You Both Precede and Follow - March 2011

You Both Precede and Follow - March 2011

01 March 2011

1 O LORD, you have examined my heart and know everything about me. 2 You know when I sit down or stand up. You know my every thought when far away. 3 You chart the path ahead of me and tell me where to stop and rest. Every moment you know where I am. 4 You know what I am going to say even before I say it, LORD. 5 You both precede and follow me. You place your hand of blessing on my head. 6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too great for me to know! 7 I can never escape from your spirit! I can never get away from your presence! 8 If I go up to heaven, you are there; if I go down to the place of the dead, you are there. 9 If I ride the wings of the morning, if I dwell by the farthest oceans, 10 even there your hand will guide me, and your strength will support me. 11 I could ask the darkness to hide me and the light around me to become night— 12 but even in darkness I cannot hide from you. To you the night shines as bright as day. Darkness and light are both alike to you. 13 You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. 14 Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous—and how well I know it. 15 You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb. 16 You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed. 17 How precious are your thoughts about me, O God! They are innumerable! 18 I can’t even count them; they outnumber the grains of sand! And when I wake up in the morning, you are still with me! 19 O God, if only you would destroy the wicked! Get out of my life, you murderers! 20 They blaspheme you; your enemies take your name in vain. 21 O LORD, shouldn’t I hate those who hate you? Shouldn’t I despise those who resist you? 22 Yes, I hate them with complete hatred, for your enemies are my enemies. 23 Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts. 24 Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life. (Psalm 139:1-24 (NLT)

When I was reading this familiar portion of scripture recently, the verse that really struck a chord with me is verse 5 where it says, ‘You both precede and follow me.’ To precede means to go ahead; to lead the way. God does that so faithfully and carefully for me. All He asks of me is to follow in the paths that He lays out ahead of me. But the exciting and comforting aspect that I see here in this verse, is that He also follows behind me. Another verse in Psalm 37 says it this way, ‘The steps of the godly are directed by the LORD. He delights in every detail of their lives. Though they stumble, they will not fall, for the LORD holds them by the hand.’

After reading this Psalm and writing about it here, I was reminded of the first time that we as a family had the opportunity to climb Dunns River Falls in Ocho Rio, Jamaica. As we stood together at sea level and looked up at the Falls coming down, I thought ‘how are we going to do this; and with our young daughters as well’. And then guide came and began to tell us how it would work. He would precede us as we followed along in a single file line holding hands and would tell us each sandstone rock to step on as well as where not to step. He had made the trip to the top many times. And it worked. Step by step we made our way to the top with no one losing their step. God will precede us and if we follow carefully, He will lead us to the place He wants us to go.

There are so many comforting words in Psalm 139:

• He knows everything about me. (I choose to believe this is comforting although it is also a bit scary to think about.)
• He knows when I sit down and when I stand up.
• He knows what I am thinking. (Again this can be intimidating.)
• He charts my path, telling me when to stop and rest.
• He knows my address and He knows my name.
• Wherever I am and wherever I go, His presence is with me.
• He is always available to guide me.
• He gives me strength that supports me.
• He made me and watched over me as I was being formed.
• He recorded the days of my life in His book.

My prayer as I read through this Psalm again and again is, ‘Thank you, Father, that you love me so much and that you care enough to both precede and to follow me as I journey down the path you have set before me. I love you.’

Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.

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