The Responsorial Psalm for next Sunday is Psalm 139: 1-11, 22-23 (BCP). It is, in my mind, one of the most lyrical and poetic passages in the entire canon of scripture. In addition to its loveliness, it deals with a profound and humbling truth: God knows me better than I know myself.
1 LORD, you have searched me out and known me; *
you know my sitting down and my rising up;
you discern my thoughts from afar.
2 You trace my journeys and my resting-places *
and are acquainted with all my ways.
3 Indeed, there is not a word on my lips, *
but you, O LORD, know it altogether.
4 You press upon me behind and before *
and lay your hand upon me.
5 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; *
it is so high that I cannot attain to it.
6 Where can I go then from your Spirit? *
where can I flee from your presence?
7 If I climb up to heaven, you are there; *
if I make the grave my bed, you are there also.
8 If I take the wings of the morning *
and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
9 Even there your hand will lead me *
and your right hand hold me fast.
10 If I say, "Surely the darkness will cover me, *
and the light around me turn to night,"
11 Darkness is not dark to you;
the night is as bright as the day; *
darkness and light to you are both alike.
22 Search me out, O God, and know my heart; *
try me and know my restless thoughts.
23 Look well whether there be any wickedness in me *
and lead me in the way that is everlasting.
When I am searching for God, I discover that God is already searching for me. When I am trying to discern God's will, I discover that God's yearning for me is always for my welfare and that impacts the lives of those around me - loving God in this way leads to loving my neighbor. When I am asking God to answer my prayer, I discover that God knows the best answer and is tailor made for my life.
God knows me better than I know myself. Therefore, if I truly believe that, I yield to God's wisdom and trust God with the results. That is not always an easy task. After all, I'd rather be in control of things, especially things that impact my life.
That's the story of the Bible, isn't it? The wrestling match between God and God's people. In fact, after the patriarch Jacob wrestled all night with the messenger of God and finally yielded, his name was changed to Israel, which means to wrestle with God. As the story unfolds, we see that it is a fitting name. The struggle between the human will and the divine will is the basic struggle of our existence as people of faith. Even though we profess to believe that God knows best, we are bound and determined to do it our way. Even though we say that God knows us better than we know ourselves, we still try to prove God wrong. Even though we hold the conviction that there is no place where God is not, we still try to hide from God.
The remedy for our condition is to grow in our inclination to trust God so that we can be reconciled to God. And, we are assured that God will supply the grace that will help us overcome our resistance, again and again and again. The one who knows us better than we know ourselves will supply the resources we need to align our life with God's life. A wise mentor of mine once told me that prayer is the struggle to harmonize the human will with the divine will. The truth of what he said has been borne out in my personal experience.
Sunday's collect sums it up this way:
Almighty God, the fountain of all wisdom, you know our necessities before we ask and our ignorance in asking: Have compassion on our weakness, and mercifully give us those things which for our unworthiness we dare not, and for our blindness we cannot ask; through the worthiness of your Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
May we be granted the humility and grace to yield our wills to God who knows us better than we know ourselves, so that we might become the new creatures God has had in mind all along.
P.S. - Here is a wonderful musical setting of Psalm 139 by Bernadette Farrell sung by the Choir of Wells Cathedral. I hope you enjoy listening to is as you reflect on who knows you best.