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June 23, 2019

Sermon Psalm 139 . . .“Bible songs:  Fearfully and Wonderfully Made”

“Bible songs:  Fearfully and Wonderfully Made”

Psalm 139

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus.

Back in the mid-1900s, author Margaret Wise Brown wrote more than a hundred children’s books, with names like Goodnight Moon, I Like Bugs, and The Train to Timbuctoo.

But of all the books she wrote, probably the most famous of all was one called, The Runaway Bunny.  Since then, it’s become one of the best and most loved children’s books of all time.

It goes like this:  “Once there was a little bunny who wanted to run away.  So he said to his mother, ‘I am running away.’  ‘If you run away,’ said his mother, ‘I will run after you.  For you are my little bunny.’  ‘If you run after me,’ said the little bunny, ‘I will become a fish in a trout stream and I will swim away from you.’  ‘If you become a fish in a trout stream,’ said his mother, ‘I will become a fisherman and I will fish for you.’  ‘If you become a fisherman,’ said the little bunny, ‘I will become a rock on the mountain, high above you.’  ‘If you become a rock on the mountain high above me,’ said his mother, ‘I will be a mountain climber, and I will climb to where you are.’  ‘If you become a mountain climber, I will become a crocus in a hidden garden.’  ‘If you become a crocus in a hidden garden,’ said his mother, ‘I will be a gardener.  And I will find you.’  ‘If you are a gardener and find me,’ said the little bunny, ‘I will be a bird and fly away from you.’  ‘If you become a bird and fly away from me,’ said his mother, ‘I will be a tree that you come home to.’  ‘If you become a tree,’ said the little bunny, ‘I will become a little sailboat, and I will sail away from you.’  ‘If you become a sailboat and sail away from me,’ said his mother, ‘I will become the wind and blow you where I want you to go.’  ‘If you become the wind and blow me,’ said the little bunny, ‘I will join a circus and fly away on a flying trapeze.’  ‘If you go flying on a flying trapeze,’ said his mother, ‘I will be a tightrope walker, and I will walk across the air to you.’  ‘If you become a tightrope walker and walk across the air,’ said the bunny, ‘I will become a little boy and run into a house.’  ‘If you become a little boy and run into a house,’ said the mother bunny, ‘I will become your mother and catch you in my arms and hug you.’”

Finally, the story ends with the words, “‘Shucks,’ said the bunny, ‘I might just as well stay where I am and be your little bunny.’  And so he did.”

It’s a beautiful story about a mother’s boundless, relentless love.

The Bible also tells a story, not about a mother’s love, but a father’s love--God the Father’s boundless, relentless love.  And one of the most-loved passages of all is found in the words of Psalm 139.  Please turn in your Bible to page 662.

Psalm 139, beginning at verse 1:  “To the Choirmaster.  A Psalm of David.  O Lord, You have searched me and known me!  You know when I sit down and when I rise up;  You discern my thoughts from afar.  You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways.  Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, You know it altogether.  You hem me in, behind and before, and lay Your hand upon me.  Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high I cannot attain it.  Where shall I go from Your Spirit?  Or where shall I flee from Your presence?  If I ascend to heaven, You are there!  If I make my bed in Sheol, You are there!  If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there Your hand shall lead me, and Your right hand shall hold me.”

Then verse 13:  “For You formed my inward parts; You knitted me together in my mother’s womb.  I praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.  Wonderful are Your works; my soul knows it very well.  My frame was not hidden from You, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth.  Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in Your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.”

As you probably already know, the book of Psalms is a collection of one hundred and fifty songs once sung by the people of God.  In Psalm 23, David wrote:  “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.  He makes me to lie down in green pastures.  He leads me beside still waters.  He restores my soul.”  The sons of Korah wrote in Psalm 46:  “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in times of trouble.”  And Solomon wrote in Psalm 72:  “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, who alone does wondrous things.  Blessed be His glorious name forever.”

Now here in Psalm 139, David sings a song of praise to God, as he writes:  “O Lord, You have searched me and known me!  You know when I sit down and when I rise up; You discern my thoughts from afar.”

Look closely at the text and you’ll see that, in the opening verses of Psalm 139, David uses eight different ways to speak of God’s boundless, relentless love.  And each one portrays a different layer of God’s knowledge of you.  He’s like a detective, studying us when we think we’re alone, tracking us no matter where we go, knowing us before we were even born.  As David wrote in verse 13:  “For You formed my inward parts; You knitted me together in my mother’s womb.  I praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”

“Fearfully and wonderfully made,” he wrote.

Did you know that, not too many years ago, your body once started out as a tiny little egg, no bigger than the dot over the letter “i”?  Yet inside that little egg, all of your future characteristics were already programmed, like the color of your eyes, the shape of your ears, and the color of your hair, so much so that, in all the world, there’s never been, nor will there ever be, anyone like you.  And from that tiny little egg, you grew into what you are today.

As one author wrote:  “The odds of the seed from your dad and the egg from your mom joining together were two hundred million to one.  Congratulations.  You are alive.  You have won life’s lottery.”

Consider, for a moment, the miracle of the human body.  Every second, more than one hundred thousand chemical reactions take place in your brain, a brain that weighs all of three pounds, with ten billion nerve cells able to record everything that you see, taste, touch, and hear.
And that information comes to you through the miracle of ears that translate waves into meaningful sounds and words, and eyes, each with one hundred million rods and cones.

You’re proud of your fancy, new smartphone, with its whopping three lens, 48 megapixel camera?  It’s pretty good.  But it’s still short of what’s currently the most powerful digital camera in the world--Canon’s 120 megapixels.  

But don’t spend your money just yet.  Your eyes have a resolution of 576 megapixels, so sharp that, if the earth were completely flat, you could see the light of a single candle over thirty miles away!

Did you know that one square inch of your skin has approximately 625 sweat glands, 19 feet of blood vessels, and 19,000 sensory cells?  And working in coordination with your brain, it maintains your body at a steady 98.6 degrees fahrenheit, no matter how hot or cold it is outside.

Did you know that your stomach has thirty-five million glands that secrete just the right amount of juices to allow your body to digest food and convert it into stored energy for your muscles?  And to avoid digesting itself, your stomach produces a new lining every three days.

You have more than two hundred bones, each shaped for a specific function, connected intricately to one another through lubricated joints that still cannot be perfectly duplicated by modern science.  Take one step, and you’ll use two hundred of your five hundred muscles.

Think of your heart--that fist-sized, twelve ounce marvel--that pumps blood all through the sixty thousand miles of blood vessels inside your body.  Every day, it pumps enough blood to fill a four thousand-gallon tank car.  In seventy-five years, it’ll beat eight hundred million times.

Think of your hands--nothing compares to them.  With their thirty-four muscles and twenty-nine major and minor bones, they’re capable of making fifty-eight separate and distinct motions, making them the most magnificent pieces of engineering in all of creation.  You can pick up a pencil and write, or grab a hammer and build.  The hands of skilled surgeon are so nimble, they can tie a knot inside a tiny matchbox, using only a thumb and forefinger.

And think of your feet!  Did you know that a soccer player’s foot absorbs, in a single game, the cumulative force of over one thousand tons--with no damage?

As David once wrote, we are “fearfully and wonderfully made.”

A woman named Jaye Lewis writes that she was supposed to be a nothing.  At least that’s what her father said.  When she was just nine years old, he said:  “You are nothing but a failure!  You’ll never be anything but a nothing, as long as you live!”  So she said she worked hard at being a “nothing.”  She stopped studying for classes and stopped dreaming dreams.

By the time she was in seventh grade, she overheard her parents talk about how wonderful life would have been, if she had never been born.  When she was fifteen, her ninth grade report card read:  “She has incredible ‘general knowledge,’ but no ‘specific knowledge.’  She’ll never become anything.”

Then she read the Bible which, in her home, was a forbidden book.  And there she found the words of Psalm 139:  “For You formed my inward parts; You knitted me together in my mother’s womb.  I praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”

It was then, she said, she discovered that, even if she didn’t know God, He knew her.  And though no one believed in her, God did, and that He would always be with her.

She wrote:  “I discovered that in being hurt, I could seek to heal others.  In being lonely, I could reach out and erase another’s loneliness.  In believing myself to be a failure, I could encourage others to succeed.  I could be a woman of honor.  A woman of truth.  I could change my course.  I could write about hope.”  And she wrote:  “As I look back, I realize what a great gift it was to spend those lonely nights and days with Him.”

And it was all because of Psalm 139.

In his book, Christmas in My Heart, Joe Wheeler tells of a doctor who was delivering a mother’s first baby.  The baby was in a breech position, feet first, head last--dangerous because the doctor must deliver the head quickly or the baby won’t survive.

When the first foot appeared, he reached for the other, but couldn’t draw both down.  Then he realized what was wrong.  The entire thigh from the hip to the knee was missing.

He said:  “I knew what a dreadful effect this would have on the unstable nervous system of the mother.  The family would almost certainly spend all of its money in taking the child to every famous orthopedist in the world.  I saw this little girl sitting sadly by herself, while the other girls danced and ran and played.  I could slow my hand; I could delay those few short moments.  No one in this world would ever know.  The mother, after the first shock of grief, would be glad she had lost a child so sadly handicapped.

“The little pink foot on the good side bobbed out from its protecting towel and pressed firmly against my slowly moving hand, the hand into whose keeping the safety of the mother and the baby had been entrusted.

“I couldn’t do it.  I delivered the baby with her pitiful little leg.  And every fear came true.  The mother was in the hospital for several months, a shadow of her former self.  As the years went on, I blamed myself bitterly for not having had the strength to yield to my temptation.”

Years later, he attended a Christmas party at the hospital, as three young musicians played softly in unison with the organ.  He was especially fascinated by the young harpist.  She played extraordinarily well, as her slender fingers flicked across the strings.

When the short program was over, a woman came running down the aisle.  “Oh, you saw her,” she cried.  “You must have recognized your baby.  That was my daughter who played the harp, the little girl who was born with only one good leg seventeen years ago.  We tried everything else first, but now she has a whole artificial leg on that side.  Best of all, through all those years, she learned to use her hands so wonderfully.  She hopes to be one of the greatest harpists in the world.”

As David once wrote:  “You formed my inward parts; You knitted me together in my mother’s womb.  I praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”

One more thing.  It’s a story about a little three-year-old girl who came home from Sunday School and said, “Mom, I learned a new song in church today!”  

“What is it?” asked her mom.  “Sing it for me!”

The little girl stumbled around, until finally she said, “Jesus knows me, this I love.”

We have a Savior who knows us.  And because He knows us, we love Him too.

 

O Lord, You have searched us and known us.  You know when we sit down and when we stand up.  You know everything we think and everything we do.  So we praise You, for we are fearfully and wonderfully made, for Jesus’ sake.  Amen

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