These days I’ve found myself singing “Fear of the Lord,” by Matt Gilman, in my quiet time. The lyrics to this song are inspired from Psalm 139, the famous psalm that depicts how we are so intimately known by God. In the final verses of the chapter, David asks of the Lord to search him, know all his “anxious thoughts,” and to expose any “offensive way in me” (Psalm 139:23-24). Although I love singing this Scripture as worship unto God, in the back of my head I’m afraid that as I am praising, He will suddenly give me an open vision of every wickedness that has been residing in my heart.
Even when I’m not singing songs like this one, I tend to magnify my wickedness, to lock my gaze on all my sins and shortcomings—then approach God with fear, irrationally viewing myself as a hypocritical Pharisee who loves God with only his mouth. However, God recently revealed a new perspective on this verse, that not only freed me from fear, but also graciously exposed a deeper “wickedness” that I had missed.
My Offensive Ways
When we read Psalm 139:24, it is easy to assume David is referring to sin. And I agree that sin is wicked in the light of God’s holiness. But even more than the lists of sins we have committed, I believe that David is describing the misconceptions and lies that we believe about the one we’re sinning against. For example, when your best friend shares deep and personal information to another person, but never to you, you’d be offended. In this situation, his or her “offensive way” is that your friend did not count you as trustworthy, not necessarily the fact that he/she didn’t tell you.
Likewise, the offense comes from the motivation of sin, not the action of the sin itself. Whenever we choose the world above Him, we are essentially declaring that He is not the good Father, He is not beautiful, He is not trustworthy. A good example of this is our “anxious thoughts,” which David writes about in verse 23. People often don’t put anxiety on the same level as lust, murder, or theft, yet anxiety can be one of the most offensive things we partake in, because it depicts God as unreliable, inadequate, and negligent. Even my initial fear, that God will give me an open vision of all my sins, stems from a terrible lie that my Father is not “gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, and rich in love” (Psalm 145:8).
Yet, with this new perspective, the Scripture no longer becomes centered around my sins and my wicked ways, but around the truths of God’s character. When we ask Him to search our hearts, we are essentially asking Him to renew our minds about who He is, and in turn, who we are as children of God.