- A psalm of David. For the music leader.1
Everywhere God goes, he’s great
- 1 LORD, you’ve studied me and you know me.
- 2 You know when I sit.
You know when I stand.
You know what I’m thinking when I’m far away.
- 3 You analyze my schedule,
Where I go, and when I lie down to rest.
You know everything I do.
- 4 Even before I say a word,
LORD, you know the word I’ll say.
- 5 From the front line to the rear guard,
You’ve surrounded me with protection.
My life is in your hands.
- 6 You know more than I could handle.
What you know is too wonderful
And too complex for my little head.
- 7 Where could I go that you wouldn’t go?
Where could I hide from your Spirit?
- 8 If I climb into the sky
You’re already there.
If I rest in peace in the place of the dead,2
You’re already there, as well.
- 9 If I ride on the wings of the dawn,
To the sunset, west of the sea,
- 10 Even there you’re ready and waiting
To take my hand, hold on tight
And lead me along the way.
- 11 I could say, “I’ll wait for night
So the darkness will hide me,
When daylight folds into the night.”
- 12 But there’s no darkness in nighttime for you.
Night is bright as the day.
Day or night: it doesn’t matter.
Both are the same to you.
- 13 You created me inside and out,
Organs3 to skin,
Weaving me to shape,
Inside my mother.
- 14 Thank you for what you did.
You made me awesome and wonderful.
You do marvelous work.
I know that.
- 15 You saw my bones
As they developed in hiding,
And were pieced together
From the dust of the earth.4
- 16 You saw me before I took shape.
And you wrote the script of my life
Before it became my history.
- 17 God, what goes on inside your mind
Is precious to me,
but I don’t understand it.
- 18 If I could count your thoughts, one idea at a time,
They would outnumber the grains of sand.
In the end of it all,
I’ll wake and find myself with you.5
God, please take out the trash
- 19 It would be great, God,
If you’d kill off the wicked people.
Get those murderers out of here.
- 20 They use your name
To justify the terrible things they do,
And to make promises they never keep.
- 21 LORD, you know I hate your enemies, right?
I detest the people who hate you.
- 22 I hate them with a hateful hate,
For your enemies are my enemies, too.
See if there’s sin in me
- 23 Study me, God, read my mind.
Probe me and find everything I believe.
- 24 See if you can find
Anything hurtful in the way I live.
Then lead me down the ancient path
Which was, and is, and always will be
The only way to go.6
The subtitle wasn’t part of the original psalm. And the possible byline “of David,” isn’t necessarily a byline. The vague phrase could mean the song was written by David, about David, or was inspired by David. Almost half of the psalms are attributed to David in this way, 73 of 150. Ancient Jewish history tells of David playing a lyre and writing songs. For one, he wrote a song of mourning at the battlefield death of King Saul and his sons: “How have the mighty fallen!” (2 Samuel 1:19-27 New American Standard Bible). An ancient Jewish scroll from about the time of Jesus, discovered among the famous Dead Sea Scrolls, reports that David wrote 3,600 songs.
Literally, Sheol, a word Old Testament writers used to describe the place of the dead. It is a kind of underworld where the dead are cut off from the living—and from God—and there is no coming back.
The phrase is more literally translated, “You created my inward parts.” But the Hebrew for the inward parts is kilyah, which can mean kidneys, internal organs, the body’s HQ for emotion and love. That’s why one Tanakh Jewish Bible translates the phrase, “my conscience.”
More literally “formed in the depths of the earth.” It’s unclear what the poet intended. Perhaps he was referring to a folk tale that humans were created in the earth, perhaps believing it or using it as a metaphor, instead. Genesis teaches God made Adam from dirt: “Dust is what you were and dust is what you’ll be” (Genesis 3:19). Also, at least 300 years before Moses could have written that—assuming Jewish tradition is right and Moses wrote Genesis—someone in what is now Iraq said their god made people from dirt. It’s in a story called the Epic of Gilgamesh (GILL gah mesh). Similar ancient stories in Egypt, Central Africa, and Greece say much the same.
Scholars say this is an abrupt and awkward end to this song within the psalm. Christians traditionally say they see this as a foreshadowing of resurrection, thanks to the future death and resurrection of Jesus.
Literally, “Lead me in the everlasting way.” Some scholars speculate the poetic was talking about the good and godly behavior of God’s people from Israel’s ancient history. Others say this points toward everlasting life.