Matthew Henry's Complete Commentary

Verses 7-16 (Psalms 139:7-16)

It is of great use to us to know the certainty of the things wherein we have been instructed, that we may not only believe them, but be able to tell why we believe them, and to give a reason of the hope that is in us. David is sure that God perfectly knows him and all his ways,

I. Because he is always under his eye. If God is omnipresent, he must needs be omniscient; but he is omnipresent; this supposes the infinite and immensity of his being, from which follows the ubiquity of his presence; heaven and earth include the whole creation, and the Creator fills both (Jer. 23:24); he not only knows both, and governs both, but he fills both. Every part of the creation is under God?s intuition and influence. David here acknowledges this also with application and sees himself thus open before God.

1. No flight can remove us out of God?s presence: ?Whither shall I go from thy Spirit, from thy presence, that is, from thy spiritual presence, from thyself, who art a Spirit?? God is a Spirit, and therefore it is folly to think that because we cannot see him he cannot see us: Whither shall I flee from thy presence? Not that he desired to go away from God; no, he desired nothing more than to be near him; but he only puts the case, ?Suppose I should be so foolish as to think of getting out of thy sight, that I might shake off the awe of thee, suppose I should think of revolting from my obedience to thee, or of disowning a dependence on thee and of shifting for myself, alas! whither can I go?? A heathen could say, Quocunque te flexeris, ibi Deum videbis occurrentem tibi?Whithersoever thou turnest thyself, thou wilt see God meeting thee. Seneca. He specifies the most remote and distant places, and counts upon meeting God in them. (1.) In heaven: ?If I ascend thither, as I hope to do shortly, thou art there, and it will be my eternal bliss to be with thee there.? Heaven is a vast large place, replenished with an innumerable company, and yet there is no escaping God?s eye there, in any corner, or in any crowd. The inhabitants of that world have as necessary a dependence upon God, and lie as open to his strict scrutiny, as the inhabitants of this. (2.) In hell?in Sheol, which may be understood of the depth of the earth, the very centre of it. Should we dig as deep as we can under ground, and think to hide ourselves there, we should be mistaken; God knows that path which the vulture?s eye never saw, and to him the earth is all surface. Or it may be understood of the state of the dead. When we are removed out of the sight of all living, yet not out of the sight of the living God; from his eye we cannot hide ourselves in the grave. Or it maybe understood of the place of the damned: If I make my bed in hell (an uncomfortable place to make a bed in, where there is no rest day or night, yet thousands will make their bed for ever in those flames), behold, thou art there, in thy power and justice. God?s wrath is the fire which will there burn everlastingly, Rev. 14:10. (3.) In the remotest corners of this world: ?If I take the wings of the morning, the rays of the morning-light (called the wings of the sun, Mal. 4:2), than which nothing more swift, and flee upon them to the uttermost parts of the sea, or of the earth (Job 38:12, 13), should I flee to the most distant and obscure islands (the ultima Thule, the Terra incognita), I should find thee there; there shall thy hand lead me, as far as I go, and thy right hand hold me, that I can go no further, that I cannot go out of thy reach.? God soon arrested Jonah when he fled to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord.

2. No veil can hide us from God?s eye, no, not that of the thickest darkness, Ps. 139:11, 12. ?If I say, Yet the darkness shall cover me, when nothing else will, alas! I find myself deceived; the curtains of the evening will stand me in no more stead than the wings of the morning; even the night shall be light about me. That which often favours the escape of a pursued criminal, and the retreat of a beaten army, will do me no kindness in fleeing from them.? When God divided between the light and darkness it was with a reservation of this prerogative, that to himself the darkness and the light should still be both alike. ?The darkness darkeneth not from thee, for there is no darkness nor shadow of death where the workers of iniquity may hide themselves.? No hypocritical mask or disguise, how specious soever, can save any person or action from appearing in a true light before God. Secret haunts of sin are as open before God as the most open and barefaced villanies.

II. Because he is the work of his hands. He that framed the engine knows all the motions of it. God made us, and therefore no doubt he knows us; he saw us when we were in the forming, and can we be hidden from him now that we are formed? This argument he insists upon (Ps. 139:13-16): ?Thou hast possessed my reins; thou art Master of my most secret thoughts and intentions, and the innermost recesses of my soul; thou not only knowest, but governest, them, as we do that which we have possession of; and the possession thou hast of my reins is a rightful possession, for thou coveredst me in my mother?s womb, that is, thou madest me (Job 10:11), thou madest me in secret. The soul is concealed form all about us. Who knows the things of a man, save the spirit of a man?? 1 Cor. 2:11. Hence we read of the hidden man of the heart. But it was God himself that thus covered us, and therefore he can, when he pleases, discover us; when he hid us from all the world he did not intend to hide us from himself. Concerning the formation of man, of each of us,

1. The glory of it is here given to God, entirely to him; for it is he that has made us and not we ourselves. ?I will praise thee, the author of my being; my parents were only the instruments of it.? It was done, (1.) Under the divine inspection: My substance, when hid in the womb, nay, when it was yet but in fieri?in the forming, an unshapen embryo, was not hidden from thee; thy eyes did see my substance. (2.) By the divine operation. As the eye of God saw us then, so his hand wrought us; we were his work. (3.) According to the divine model: In thy book all my members were written. Eternal wisdom formed the plan, and by that almighty power raised the noble structure.

2. Glorious things are here said concerning it. The generation of man is to be considered with the same pious veneration as his creation at first. Consider it, (1.) As a great marvel, a great miracle we might call it, but that it is done in the ordinary course of nature. We are fearfully and wonderfully made; we may justly be astonished at the admirable contrivance of these living temples, the composition of every part, and the harmony of all together. (2.) As a great mystery, a mystery of nature: My soul knows right well that it is marvellous, but how to describe it for any one else I know not; for I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the womb as in the lowest parts of the earth, so privately, and so far out of sight. (3.) As a great mercy, that all our members in continuance were fashioned, according as they were written in the book of God?s wise counsel, when as yet there was none of them; or, as some read it, and none of them was left out. If any of our members had been wanting in God?s book, they would have been wanting in our bodies, but, through his goodness, we have all our limbs and sense, the want of any of which might have made us burdens to ourselves. See what reason we have then to praise God for our creation, and to conclude that he who saw our substance when it was unfashioned sees it now that it is fashioned.

- Matthew Henry's Complete Commentary