(22) I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made – Psalm 139:14

The Psalms are Hebrew poetry and their main feature is a rhythm that comes from having pairs of lines that complement one another, with the second line usually completing or expanding the thought of the first line. Here are the first three lines of Psalm 139 as an example:

“You have searched me, Lord,
and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.” (Psalm 139:1-3)

If you just read the first lines of each verse you would still get the meaning, but the second line adds depth to it.

This Psalm is a song of awesome reflection. David is acutely aware of God’s presence in his life. God knows him on a daily basis, aware of his action, his words and even his thoughts before they happen. David contemplates trying to get away from God but recognises that going up or down or flying away over the sea like a bird will not allow him to escape from God’s presence.

David then reflects on his own creation. While his body was formed in secret in his mother’s womb, he was not hidden from God. Even then God was ‘knitting him together’ in the womb and God’s knowledge also extends beyond the creation of a life to all the days that are formed for it too. God knows what is to come in each and every day of a baby’s life. This is what causes David to cry out in praise for he is “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14).

Today we have all seen pictures of babies being formed in the womb, but this doesn’t diminish the sense of awe and wonder that we get from seeing a new-born baby, ‘knitted together’ in an extraordinary fashion. We love to look at its tiny hands and feet with perfect fingers and toes, ready to grow into strong hands that will work for the good of others and feet that will take the body to work, to play and to love. As we look into the baby’s eyes we see intelligence, a mind that is already very active and eager to absorb knowledge and which will take decisions for good or ill on a daily basis.

But there in an awful flip-side to the wonderful potential we see in every human baby. As they grow up not all make the right choices on a daily basis, and sadly many squander their God-given opportunity for good and choose a different path. David calls on God to take the men of blood away from him, those who use their hands and feet to destroy others and whose minds are full of malicious intent. Such people are God’s enemies and so are enemies of all who seek the common good.

Who are the wicked people? How do we identify them?

David’s final thought is a sobering one. As he reflects on the evil in others it holds up a mirror to himself and he asks God to search his own heart and “see if there is any offensive way in me” (Psalm 139:24) so he can root it out and live right before God and men.

We are, indeed, fearfully and wonderfully made: wonderful in the fact that we exist at all and fearful in our potential for good or ill. Let us thank God for bringing us into being and ask him to reveal the dangers that lurk in our heart so that we can live this day right before him and others.

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