First United Methodist Church
Plymouth, Indiana

God is Holding Your Life: Where Can I Go?


God is Holding Your Life: Where Can I Go?; Psalm 139
Plymouth First United Methodist Church; January 24, 2021
Pastor Toni Carmer

In this third week of our series, God is Holding Your Life, I want us to hear/to experience the confidence proclaimed in Psalm 139 that God is with us from the time of our creation to the time when the grave is made our bed—and every moment in between.  I want us to remember that God created us—every part of us—and loves us with a love that is completely beyond our ability to understand.

I want us to remember that we are beloved.  We are God’s own.  And it is in God that we find our identity.

Psalm 139 is a hymn of thanksgiving.  The writer is offering praise for God’s goodness in delivering him from some life-threatening situation: was it an illness?  Some form of oppression?  An enemy attack?  Though we don’t know what it might have been—what we do know is that the writer is addressing his song to the God he has the privilege of knowing—intimately and personally.  But even more important than this, this God to whom he sings and offers his praise knows him…knows everything about him…knows him even more than he knows himself.

The God to whom the Psalmist sings is one with whom he is in relationship.  Old Testament scholar Walter Brueggemann describes this relationship saying that Psalms are prayers addressed to a known, named, identifiable You. The work of God is not only cosmic, but personal.  In a book entitled Tales of the Hasadim, Martin Buber, an early twentieth-century Jewish philosopher, offered these words/this poem concerning the relationship between God and humankind, as experienced in this Psalm:


Where I wander – You!

Where I ponder – You!

Only You, You again, always You!

You! You! You!

When I am gladdened – You!

When I am saddened – You!

Only You, You again, always You!

You! You! You!

Sky is You, Earth is You!

You above! You below!

In every trend, at every end,

Only You, You again, always You!

You! You! You!

God is with us sees us, knows us, and is familiar with all our ways.  We are surrounded by God’s presence.  The Psalmist says, “that kind of knowledge is too much for me; it’s so high above me that I can’t fathom it.”

This is the emphasis of the first 6 verses of the Psalm.  God knows everything the Psalmist thinks and does.  You might think of this as comforting, or maybe you don’t!  But what the Psalmist expresses is trust, not fear.  Praise, not guilt.  Grace, not judgement.  I read this Psalm and I’m reminded of Paul’s words to the church of Rome: There’s nothing that can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord: neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth—nor anything we might have thought or done—nor anything else in all creation.  God knows everything about us. Knows everything we think and do.  And loves us still…stays with us.  Always. You, God, you.

In the 7 verses that follow, the Psalmist relates that God is present with him wherever he goes. As we read, we’re not sure if he’s pleased about that or not!  “Where can I go then from your Spirit?  Where can I flee from your presence?” I can’t help but wonder if this is less about the writer wanting to do something that he knows he shouldn’t do and doesn’t want God to witness whatever it is, and more about that little tug inside him that urges him to do something when he’d rather do nothing.  That little voice inside that says, “go back and look, and make sure everything is okay,” that says, “you know, hunger is a big deal in Indiana, maybe there’s something I can do to help with that,” or, ”those little kids down the street are outside playing in the same jackets they were wearing last winter, and they aren’t any warmer or fitting any better than they were last year.  Maybe I can help with that.”

Maybe it’s that scenario that keeps replaying in your head to apologize, or make that call, or whatever it is that you’ve been putting off because it makes you feel uncomfortable.

Why can’t you just let it rest, God, why can’t you leave me be?  Where can I go to get away from you?

Maybe those are kind of things the Psalmist is asking.  Or maybe, it’s another word of celebration—thank God, there’s no where I can go to get away from you.  Even in the deepest pit, in the darkest moment, in the time when I feel most afraid or alone—you’re there. 

God is with you.  You’re never alone.  You, God, you’re there.

You’re holding me fast.  Holding me tight.  You, God.  You.

How can I escape you?, the Psalmist asks.  I can’t.  So accept that as good news.

The final 5 verses, from 13-18, relate how God has been present and actively involved with the Psalmist from the very beginning.  God created my inmost being, and stitched me together in my mother’s womb, he says.

It’s a wondrous thing.  An amazing thing.

Our daughter is now 18 weeks pregnant, and is to have several ultrasounds along the way.  She had one on Thursday, and she sent us some pictures of Henry, which is our little guy’s name.  He’s about the size of an avocado, although .6# sounds like a lot for an avocado, though small for a baby.

Through the miracle of modern medical technology, our baby’s “frame” is being made in a place that is less secret to us than in the time of the Psalmist. It’s still an amazing thing though, isn’t it?  To watch an infant grow?

The Psalm shows us that we humans reside our whole lives within the context of God’s love and care. I like to think of that as residing in God’s embrace: God is holding us—holding our lives all the way through. 

It’s all kind of hard to understand. Though we don’t have the knowledge to fully understand God, God knows us and understands us.  That’s why God gave us Jesus: not to find out what it means to be human, but because God knows we need a Savior. 

It’s a beautiful Psalm, isn’t it?  We are wondrous creations, truly we are. 

I wonder: what beautiful things, what perfect things do you suppose God was thinking on the day God created you?