Early in my life my parents and teachers taught me a valuable lesson: If your words are not kind, do not speak. I have not always followed this advice, but when I have it has served me well. I have avoided saying things I would regret. I have prevented myself from wounding someone else. At times this advice has even helped move a conversation from insult-slinging to constructive dialogue. I have learned that some things are better left unspoken.
However, this psalm suggests that this advice does not work with God: “Even before a word is on my tongue, O LORD, you know it completely.” At times this knowledge is comforting; we are assured that when we cannot give voice to our prayers, God still knows them. But such knowledge is also convicting because it means God knows the unkind words we do not speak, the gossip we relish but choose not to share, and the injustices we witness but do not speak out against. God knows the thoughts in our minds even before we speak them aloud, even if we do not speak them at all.
We cannot keep secrets from God. God knows our inward parts and our inner thoughts. God’s knowledge often exposes what we would prefer to hide or leave unspoken. While we may want to flee from such knowledge, the psalm concludes by suggesting we welcome it. It is God’s intimate knowledge that has the power to correct and refine us. “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts. See if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Ps. 139:23-24).
All-knowing God, when I want to run from you, slow me down. When I want to hide, reveal what I need to see. Search my heart, expose what is sinful within me, and lead me on the right path. Amen.
We read the stories of Samuel and the calling of Jesus’ disciples in John, and it’s easy to feel jealous. God spoke so directly into their lives that they should have had, it seems to us, full and unwavering confidence in their callings. Didn’t they have an unfair spiritual advantage over us? However, the psalmist reminds us that God knows and sees us individually just as well as God knew Samuel and Jesus knew his disciples. God has plans for us, even if they are revealed in less obvious ways. The reading from First Corinthians is quite different in its message. Perhaps we can at least recognize that even if we never hear God’s audible voice, through scripture God still provides guidance for our lives.
Read 1 Samuel 3:1-20. Can you think of a time when you failed to hear God calling you? What helps you to listen to God?
Read Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18. How does the knowledge that all humans are “fearfully and wonderfully made” inform the way you regard and care for others?
Read 1 Corinthians 6:12-20. Paul writes, “All things are lawful.” What does that mean to you? What are the responsibilities inherent in such freedom?
Read John 1:43-51. Who are the people who invited you to “come and see” Jesus? Is there someone around you to whom you could extend that invitation today?
Respond by posting a prayer.
I join many of those who will pray for you as you seek to discern what you are called to be at this moment. May God grant you the courage to fulfill that calling. May we all open our eyes and see the misery, open our ears and hear the cries of God’s people, and, like God through the Lord Jesus Christ, be incarnate amongst them.”
View a growing list of resources for the spiritual work of overcoming racism.