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Daily Devotional

December 18

Day 352: Psalm 139:1-10

by John Calvin

Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O LORD. The words admit a double meaning. They imply that God knows what we are about to say before the words are formed on our tongue; and also, that though we speak not a word, and try by silence to conceal our secret intentions, we cannot elude his notice. The idea meant to be conveyed is, that while the tongue is the index of thought to man, being the great medium of communication, God, who knows the heart, is independent of words. The innermost recesses of our spirit stand present to his view.

Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain. It is foolish to measure God's knowledge by our own, when his knowledge rises prodigiously above us. Many when they hear God spoken of, conceive of him as like unto themselves, and such presumption is most condemnable. Very commonly they will not allow his knowledge to be greater than what comes up to their own apprehensions of things. David, on the contrary, confesses it to be beyond his comprehension, virtually declaring that words could not express this truth of the absoluteness with which all things stand patent to the eye of God, this being a knowledge having neither bound nor measure, so that he could only contemplate the extent of it with conscious imbecility.

Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? By the Spirit of God we are not here, as in several other parts of Scripture, to conceive of his power merely, but his understanding and knowledge. In man the spirit is the seat of intelligence, and so it is here in reference of God. David means in short that he could not change from one place to another without God seeing him, and following him with his eyes as he moved.

Even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. Though one should fly with the speed of light, he could find no recess where he would be beyond the reach of divine power. For by hand we are to understand power, and the assertion is to the effect that should man attempt to withdraw from the observation of God, it were easy for him to arrest and draw back the fugitive.


Welcome to a one-year devotional by John Calvin (1509-1564) on the Psalms. We are indebted to P & R Publishing for permission to use this copyrighted material from John Calvin: A Heart Aflame on the OPC Web site. In addition to viewing the daily devotional reading here, you may like to purchase a copy of the book A Heart Aflame from P & R Publishing or your local bookstore.

John Calvin, A Heart Aflame: Daily Readings from Calvin on the Psalms, is copyright © 1999 by P & R Publishing Company, all rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means—electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording, or otherwise—except for brief quotations for the purpose of review or comment, without the prior permission of the publisher, P & R Publishing Company, P.O. Box 817, Phillipsburg, New Jersey 08865-0817.

Unless marked by an asterisk, italic Scripture excerpts preceding Calvin's exposition are from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. NIV®. copyright© 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society, used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House, all rights reserved. Phrases of Scripture within Calvin's exposition are based on an unidentified older translation, or in rare instances modified to conform to the NIV excerpts preceding Calvin's exposition.

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