Psalm 139, 3 June 2018

When Psalm 139 came up early this year, the post remarked on the enduring depth and beauty of some of the lines in this poem:

God, you have searched me (1)
Where can I go from your Spirit? (7)
I thank you because I am wonderfully and fearfully made (14)

Such gems are accompanied by fine poetic imagery characteristic of the Psalter:

If I climb up to heaven you are there; … if I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand will lead me and your right hand hold me fast. (8-10)

Through a glass darkly?

An even earlier post reflected at greater length on this song, including matters of transparency, deceptive appearances, and the searching eye of God.

The comment was made there that regardless of your image of God — a dark remote benevolent idea somewhere out there on the face of the waters, or a personal spirit who numbers hairs and counts sparrows — the psalms seem to cater for all. Here, whether the result of an active if belated conscience or as an expression of belief, David sees the divine spirit as all-seeing, discerning.


Together in Song has two settings.

  • The first TiS 87 is a hymn that will be fairly familiar, You are before me Lord, you are behind.
  • The responsorial TiS 88 is seldom if ever heard, perhaps because it’s plainsong or maybe its demand for experienced singers. A plainsong chanted response seeks guidance along ‘the everlasting way’. Verses are sung by cantor or small group in a tone that resembles, but does not equate to, some of the original eight Gregorian psalm tones (Tone 4 shown below).

Michael Card’s Search me has also been a favoured inclusion as either psalm (with an added people’s response) or music for reflection.

The home-grown antiphon shown above has sometimes been sung at South Woden, while PFAS has several nice options.

The choice locally this Sunday, to be led by women, is Bernadette Farrell’s lovely song based on that same verse 1, declaring the belief that the ubiquitous Spirit senses all that goes on in the universe, encouraging self-honesty.

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