the presence of Jehovah restrain us. It is a small thing to be seen of man’s eye, or judged of man’s judgment; but to live and act under the scrutiny of God is well suited to make us solemn and cautious. Yet God’s Holy Spirit must change and renew the heart, or it will never turn from wickedness. Men cannot be frightened out of their iniquities.

9. The attributes of God are harmonious. One is not in conflict with another. Omniscience and omnipresence are but names given to the distinct attributes of the infinite and undivided excellence of the one living and true God, vv. 1-13. Nor are these or any of God’s perfections discordant in their influence on good men. Tholuck: “The thought of the omniscience of God ought in every prayer to purify our souls, while that of his omnipresence ought to sanctify it.” Scott: “The belief of God’s omnipresence is intimately connected with that of his omniscience, and is of similar efficacy.” 

10. No madness exceeds that of the poor guilty wretch, who expects to elude the eye or the arm of God, vv. 7-13. Calvin: “We are ashamed to let men know and witness our delinquencies; but we are as indifferent to what God may think of us, as if our sins were covered and veiled from his inspection.” Morison: “There is something awfully penetrating in the thought of our being the immediate objects of the divine inspection and scrutiny.” 

11. As creation at first awakened the song of the heavenly host; so the due consideration of our own creation should deeply affect us, and we should often and adoringly dwell upon it, vv. 14-16. Just reflections on our own origin and preservation would mightily strengthen our faith and prepare us for many trials. 

12. As architects and embroiderers have a plan by which they accomplish their designs; so has God also his plan, his counsel, his purpose, his book according to which he reigns and does all things, even to the formation of a human body in the womb, v. 16. Luther: “The Psalmist here proclaims that incomprehensibleness of the divine wisdom and goodness, whereby, in a wonderful manner, he himself and all men, with all their affairs, all their works and all their thoughts, both the greatest and the least, were predestinated of God from everlasting. This manifold wisdom of God is incomprehensible to flesh and blood.” 

13. There is no light, in which we can seriously view God’s care of us, that his tender love to us and his watchfulness over us are not amazing and precious to a right-minded man.

14. The doom of the incorrigible is certain, fixed and dreadful, v. 19. They are the enemies of God by wicked works; and God is their enemy by righteous indignation, and will fight against them and slay them all. 

15. We must either break with sinners, or perish with them, v. 19. 

16. Ever since men were sinners, their wickedness has been breaking out in hard speeches against God, v. 20. It will be so to the end, Jude 14, 15.

17. God’s people willingly make common cause with him, vv. 21, 22. His law is their law; his will is their will; his friends are their friends; his enemies are their enemies.

18. But in our hatred of sin we should carefully guard against all malice, all private pique, all personal enmity, and abhor the characters of the wicked only as they are abhorrent to God, vv. 21, 22. Morison: “Even our very condemnation of what is evil requires to be tested. Does it spring from love to God? from hatred of sin? from attachment to holiness? from a desire not to countenance evil? or does it spring from ostentation? – from censorious feeling?-from hypocritical pretence? from a desire to please certain of our fellow-creatures?”

18. [sic.] Whoever would walk in the right way must be led by the Almighty. Otherwise he will surely err and that fatally, going in the way of grief, v. 24. 

19. We cannot account for the existence of this poem but on the supposition that it was taught by inspiration. Fleury: “Let the modern wits, after this, look upon the honest shepherds of Palestine, as a company of rude and unpolished clowns; let them, if they can, produce from profane authors thoughts that are more sublime, more delicate, or better turned; not to mention the sound divinity, and solid piety couched under these expressions.”

Plumer, William S. Psalms, A Critical and Expository Commentary with Doctrinal and Practical Remarks, The Geneva Series of Commentaries (Carlisle: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1975), 1165-7.