July 20, 1969. For the first time ever, mankind landed on the moon. That happened as the lunar module Eagle, piloted by Buzz Aldrin and also occupied by mission commander Neil Armstrong, touched down on the surface of the moon.
To give credit to the third part of the team - the one who stayed with the command module Columbia - Michael Collins was in an orbit around the moon, waiting for the lunar visit to end. Waiting for the lunar module to take off and dock with the ship so they could all return home safely.
But before too long, Neil Armstrong descended the steps of the lunar module, becoming the first man to walk on the moon’s surface. His words are familiar, at least to those of us who heard them as they were spoken those many years ago. The words were, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”
Twenty minutes after Neil Armstrong’s descent, Buzz Aldrin became the second man to walk on the moon. However, there was something else memorable about that first moon landing, other than the landing itself. It is something Buzz Aldrin did. That something was to take Communion.
Aldrin had taken with him a tiny Communion kit given to him by his home church. Shortly after landing - before the two astronauts climbed down the steps of the lunar module - Aldrin asked for a short time of radio silence.
During that silence, Aldrin poured the Communion wine into the little silver chalice in the kit. He read John 15:5, which records Jesus saying, “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me and I in him, bears much fruit.” Aldrin then gave thanks and took the Communion bread and the wine.
Communion is celebrated here, too, of course, but it was also, 47 years ago, celebrated on the moon. There are many things that were learned from the landing on the moon. In the spiritual realm, that includes the suggestion that God is not just on earth. He is everywhere.
I wonder if Aldrin might have also had Psalm 139 on his mind back on July 20, 1969. That Psalm includes the teaching that God is everywhere. That is in the middle part of Psalm 139.
The Psalm has some other teachings as well. In this message, let’s consider all that is taught in the Psalm, beginning with what is taught in the first of the three sections of the passage. Verses 1 through 6.
Psalm 139:1. “LORD, You have searched me and You know me.”
Wow. How amazing is that? God, according to David, had perfect knowledge of David, the author of the Psalm. God has perfect knowledge of each of us as well.
How perfect? Completely perfect, based on the word “know.” That refers to more than just being acquainted with. It alludes to intimate knowledge. It extends to the point of everything about us being revealed to Him, both inwardly and outwardly.
I dare say His knowledge of me is more complete than my knowledge of myself. Listen to its extent. David wrote in verses 2 and 3, “You know when I sit and when I rise. You perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down. You are familiar with all my ways.”
Remember it is David who wrote this Psalm. King David - the most important, powerful person in the Jewish nation, probably the most important, powerful person in the world at that time.
Kings at least like to think they are answerable to no one. That they and they alone determine their schedules. When they work and when they rest. And what they are thinking. How could anyone else know that?
How amazing are David’s words. What an understanding he had that God is more powerful than any king - including him. That God knows everything about everyone.
And did we hear the words “familiar with all my ways”? That refers not just to daily travels. It extends to the journey of life. God knew David’s paths, including if they were good ones or not. He knows whether our paths are for good or bad.
And get this in verse 5. God is with each of us and has the ability to alter our paths.
Of course, there is always free will that we and everyone has. We may choose to not let God direct our paths, but He is behind us and before us. He is available to guide us and push us. God has His “hand upon us.” He is ready to provide all the guidance we need.
And it goes beyond even that. David added in verse 4, “Even before a word is on my tongue, You know it completely, O LORD.”
Again, kings think the words they say come from themselves - or sometimes their speech writers - and that no one knows what they are going to say until their words are spoken. But God knew David’s words before they were spoken. He knows our words before we speak them. Not only the words, but what we mean by them and our attitudes when we say them.
I often share that when in a confrontation, I can rarely can come up with anything to say. The next day I can think of zingers so award-worthy they would completely demoralize whoever is angry with me, but of course by then it is too late to respond.
I wonder if Psalm 139 should come to my mind at such times. Maybe the LORD takes away my words before they reach my tongue. Maybe He keeps me from saying things that should not be said.
The LORD searches me and knows me. He did that for David. That applies to you and me as well. He knows what we are doing. He knows our thoughts. He knows our words before they are spoken. He is ever-present and is willing to guide us and push us.
All that can sound very scary. However, it is not supposed to be scary. It was not scary to David, who in verse 6 added, “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.” Instead of being scared, let’s be comforted that God knows us better than we know ourselves. Let’s rejoice that He is willing to use His knowledge of us for our good. And again, we have free will. We can do and say whatever we want. But because of His knowledge, He can make us better followers of Him. A challenge in Psalm 139 is to allow Him to make us better.
Which can happen no matter where we are, which brings us to the second section of the Psalm. Verses 7 through 16.
David begins this section with two questions. “LORD, where can I go from Your Spirit? Where can I flee from Your presence?”
Remember the point a moment ago about the LORD being with us to guide us and push us? The point was made that He is with us wherever we are. Here that is stated again. God is everywhere. There is no escaping Him, even if we try to flee from Him.
Remember the report of Jonah in the Old Testament. He was told by God to go and preach to the people of Nineveh, which he did not want to do because the people in that city were so evil. Remember what Jonah did? He got on a boat headed the opposite direction of Nineveh.
In the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, God caused a horrific storm. To help save the boat, Jonah, who admitted to the crew he was the cause of the storm. That God was after him. Jonah was thrown overboard.
Most people in that situation would have drowned, but God sent a big fish to swallow Jonah.
Most people inside fish die, but God kept Jonah alive until, three days later, the fish got to a shore and vomited him onto dry land.
The result was that Jonah did go to Nineveh. He did preach the need to repent. The people did repent. But what a reminder Jonah is of the truth of David’s words. There is no way to get away from God, even if we try to flee from Him.
Which, again, can be a scary thought, but instead is an expression of God’s presence, which He is able to use to work for our good.
David continued. Verse 8. “If I go up to the heavens [no matter how high a mountain I climb] God, You are there. If I make my bed in the depths” [which can refer to the lowest places on earth or to the center of the earth or to being away from the living or to turning to the dark side of life], God is there, too. As He is - verses 9 and 10 - “If we rise on the wings of the dawn to the far side of the sea.” If we settle on some isolated island in the middle of an ocean somewhere, even there God’s “hand shall lead me. His right hand will hold me fast.”
His right hand. That hand represents power. It represents forgiveness. No matter where we are, we will never be out of the reach of that hand. And again, we have free will. We do not have to take advantage of His hand, but it is available to guide us and hold us fast to Him.
That is a blessing that extends to every hour of every day. Verses 11 and 12. David continued, “If I say, surely the darkness will hide me, if I ask the light around me to disappear, even there, God is.”
Again, there is no way to get away from God. There is no place to go to get away from Him. Which again, is to be a comfort to us rather than a scary thin.
And listen to what else David proclaims, this time in verses 13 through 16, which adds to the idea of God’s intimate knowledge of us. He knows where we are, He knows our thoughts, He knows our words. He also knows us physically. He knows because He made us. “For You created my inmost being,” David wrote. “You knit me together in my mother's womb.”
David was amazed by that, along with how intricate each of our bodies is. He added, “I praise You, LORD, because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”
I looked online to get some examples of how wonderfully made we are. I hope as I share a few of them, we will all remember our bodies did not just form through some sort of primal, cosmic boom or because of evolution. Such intricacies had to have been the work of a master creator, that being God.
Here are some examples how wonderful our bodies are. Each of our bodies.
Our hearts beat about 35 million times a year. During an average lifetime, the human heart beats more than two-and-a-half billion times.
If all the arteries, veins, and capillaries of a human circulatory system were laid end to end, the total length would be 60,000 miles. That is nearly two-and-a-half times around the Earth. That is in each body.
Speaking of the circulatory system, I read that when a person gains a pound of fat, the body makes seven new miles of blood vessels. That obviously means the body has to work harder to pump blood through all those extra new vessels, which may put a strain on the heart. Also, there is a reduction of oxygenation and nutrient replenishment in our tissues, which are also bad things.
Fortunately, if you lose a pound, your body will break down and re-absorb the now-unnecessary vessels. How amazing is that?
If a human adult's digestive tract were stretched out, it would be 20 to 30 feet long.
The fastest nerve cells carry messages along a body’s network at an amazing 268 miles per hour. I recently touched a hot toaster. Yes, my nerves let me know right away that it hurt.
The human eye processes about 80% of the information we receive from the outside world. The tiny retina contains about 130 million rod-shaped cells, which detect light intensity and transmit impulses to the visual cortex of the brain by means of about one million nerve fibers, while nearly six million cone-shaped cells do the same job, but respond specifically to color variation.
The eyes can handle 500,000 messages at once, and are kept clear by ducts producing just the right amount of fluid with which the lids clean both eyes simultaneously in one five-thousandth of a second.
The strongest muscle in a human body is the tongue. It works almost nonstop when we talk, eat, and swallow.
Wow, huh? David was most certainly accurate when he wrote we are fearfully and wonderfully made. How important to remember that we were made, not by accident or by chance, but by God. Which is why David did and we need to praise God.
And back to God never being away from us, His constant presence began before our births. David wrote, “My frame was not hidden from You, LORD, when I was made in the secret place inside my mother.” He added that God’s eyes saw him even before he was born. In fact, God knew David’s whole life even then. The same is true for us.
There is nowhere we can go where God is not. Wherever we are, God is there, too. Whatever we do, God knows it. Not only does He know about us in general. He knows us physically since He is the one who knit each of us into being. Those points are taught in today’s passage.
Then, in the third section of the Psalm - verses 17 through 24 - David gave some more thanks before closing with a very specific, very needed prayer request. A request we, too, need to make.
Verses 17 and 18. “How precious to me are Your thoughts, O God. Your thoughts of me, how vast is the sum of them. Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand.”
Consider that. Not only does God know where we are and what we are doing and thinking and going to say. Not only does He know us physically. He thinks about us all the time.
We know from elsewhere in the Bible, including in the Old Testament Book of Jeremiah, that His thoughts are for our good, not our detriment. That is the case even when what we do or think or say might be worthy of punishment. Even at those times, God wants to forgive us.
But how amazing that He thinks of us all the time. So often, the count of His thoughts is more than the number of grains of sand on the earth.
I am going to officiate a wedding in a few weeks. The couple is going to have unity sand. I was thinking about the number of grains in the two containers they will pour into a single container. I certainly cannot imagine counting those grains, and they will be in just two containers.
Expand that to all the world. How amazing are His thoughts of us. As already mentioned, God thinks of us when we are asleep and, as repeated at the end of verse 18, when we wake up. David was thrilled about that.
But then, in a sudden change of mood, David, in verses 19 through 22, asked God to “slay the wicked.” He also asked God to take away from him “bloodthirsty men.” David was upset with anyone and everyone who rose up against God. Any and all who do not take advantage of God’s presence and His knowledge. Any and all who deny God’s creative activity. Any and all who destroy God’s creation.
I think the intent of David was to not take the chance that any person against God would threaten his resolve to stay true to the LORD.
With that in mind, David asked for God’s help against the wicked. He then ended Psalm 139 with a very specific, important, serious request. Verse 23. “Search me, O God, and know my heart. Test me and know my anxious thoughts.”
Earlier in the Psalm, David acknowledged that God had searched him, so what an interesting, important request. Apparently, David invited God - he wanted God - to continue to search him and test him. Every part of him.
And let’s remember the significance of the word “search.” David wanted, not an idle glance or a quick once-over. He wanted God to look fully and deeply into every part of his being.
Why? So that if God found any offensive way in him - may this be our prayer as well - God would let David and let us know what is found, and that God would then lead us away from that, the goal being to be led in the way everlasting. All the way to Heaven.
A devotional about Communion on the moon ends with this thought. Are you far away from home? You are probably not as far away as the moon, though it might feel that way, and this can relate to being far away from where you need to be spiritually. Do you feel as if you are on a lonely mountain top or in a dark valley?
No matter what your situation, no matter where you are, God, who fearfully and wonderfully made you, knows where you are and what you are doing and thinking and saying. He knows who or what your enemies are.
With His knowledge and His presence, He is ready to help you. He wants to help you. Let’s join together in praising Him for His knowledge and His presence. Let’s join together in asking to be searched by Him. Let’s join together in letting Him work with us to inform us of anything bad in our lives and then letting Him change us so we can, through Him, be worthy of His presence and His thoughts.
Today’s closing is going to be the reading of the hymn Cleanse Me. I think just the words best fit the mood of Psalm 139. We will stay with the words “I” and “we,” keeping our request personal. We will do that until the last set of lines.
This will also serve as today’s benediction.
Search me, O God, and know my heart today.
Try me, my Savior. Know my thoughts, I pray.
See if there be some wicked way in me.
Cleanse me from every sin and set me free.
Lord, take my life and make it wholly Thine.
Fill my poor heart with Thy great love divine.
Take all my will, my passion, self, and pride.
I now surrender, Lord. In me abide.
Fill us with fire where once we burned with shame.
Grant our desire, LORD, to magnify Thy name