In the book that bears his name, we read of Job’s calamities which took everything he had of wealth and health, reducing him to poverty and pity. Who was he when all the recognisable markers of his identity were gone?
What about Elijah, the mighty prophet of God? Was he the man who withstood an onslaught of Baal’s prophets and sarcastically mocked them, winning a great victory? Or was he the man sitting by a broom tree in the depth of despair, having fled in fear of his life? Or was he both? Could he be both?
When men and women drifted from God, it only got worse. There does appear to be a connection between the proximity of our relationship with God and the uncertainty of our answer to this important question: “who am I?”
As our appreciation of God deepens, so does our understanding of who we are. We are not searching through libraries of philosophical observations trying to discover some flawed genius to unlock the mystery of our identity. Discovering more about God means we discover more about ourselves. He made us in in His image. He gave us purpose and significance consistent with His revealed character.
Get to know God and we get to know important stuff about who we are. For help with our question, we are going to visit Psalm 139 and discover some things about God which help us answer our question, “who am I?”
God Knows Me
Theologians writing about the attributes of God refer to His omniscience. It is not a commonly used word, but is not too difficult to work out. “Omni” is the word “all” and “science” has to do with knowledge. When they are brought together we see that “omniscience” simply means that God knows everything.
The Psalmist understood this in a deeply personal way. “O Lord, You have searched me and known me” (v.1). He realised that the Lord knew him down to the most mundane details of his life: “You know my sitting down and my rising up” (v.1).
He also knows the most inward, the most intimate, personal details of our lives. He knows our thoughts: “You understand my thought afar off” (v.2).
He knows our words: “For there is not a word on my tongue, but behold, O Lord, You know it altogether” (v.4).
He knows our paths and our ways. The ways in which we behave and interact, the intricacies of our personalities and our temperaments.
“[You] are acquainted with all my ways” (v.3), seems to summarise the psalmist’s understanding of the extent to which God knew him.
Just imagine your friends, or perhaps your colleagues, knew you to the extent that God does. How would that make you feel? How would that shape your relationships? Your thoughts and words, everything you do and everywhere you go, all known to those around you. I can only speculate, but for most of us that would be, at the very least, uncomfortable. On the other hand, it may also provide some sense of security to be known and be of some importance to other people.
The Psalmist seemed to react in both ways. He felt threatened and comforted at the same time. His sin was exposed to the gaze of God, yet his deepest burdens, trials, sorrows were also known to his God, who knew him better than he knew himself.
The Psalmist says, “You have hedged me behind and before, and laid Your hand upon me” (v.5). It’s the imagery of being surrounded by God, with no escape. But then look at what he says: “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain it”(v.6).
When he says “wonderful”, he means it provokes wonder. It brings a sense of awe before the face of God, that He knows me.
“What matters supremely . . . is not, in the last analysis, the fact that I know God, but the larger fact which underlies it – the fact that He knows me . . . I am never out of His mind. All my knowledge of Him depends on his sustained initiative in knowing me. I know him because He first knew me, and continues to know me. He knows me as a friend, one who loves me; and there is no moment when his eye is off me, or His attention distracted from me, and no moment, therefore, when His care falters.” (Knowing God, J. I. Packer)
God Sees Me
Go high, go low
Go East, go West
Go into the dark, go into the light
Whatever the circumstance, whatever the environment, God is there and He sees.
Feeling invisible is a real problem in our crowded yet lonely society. For some, even at home they are neglected by their parents. It is as if they are not present, not seen, invisible. For others, a spouse is distant, conversation is superficial and they get the sense that they no longer matter. For yet others, it is at work that their input is ignored, not taken seriously.
Although the book of Genesis is old, the story of Hagar is a modern tale of sexual sin, victimisation and abandonment. It ends with a woman cast out with her child, seemingly invisible to others and all alone. You don’t need to look far in any community to find this scenario today.
As Hagar sat in her despair, prepared to watch her child die, the Lord spoke to her. Genesis 16:13: “Then she called the name of the Lord who spoke to her, You-Are-the-God-Who-Sees; for she said, ‘Have I also here seen Him who sees me?’”
This appreciation of being seen is expressed in the beautiful Zulu greeting: “Sawubona!” It literally means, “I see you!” More than a polite greeting, it carries the idea of recognising the worth and dignity of a person.
We are not invisible, we are seen by God.
God Made Me
Creativity is not everyone’s strongest attribute. If you don’t know which way to hold a hammer and your teachers strongly advised you to stay away from anything which involved paint, you are probably amazed when watching creative people work.
The Psalmist speaks of God as the ultimate creative person; like a potter with clay, or a weaver weaving a fabric, knitting it all together, or someone meticulously recording plans in a book.
He uses these metaphors to say that God uniquely created you, He designed you, even down to the tiniest details of your life. You are made by God.
If you ever struggle with feelings of worthlessness or insignificance, maybe even self-loathing, turn away from what you do, to who you are. Take your eyes off your performance, and focus on this: God is my Creator. He made me. This is who I am.
What I do and how well I’m doing it is not who I am. If I define myself that way, I’m looking at the externals instead of looking to God my Creator, to that most fundamental, intimate, personal relationship with Him.
God Loves Me
Have you ever sat on a beach, taken a handful of sand and let it run through your fingers. Seemingly innumerable grains of sand held in your hand. It is amazing if you take a moment, as the Psalmist does, to consider that God’s thoughts for you are more in number than the sand – more than handful after handful, dune after dune, beach after beach, continent after continent.
God’s love is steadfast and His thoughts toward us cannot be numbered. Perhaps you have received a “thinking of you” card while experiencing hard times. It is encouraging just to know that someone is thinking about you, and you are not alone. What a blessing to appreciate that we are in God’s thoughts, He never forgets us or loses interest in us.
Who Am I?
Receiving the Lord Jesus Christ as my Saviour and being brought into a living relationship with the God of heaven brings tremendous certainty. My identity does not now rest on what others say of me, it does not rest on the externals of my life, it does not rest on my abilities, performance, appearance, bank balance or relationships. My identity rests on the God who knows me, is present with me, and has loved me with an everlasting love through His Son, Jesus Christ.
This is who I am.