Psalm 139:1 reveals how one develops theology from God's Word

Written by Paul J. Bucknell on January, 21, 2020

Detecting God’s Glory: How We Learn Theology From the Scriptures

The Verse

“O LORD, You have searched me and known me.” (Psalm 139:1)

The Discussion

God’s eternal glory can easily overwhelm our puny minds and spirits. There is a good reason for the godly prophets to fall as dead when God revealed Himself to them (e.g., Daniel, John). God’s preeminence always stands brilliant and compelling against our severely limited knowledge of Him. My purpose here is to show how theology is deduced from the scriptures. We allow God to authoritatively speak through His Word. Many, today, are turning away from shaping their view of God from the holy scriptures, preferring to succumb to false teachings, beliefs, and evil practices.

I acknowledge there are a few limitations to the study here. For instance, I limit the scope of this study to one verse. Nor am I trying to provide the scope of the teachings gleaned from the totality of the scriptures. There is a place for these more extensive studies. (I have deliberately tackled this more in numerous books found in the Discipleship #3 Digital Library.) This study, instead, sets out the needed approach to the scriptures due to the flagrant and pronounced ‘selfology’ that is so evident today.

I have an intense concern that we highly esteem God’s Word to its highest position of authority in our lives and minds. When I looked at this verse (Psalm 139:1), all of a sudden, like a new student starting his first class, a panorama of God’s glorious person opened before my mind. God redeems, judges, and is involved, gracious, intimate, omniscient, and personal. God used this one verse to expand my understanding of Himself. I’ll now expand on some of these conclusions derived from His words about Him.

The attributes of God seen in Psalm 139:1

    “You have searched…” — Involved

God involves Himself in this material world. For some reason, He pays attention to the details that happen in this world. From which, we can assume they are relevant to Him. But more than this, He steps into our personal lives, processing information about our lives to search and know us.

    “You have known me.” — Personal

    God perceives all things about me and you. He is not just a power or force but is aware of what He perceives and thinks. We can understand God’s knowledge of how our minds reflect. But our mere awareness of knowledge and self-reflection should not have us conclude that God is like us. We, of course, were made in God’s image—not God in our image! God is omniscient. He knows all things not only about the Psalmist but about all people. God is personal.

      “You have searched me.” — Judge

    God is the Judge. I stand under His scrutiny because of His knowledge of what I do and think. There is no way to hide ourselves from His penetrating eye. Nor is there any defense for us, who are embedded in our guilt before Him. Observing our many flaws, including the Psalmist’s, we remain accountable for our personal decisions. Proper theology, if rightly understood, must become personal and deal with our inadequacies.

      “You have searched me and known me.” — Intimate and omniscient

    God steps inside our very beings to personally know us, including our otherwise hidden motives. He has made, in today’s security language, a latch by which He can and does spy out all our thoughts. Nothing can be or is hidden from Him. Being personal, God can understand my thoughts and drives. While the Psalmist does not speak about our ability to know the One who searches and knows us, the whole Psalm testifies to this personal attribute of God. Notice how the Psalmist assumes God’s thoughts of him, “How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God!” (Ps 139:17)

      “You have searched me and known me.” — Redeemer and gracious

    God is Redeemer. Note carefully at the Psalmist’s name for God. He did not use the generic ‘God’ but Yahweh (LORD-all capitals). Yahweh is the covenant God who makes a way for His covenant people to draw near to Him. This Psalm would be fearsome if God only knew us as Judge and not Savior. But knowing the depth of our needs and being fully committed to helping mankind, our hearts spring forward into His favor, grace, and mercy. Here, we only speak of God’s knowing us, but it exposes the deep needs and vulnerabilities of every human being. In verse 23, the Psalmist even welcomes God to explore his life, “Try me and know my anxious thoughts” (Ps 139:23).

    Understanding This God

    Each observation of God discovered through this verse broadens our understanding of who God is and how He involves Himself in our lives. Secularism, as well as Deism, are farces, pretending a world that is only a figment of their imagination. Meanwhile, God exists and remains very acquainted with our beings and choices. There remain no choices that remain outside the scrutiny of God.

    The religious world will distort God’s being, either seeing Him only as a Judge (because of our guilt), or as a loving God who overlooks our sin. God, however, sees the depths of sin but also our needs and has responded by sending His Son, Jesus, to save us.

    Those who deny God need to know that He knows them! If we do not know Him, then we will stand condemned with our sins on His coming Judgment Day. Every fault and bad attitude will be rightly judged. This is the reason the Holy Spirit begins His work in the world with conviction (John 16:8).

    Instead, as we get to know God, we become wary that He perceives the depth of our sin. But if we hear the Gospel, we know the conviction leads us to life not judgment. He sent His Son to restore our personal relationship with Him. As John says, “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love” (1 John 4:18). The Psalmist does a wonderful job opening up his life under the scrutiny of God to lead us all to find God’s redeeming love. In the New Testament, we know that forgiveness comes only through Jesus’ death on the cross for our sins (1 John 4:10). We fear not God’s examination of our lives but invite Him in His holiness to cover us with Christ’s righteousness.


    Theology begins with an investigation into what the scriptures state. And so, from our observations of Psalm 139:1, we gain a flash of revelation about God that we would otherwise be lacking. To be true, I added many other observations from other parts of the scriptures, but even if we disciplined ourselves to stay fixed on this one verse, we would still have plenty of reason to worship and seek God’s merciful salvation in Jesus.

Study Questions on Detecting God’s Glory

1. After meditating on Psalm 139:1, what significant thought stands out to you? Why?

2. List the various attributes or characteristics of God hinted at in Psalm 139. (Read the whole Psalm to affirm your thoughts.)

3. How do we know God understands our thoughts?

4. Why does God’s personal knowledge of us become the basis of His judgment of our lives?

5. Why, if God perceives all our sins, we need not be afraid of God?

6. What is the significance of God’s personal name (LORD, Yahweh) used in this verse?

7. How is it that God sending His Son into the world fulfills the Psalmist’s greatest hopes here?

For further study:

Various resources included in the Discipleship #3 Digital Library

Ephesians 3:21 God’s Amazing Glory- The Bible Teaching ...

Ephesians 3:21, God’s Amazing Glory,” is section 3 of 4 parts of The Bible Teacher’s Commentary that shows the amazing glory of God that is revealed in the ...

Isaiah 66.18-22 Declare His Glory Among the Nations: God’s ...

Glory to the Nations’ exposits Isaiah 66:18-22 by speaking of God’s mission: God’s determination (66:18), God’s ability (66:19) and God’s plan (66:20-22) to ...

Psalm 8:1-9 Experiencing the Glory of God; Examining Self-Esteem ...

Psalm 8 enables us to experience the glory of God and examine the Self-esteem movement. In order to appreciate and live for God’s glory, we must make room ...


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