Psalm 139:7-12 (ESV) - Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me. If I say, "Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night," even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you.
Outline. Psalm 139 is in the middle of Book Five of the Psalms, the final division of the book. The psalm is also in the middle of a long section of works traditionally ascribed to David. Psalm 139 also falls between Songs of Ascents (or Degrees (Psalms 120-134)) probably sung by pilgrims journeying to the Temple and the Hallelujah Psalms (146-150) sung at festivals, but this seems to have little impact on the content of Psalm 139. Either way this psalm helps point to the closing words of the Psalms (150) “Let everything that hath breath praise the Lord. Hallelujah!” The Psalm can be divided into three parts: celebrating the Omniscient & Omnipresent One (vs. 1-12), referencing the origin of Man (vs. 13-18), and addressing the enemies of God (vs. 19-24). However, “the strophic arrangement is not clear. (Keil & Friedrich).1
Historical Context. It is not known what inspired David to write this psalm, nor if a particular period of the kingdom is in view. Verses 21-22 echo the pledge of loyalty that ancient Near Eastern kings required of their vassals, so the song may have served a unique purpose in the royal court. David does refer to the Spirit's presence even in Sheol, the place which lied beneath the earth where people from this time thought the dead resided. It referred both to the literal grave and to the netherworld, which was similar to the Greek concept Hades. Ancient cosmology may be paralleled which saw an underworld below the earth and heavens above the stars.
Message Summary. The Holy Spirit is omnipresent, and thus there is no place that humans can flee from God's presence, whether in distance, in darkness, in heaven, and even in death.
Dominant Theme. God's presence is clearly seen in these passages as being ubiquitous. David is expressing comfort in the fact that the Holy Spirit is not a local deity as many Ancient Near Eastern gods were believed to be. In fact, David is claiming that the Holy Spirit is manifest everywhere, from the highest point in the sky to the deepest recesses of the earth, and that even in death, he will still be in the presence of God. Instead of thinking of God dwelling among Man, these verses seem to imply the reversal, that Man dwells among God's presence.
OT & NT Correlation. The Holy Spirit, while explicitly revealed as the third member of the Godhead in the New Testament, certainly is not absent from the Old Testament. Genesis 1:2 shows that the Spirit was present over the waters of the earth before it was given form. Psalm 139 is considered by many commentators to be “climax of thought in the Psalter on God's personal relationship to the individual” (Pfeiffer, 547).2 The description of the writers humble walk with God reveals attributes of God which parallel other parts of the Old Testament. God told Jeremiah in Jeremiah 23:24 of His omnipresence, saying that no man can hide from Him and that He fills heaven and earth. In Amos 9:2-3, the prophet makes similar assertions about God's presence as it extends from the Sheol to heaven. Job also echoes this sentiment in Job 34:22. The New Testament sees the Holy Spirit revealed not just as the power of God or some other ethereal force of God, but the Paraclete (John 14-15) with all the same properties and attributes of God, and listed in threefold progression with Jesus and The Father (Matthew 28:19). The Holy Spirit's Omnipresence was poured out universally on all Christian believers at Pentecost (Acts 2), because Jesus told His disciples that having the Holy Spirit as their teacher and “comforter” would be better than having Him around. The Holy Spirit would then bear witness about Christ just as the disciples were told that they would bear witness to Christ (John 15:26-27)
Brett Yardley: Warrior for Christ. Devoted Husband. Proud Father. Martial Artist. Hopeful Philosopher & Theologian. Aspiring Teacher & Writer.