Psalm 139 intrigues me. We often turn to verses 13-16 to talk about God’s design of the unborn child in the womb. Verse 5, though, has always captured my interest. Both the NIV and NASB contain phrases that we have incorporated into American idioms: “Don’t hem me in.” And, “Don’t lay a hand on me.” Do you use these idioms in your country? In my individualistic American culture, we use these idioms to say to others, “Don’t tell me what I can and can’t do; don’t mess with me; don’t put limits on me.”
Yet in Psalm 139:5, God himself hems us in or squeezes us (NET translation) and lays a hand on us. In fact, many times when this word for “hem in” appears in Scripture, it embodies the military meaning of holding a city or an army under siege. Does anyone feel like they live under siege right now? All over the world many of us live under some degree of lockdown. At the minimum, we may wear masks while we used to move freely around without one.
If we zoom out from this one verse and look at Psalm 139, it offers us some context. This Psalm focuses on God’s thorough and intimate knowledge of us—our formation, our actions and our thoughts. So, the siege limiting our actions and associations doesn’t surprise God and exists in the context of His intimate knowledge of us and our circumstances.
How can we flourish during this siege? How can we grow in light of the limitations we face?
I’ve been digging into the Word and have come up with three principles that guide me at this time:
• Connect to God more consistently. When I’m not sinking my roots deeper into God’s word, the difference is notable. (Psalm 1:1-2) I must ground myself in His character. I meditate on God’s sovereignty and let that be my resting place.
• Do faithfully whatever God gives me to do. (Col.3:23; Matt. 25:14-31) My job has changed drastically. I work from home now. Many parts of my job that I loved involved face to face interactions; those parts have slipped beyond my reach. I’ve made a list of things I can do and consider those my God-directed priorities right now.
• Be generous. (1 John 3:17) Currently, nations around the world face unprecedented needs. Food banks continue to experience high demand. We know unemployment remains a problem for many. I look for ways to meet needs in my community, for example, giving to food banks and food pantries or to other organizations providing help and direction to those in need, tutoring children on-line or hiring people who are out of work.
Let’s live in such a way that we can look back and know that we flourished during these days of siege.