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Please enjoy the following devotional written by Ascent College faculty member and Professor of Theology Martin Monacell as part of our “Psalms in the Summer” series.

You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. 

-Psalm 139:5 (ESV)

The Hebrew word tsur is used 32 times in the Old Testament, most often translated as “besiege” (e.g. 2 Sam. 11:1, 1 Ki 16:17, Jer. 39:1, Dan 1:1) and sometimes as “enclosed” or “closed in” (e.g. 1 Ki 20:1, Songs 8:9). Only once in Psalm 139:5 do most translators render it as “hem.”

I understand the intent. When it comes to God’s access to our lives, our hearts, our minds, we tend to want to make language less extreme, less forceful, less wild. It is difficult for us to use a violent word to describe our personal relationship with God. And yet, to be searched and truly known by God (Ps. 139:1) requires that we yield full access to every part of our lives, every thought, every deed, every emotion. He will have all of it. He desires to overtake us. There is no holding back.

You Besiege Me: Psalm 139

God spared no violence on the Cross. It was bloody and gruesome, Jesus bearing our sins, the sin of the entire world – the very person of God in the flesh, dying a violent death. God will have all of us. Paul writes, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Gal. 2:20a). There is no way around it – the violence of sin must die a violent death on the Cross. 

Have you been searched by God, have you been besieged by Him? Have you gone to the Cross? It will likely be suffering and trial that leads you to this place. Psalm 139 is a cry of hope, but it is out of a place of desperation, out of a place of pure hunger. Nothing brings us to pure hunger and true hope more than suffering (Rom. 5:3-5). The wicked enemies of God surround us (v 20-22), and yet God’s thoughts for each one of us are more numerous than the grains of sand – an unfathomable number (v 17-18). We will either be besieged by the world, or we will be besieged by God – by His wondrous works, by His inescapable presence, by His innumerable thoughts for us.

You Besiege Me: Psalm 139

O God, You besiege me, all around, and when you lay your hand on me, I am undone. I am drawn into the mystery and glory of your presence. Where shall I go from you? You light up the darkness. You knew me before I was born, you formed me, you know every one of my days, you think endless thoughts about me. I am undone. See if there be anything in me that would ever separate me from your presence and lead me in your eternal way. I only want to go the way you are going.