More Than Wonderful – Part 1

A Study of Psalm 139


Earlier this year, I spent a gray winter’s morning reading the biography of a musical genius named Tim Bergling, who performed under the name DJ Avicii. Studying his story was like gazing into a water globe of our generation, of our age, and it left me very troubled. Tim was born in Stockholm in 1989 to a businessman and an actress who loved him very much. He grew up in a supportive environment and in an upscale part of the city. 

As a youngster, Tim drew portraits, wrote poems, read Science Illustrated, and played video games. He got a guitar and taught himself to play. He liked to stay up all night playing war video games and making music.

When he began battling acne as a teenager, it shredded his self-image. He became obsessed with how he looked, and he imagined he had certain diseases. He was shy by nature, and he found relief from his anxiety in alcohol and drugs.

When he was sixteen, he came across a computer program that allowed him to make music videos, and he obsessed over it for months and months. He neglected his homework and friends, and he began doing amazing things with music. He read a Wikipedia article about a place called avicii, which was “a kind of Buddhist hell reserved for the greatest sinners.” He took the name DJ Avicii, put some of his music out on the web, and was discovered by a Swedish music manager. Tim was eighteen years old when his career went meteoric.

Overnight his life went into hyper-drive, and his whole existence became a never-ending global tour. Few people have achieved the fame and fortune that Tim found as he entered his twenties. I’ve watched his videos and concerts, and he was as great a superstar as anyone could be. Watching thousands upon thousands of young people sway and sweat and dance to his music wherever he was in the world was impressive. I liked some of his music, although it’s not the genre I typically have on my Spotify playlists. 

But it was all too much for the young man. Every day he was in a different city, and every week—sometimes every night—he was in a different nation. It drove him to the edge of his sanity. His alcohol abuse, drug use, and the impossible pressure brought on sleep deprivation, restlessness, depression, and anxiety. 

At the height of his fame and frenzy, he abruptly announced he was done. He canceled his upcoming concerts. He told Rolling Stone, “I needed to figure out my life. The whole thing was about success for the sake of success. I wasn’t getting any happiness anymore.”

For a while, he lived in his Hollywood mansion, but he drifted from one thing to another and from one girlfriend to another. He read Eastern mysticism, practiced Transcendental Meditation, tried rehab, and went on extended trips, trying to find a way to be happy. He experimented with exotic drugs. He was a lost soul.

Along the way, he still produced incredible music. One of his songs was called Superlove, although he never found such love for himself.

One day he called a friend and said, “I don’t feel so good. I’m really confused….The thing is that I want to have a normal life. I want to have a girlfriend and family. But I also feel like I have to reach enlightenment. I’ve got to help the world. I need to serve a purpose.” 

A few days afterward, the news flashed around the world that the 28-year-old superstar was gone, death by suicide, alone in Oman. His family released a statement that said: “Our beloved Tim was a…fragile artistic soul searching for answers to existential questions. He…traveled and worked hard at a pace that led to extreme stress. When he stopped touring, he wanted to find a balance in life to be able to be happy…. He really struggled with thoughts about Meaning, Life, Happiness. He could not go on any longer….”

It was a tough biography to read and it left me downcast. Nothing on earth bothers me more than watching someone spiral downward in life, even some public personality whom I’ve never met. And nothing frightens me more than when I see it happening in someone I know or in myself, as I so often have as a pastor. We live in a world struggling with, as Bergling’s family put it, “Meaning, Life, and Happiness.”

Another Young Musical Superstar

But let’s shift gears. I know of another musician who achieved widespread fame as a teenager and as a young man, but he had a totally different perspective. He was a superstar in his day, but he also knew that God Almighty super-loved him. Through faith he formed a relationship with God and studied His Word. This young man was a genius. He was just as much a musical genius as Tim Bergling, but his creativity excelled at taking the truths he found in Scripture—especially in the book of Deuteronomy—and crafting that into lyrics about the spiritual and the meaningful and the purposeful life.

His name was David, and one of his famous psalms has ministered to me since I was nineteen years old and found it in The Living Bible

It’s Psalm 139.

In this series of podcasts, I want to read and study this Psalm with you in a series called “Lord, No One Cares For Me Like You!” I want us to discover in Psalm 139 the God who super-loves us.

Overview of Psalm 139

Let’s take an overview of this passage. In Psalm 139, David shows how four of God’s infinite attributes intersect with our most personal lives. Theologians use the word attribute to describe the various qualities and characteristics of God, which boggle our minds when we try to contemplate them. This is the ultimate subject we can possibly study—who God is and what our God is like. The more we know about the Lord and the more we know Him personally, the happier and healthier we’ll be. But a study of the qualities of God is more than an academic pursuit, because each of His qualities touch our lives in profound ways. His attributes are higher than the heavens, but they touch the deepest regions of our hearts.

The four divine attributes that David explores in Psalm 139 are these—and notice there are four stanzas of six verses each:

  • God’s omniscience—God knows everything—in verses 1-6.
  • His omnipresence—God is everywhere—in verses 7-12.
  • His omnipotence—God is all powerful—in verses 13-18.
  • His righteousness—God is just and holy—in verses 19-24.

A Word About Bible Version

Now, this is the first time and will probably be the last time I’ll teach a series based on the text of The Living Bible. This version is not an actual translation of the Bible from Hebrew and Greek; it’s only a rendering of the English Bible into simplified language. We call it a paraphrase. It was done by a man named Ken Taylor, who was trying to lead family devotions using the King James Version. His children had trouble understanding the Old English terms, so Taylor began reading each chapter the night before and putting it into language they could understand. 

When he published his renditions, Billy Graham promoted them and The Living Bible found an audience that enjoyed reading it. Few people use it today and no serious expositor would preach from it. But I still have my old copy with its green vinyl cover, and sometimes I go back and read it. Since those days in the dormitory at Columbia International University, I’ve loved reading Psalm 139 from The Living Bible and have memorized much of it. So with apologies, that will be my text for this series of podcasts. But we’ll also pull up the standard translations. Let’s begin by reading the first paragraph of Psalm 139.


O Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about me. You know when I sit or stand. When far away you know my every thought. You chart the path ahead of me and tell me where to stop and rest. Every moment you know where I am. You know what I am going to say before I even say it. You both precede and follow me and place your hand of blessing on my head. 6 This is too wonderful, too glorious to believe!

O Lord

The writer addresses God using the words, “O Lord,” or “O Yahweh.” Some of the old translations say Jehovah. This is the personal name of God as revealed in the Bible, and it has its meaning in the verb “to be” or “to exist.” Yahweh is the eternal, self-existing God. This man David had a relationship that allowed him to address Yahweh. 

Both in the Old Testament and in the New Testament, that relation is established in only one way—by faith. And from our vantage point, we know it was a faith based in a God who could devise a way for us to know Him. He is high and holy, and we are low and lowly. It requires our trusting that He can reach down in forgiveness and pardon and love and grace and mercy to lift us into a relationship with Himself, which He did by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

It’s very important to follow the true God who is Lord, Yahweh, and Jehovah. In a way that I don’t understand, we are psychologically programmed to transmogrify into (or to be transformed into) our perception of God. Ask anyone on earth, “What do you think God is like? And if you don’t believe in God, what about your own personal idea of whatever is ultimate?” If they give you an honest answer, you’ll see it in their lives, in their values, in their personalities. Our personalities are inexorably transformed into our conception of God. Take a man whose god is sex—like, say, Jeffrey Epstein—and he will become more and more X-rated and lascivious. 

“You… Know Everything”

Let’s begin with that phrase in verse 1: “You… know everything.” That is omniscience. I’ve pondered and studied this all my life, but I recently saw the omniscience of God in a new light by listening to a podcast by Dr. William Lane Craig. He began by pointing out that God, being God, possesses total knowledge of everything that has ever been, that is now, and that ever will be. He knows all things instantly, intuitively, and eternally. Dr. Craig said:

God knows all past-, present-, and future-tense truths, even before the foundations of the world. Before he created the world, God foreknew the motion of every subatomic particle that would occur in the history of the universe. He knew your very thoughts before you think them. He knows our free choices before we make them. He even knew what we would do under different circumstances than the ones that we will be in. So for any true proposition, God knows that proposition and does not believe the negation of it.

Dr. Craig pointed out that God possesses total knowledge of all contingencies. Craig said, “God knows what would happen under different circumstances. He not only knows everything that is happening, everything that has happened and will happen, but also knows even what would happen under different circumstances.”

One key passage about this involves David himself, who perhaps was thinking of this incident as he wrote Psalm 139. In 1 Samuel 23, David was in the city of Keilah, which he had been saved from invasion. He learned that King Saul was leading the armies of Israel to Keilah to capture him. David prayed and said, “Lord, will the people of Keilah surrender me to Saul?” And the Lord said, “Yes, Saul will come and pressure the city and the city will give you up.” So David and his men escaped before Saul got there. When Saul learned that David had fled into the wilderness, he gave up his pursuit.

God knows what would happen if…. He was omniscient even about the contingencies. God knows every contingency of every detail of every circumstance, and He knows its ramifications forever—even though those things may not actually happen. If that boggles your mind, good! If we have a God who doesn’t boggle our minds, He wouldn’t be God after all.

Dr. Craig continued with a discussion about self-knowledge that I’ll not take time to repeat or explain, but then he said something I had never before considered:

Let me go on and say one other thing. Even yet with propositional knowledge and self-knowledge, the excellence of God’s knowledge is still not exhausted. What is also important here is the way in which one acquires one’s knowledge. Suppose there were two beings and each one had all propositional knowledge and each one had appropriate self-knowledge for himself. But suppose that the second one acquired his knowledge only because the first being told him everything that he knew and the first being just had this knowledge innately. 

Clearly the second being would not be as intellectually excellent as the first being because he didn’t know any of these things innately. He knew them only because the other being told him everything he knew in an innate way. 

In the same way, as we’ve seen from Scripture, God doesn’t learn anything from anybody. Nobody has instructed the Lord or taught him anything. But I would say that God simply knows all truth innately and therefore is maximally excellent intellectually.

This is, again, just a stunning conclusion. To think God’s intellectual excellence outstrips even what it is to be an omniscient being. It does so in that he has this self-knowledge and also in the way that he does not acquire this knowledge from others but simply has it himself. It gives an insight into how great God’s intellectual excellence is. 

I remember when I first realized this in studying the doctrine of omniscience it just floored me, because I never imagined that any person or being could be smarter than omniscient. It seemed to me that omniscient was as high as you can get. Yet, when you think about it, God’s cognitive excellence (his greatness) with respect to his intellectual attributes exceeds even omniscience which ought to issue in praise and adoration and wonder of the person God is.

In other words, if God were to create a computer that could be programmed to know everything that He knew so that the computer itself possessed total knowledge and was in some sense omniscient, it still would not be omniscient as God is, for God doesn’t have to be programmed. He has eternally known all factual knowledge, all personal knowledge, all self-knowledge, and all theoretical and contingent knowledge—and He has known it eternally.

“You… Know Everything About Me.”

Here in Psalm 139, the Psalmist makes a very personal application. He said, “Lord, You not only know everything about the universe and all its facts, but You also know everything about me. Let’s read these six verses again:

O Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about me. You know when I sit or stand. When far away you know my every thought. You chart the path ahead of me and tell me where to stop and rest. Every moment you know where I am. You know what I am going to say before I even say it. You both precede and follow me and place your hand of blessing on my head. 6 This is too wonderful, too glorious to believe!

Next time, we’ll look at each of these personal statements, but for now I want to conclude by telling you how valuable this is for our comfort and peace in life. The fact that you can’t hide anything from God means you don’t have to try to hide anything from Him. He knows you better than a brother or sister, better than a husband or wife, better than a father or mother. He knows your weaknesses and your strengths. He knows what you’re good at and what you’re not. He knows your future and the path you should take. And He also knows all the burdens on your heart. 

That is ultimate intimacy. The relationship you have with God through Jesus Christ should be the central relationship of your life because no one can ever know you like He does – or love you like He always has and always will. 

Our greatest goal in life should be to know Him better and better, which we do only because Jesus Christ made it possible by crossing the chasm between God and humanity. Imagine how terrible it would be if God knew everything about us, but we could know nothing about Him? Or how terrible it would be if God knew everything but us, but we could not know Him on a personal basis?

That’s the life of Tim Bergling. He was always searching for some kind of superlove, but He apparently never took Jesus Christ seriously. God knows everything about us. We can never know everything about Him, for He is infinite. But we can know Him better and better through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Philippians 3:10 in the Amplified Version says, “[For my determined purpose is] that I may know Him [that I may progressively become more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him, perceiving and recognizing and understanding the wonders of His Person more strongly and more clearly].”

That verse is referring to the Lord Jesus Christ. He knows you intimately, and He wants you to get to know Him, progressively, more deeply and more intimately, perceiving and recognizing and understanding the wonders of His Person more strongly and more clearly.

We do that, through Christ, in two ways.

First, we meet with the Lord regularly in prayer and Bible study, which is a wonderful way to cultivate our ongoing relationship with Him.

Second, we do it by trusting Him and obeying Him in all the circumstances of life.

May I say something personal to you? I awoke this morning with a heavy burden on my heart, one that had troubled my mind all night during my sleep. I simply couldn’t wait to get to my desk to study Psalm 139, because I needed the encouragement of knowing that God knows far more about my burdens than I do, and that when I don’t know what to do, I know He does. I don’t have to figure it all out. He is there to share the burden, to show the way, and to lift the load.

The wonderful second stanza of the German hymn, “Now Thank We All Our God,” is the only hymn I know of that uses the word perplexed, which is how we often feel.

O may this bounteous God

Through all our life be near us,

With ever joyful hearts

And blessed peace to cheer us,

To keep us in His grace,

And guide us when perplexed,

And free us from all ills

In this world and the next.

Here is the message of Psalm 139 in one sentence: Our Lord is too limitless to imagine and too loving to ignore. Knowing the God who knows us thoroughly and who super-loves us is—well, more than wonderful!