Had I known…
There have been moments in my life had I known in advance my decisions would have been otherwise. Had I known, I would not have taken that route, driven that road, chosen that path, opened that door, made that choice, walked that particular way.
Why was crucial insight left out, unspoken, unrevealed, and in essence, silent? So I continued only to later find that had I known I would have continued another way.
We know and yet we do not know. We know enough, yet not enough. The more we know the more we do not know. There is more to knowing than we know. We can know what we need to know, but we are unable to know in full. If we could know in full we may not wish to know at all. The knowing belongs to the All-knowing One who knows all, above and beyond, all there is to know.
I do not think there is anything more difficult than to not know. Most of us approach each day with a general knowledge of what may transpire between arising from bed in the morning to laying down in the evening. For some, there is no such knowledge. A day cannot be defined enough to know anything about it. There is a significant struggle to know if there will be another day. Each moment is qualified by the unknown. With every shifting moment in life it seems that we shift along with it. There is no stability with which we can hold to during the undercurrents of the circumstances that have seemingly chosen us because they know us more than we would want to know.
Each time I got into my car to make the long arduous round trip to Dallas I thought within myself, “What will this journey bring?” I knew enough to know that when you’re in service to the Lord with whatever capacity He places you in trouble will surely lurk around the corner. The enemy is waiting for every opportunity to spoil God’s plan. Though I remembered the Holy Spirit’s words “you will be well”, I often reflected on it in the midst of that lonely journey. I clung to the Spirit. My thoughts knew no end and the utterances of my lips knew no friend as I felt alone. When I arrived home safely past midnight each time I was relieved. Another trip down, another to go. In my mind each trip proved itself worthy of the words that led it. Yet I still wondered. It was unknown to me but I was known to Him. Deus Solus. God alone.
As the Psalmist David writes…
“O LORD, Thou hast searched me and known me.
Thou dost know when I sit down and when I rise up; Thou dost understand my thought from afar.
Thou dost scrutinize my path and my lying down, And art intimately acquainted with all my ways.
Even before there is a word on my tongue, Behold, O LORD, Thou dost know it all.
Thou has enclosed me behind and before, And laid thy hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; It is too high, I cannot attain to it.”
(Psalm 139: 1 – 6)
David faced many challenges in his life from the time he was a young shepherd boy to the era he reigned as King of Israel. As a shepherd boy and the youngest of his father’s sons, David did not possess the characteristics of a would-be King. The world views people through the lens of man rather than the lens of God. Even his own earthly father would not have chosen David to be King, but viewed his other sons as having the characteristics fitting for the royal role. When a son emulates his father it tends to garner favor more than the one that does not. David, in essence, was by-passed by his own father, overlooked, underestimated, and seemingly not possessing the potential gravitas his father saw in his other sons. In our society today, people choose their leaders in terms of charisma such as charm, smile, likability, oratory skill, or through certain relations, but when God is involved it is never the same as man.
In 1 Samuel 16: 7 God said to the prophet Samuel “…Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” Seven of David’s brothers passed by the prophet Samuel in an effort to confirm God’s chosen future King. Obviously, in the eyes of David’s own father Jesse, David did not possess the necessary characteristics for the role of King as did all his older brothers. Samuel, who had orders from God, knew that none of Jesse’s sons were God’s chosen one, so he inquired of Jesse “Are these all the children?” (verse 11). Can you imagine what Samuel must have thought? “God, you ordered me to this task, all seven sons have passed in front of me, and yet not one of them is your chosen? Then who is?” Jesse responds to Samuel and says there is one more son but he is the youngest and is tending sheep. So there it is. Disqualified due to age and skill. Samuel replies “Send and bring him; for we will not sit down until he comes here” (verse 11). Can you hear the exasperation in Samuel’s voice? He was determined to accomplish God’s request and to see with his very own eyes this young shepherd boy.
I imagine, as David heard his father’s voice in the distance to come over, he obeyed, carried his staff like the friend it had become, ran through the sheep-filled field toward the crowd of men that had gathered, slowed his pace to a steady walk, and made his entrance into the scene, and in verse 13 it says, “Now he was ruddy, with beautiful eyes and a handsome appearance. And the Lord said, Arise anoint him; for this is he.”
When I read the scripture I see that God made it a point to describe David’s outward appearance. I thought only man looks at the outward appearance but God looks at the heart? God does look at the heart.
As I have gotten older through the years I have gained experience in life. Time and life are a forcing function to grow in many ways, such as, experience, wisdom, intellect, and above all the spirit. It has led me to see this: young David was ruddy, meaning a healthy looking tanned face from all the hours and days spent outdoors tending sheep. The sheep business is messy with all the dirt, mud, grass stains and filth it provides. It is not a glorifying position. It invites all manners of physical and mental challenges such as strength, humbleness, and patience. The outdoor nature of being a sheep herder perhaps added to the rugged-handsomeness of young David. I do not think he was a pretty, soft type of a boy protected from the elements as maybe all his older brothers which made them more suitable for man’s anointing. The filth of the field hid David’s outward and physical appearance, but not to God.
Often times, the youngest of the siblings get the most attention, are the most protected, as well as the spoiled baby of the brood. Not so with David. David was rugged, strong, and acquainted with aloneness. There is no doubt in my mind shepherding sheep grew David’s physical stature, appreciation for the beauty of the outdoors, sensitivity and patience for the wandering sheep, and humility to be assigned such a menial task all alone. Aloneness can be a great teacher. God was building character unbeknownst to David and to others. Strong character and pureness of heart are what God looks for in His chosen leader.
Yes, David was handsome, but all the more for it because his heart was after God’s heart. God was pleased with His fine young boy. I find it interesting that the youngest of Jesse’s sons was assigned as shepherd of the sheep, so much so, as Jesse thought of his sons as worthy of anointing, he forgot entirely about his youngest son. However, David was known to God, and God alone.
In time, David became God’s chosen as the first King of Israel. As the years progressed he experienced many things in life. He encountered great heroic victories as the warrior King as well as great personal failure. However, through it all, David came to know God deeply, but that God knew him ever more deeply was beyond that which he could imagine or comprehend.
Verse 1 which says “O Lord, Thou has searched me and known me” means it is a testament of God’s knowledge of David as God knows his inner-self.
In verse 2 it says “Thou dost know when I sit down and when I rise up; Thou dost understand my thought from afar.” God knows all of David’s moves, from his sitting to his rising and everything in between. God knows and understands David’s thoughts whether near or far away. There is no distance from God. He is ever present inside David’s thoughts.
Verse 3 states “Thou dost scrutinize my path and my lying down, And art intimately acquainted with all my ways.” Here, God knows all of David’s activities from lying down to his personal inclinations, leanings, preferences, motivations, and inwardness.
Verse 4 reads “Even before there is a word on my tongue, Behold, O Lord, Thou dost know it all.” God not only has foreknowledge of David’s thoughts, He understands David’s thoughts from the standpoint He knows what drives his thoughts, such as reasons and formulations. Before a thought is complete He knows what will be said. No creature is hidden from God’s sight and as all things are open to Him all things are laid bare before Him, including the innermost thought. This proves that God is aware of all things and knows all things.
It says in verse 5 “Thou hast enclosed me behind and before, And laid Thy hand upon me.” Here, God has encased David as in a hedge of protection surrounding him entirely. Just as Jerusalem is surrounded by the mountains so does He surround and protect His people. Perhaps this reflection of David was based on his running away from Saul into the desert wilderness and that God’s hand was upon him offering protection every step of the way.
The passage ends with verse 6 saying “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; It is too high, I cannot attain to it.” God’s knowledge of David, and all of humankind, is incomprehensible. The omniscience of God is beyond time and space. I wonder if David thought of the beautiful blue sky above and the expanse of it while tending sheep in the field as a young boy. Certainly, as much time David spent alone in the great outdoors he must have marveled at the creation all around him, such that one day he would reflect on his memories of it when writing this magnificent Psalm.
Over the course of the fall and winter I drove a 500 mile roundtrip from Houston to Dallas on a weekly basis and by the time the internship was completed I logged an estimated 10,000 miles. Each time, my mind was heavy in thought as I pondered the class I would teach, my students, my notes, as well as my life in general. I was so alone. Often I was driving at sunset and late into the evening. I remember the many times I drove with my sunroof open only to see the expanse of the great Texas sky and on the clearest of evenings the twinkling of the stars high above me. I loved it. Oh how vast God’s creation of the heavens and the earth. While I never knew what would await me on those journeys, I took solace knowing that God knew.
All I know is that You, my God, know. You’ve always known. You will always know and there has never been a time in which You have not known. Your omniscience is yours alone. You know the beginning from the end and the end from the beginning. Nothing in life, or in our mind and heart are hidden from You. You know all things before they come into being. You and You alone know all things and there is no other. Deus Solus. God alone.
Photocredit: The author in the classroom at Dallas Theological Seminary
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