Fearfully and Wonderfully Known
You formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. (Psalm 139:13–16)
No one knows about something better than the one who engineered or designed it.
If you want to understand how your Honda Accord works, you could ask a mechanic. But even better, you would find someone involved with designing Hondas. If you’re curious about the inspiration behind your favorite novel or who a particular character is supposed to represent, write the author and ask her. If you’re trying to decide whether to go with the Samsung Galaxy or the new iPhone, look online for reviews from engineers who understand all the features. If you’re interested in what makes your favorite carrot cake so good, you need to ask the baker where you buy it (unless, as is this case with me, the baker is your mother).
Typically, when you start to ask some questions, the builder or engineer or baker answers a hundred questions you weren’t even asking yet. They know what they’ve made so well, so intimately, that you cannot exhaust their knowledge of it or their passion for it. You leave not just with a sense for how the thing works, but of how much more care and love went into that car or story or cake than you ever realized.
The Creator Knows His Own
If you want to understand yourself, ask the Mechanic who built your body, the Engineer who mapped out your mind and soul, the Author who wrote your story. The God in the heavens, sustaining and ruling all that is, is intimately acquainted with every human being because he made each of us himself — living, unique, complex, known.
David writes, “O LORD, you have searched me and known me! 2 You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. 3 You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways” (Psalm 139:1–3). Nothing in our lives or minds escapes God’s notice. He’s attentive to every second of our short existence on earth, whether believer or unbeliever, Jew or Gentile, urban or suburban, American or Iraqi. Whoever you are, he knows you far more than you know yourself.
Fearfully and Wonderfully Made
How? Where does God get all of his information? David explains,
You formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven. (Psalm 139:13–15)
God knows you because God made you. Like a mechanic with his car, or an author with her book, or a baker with his cake, God can explain every inch of you. He placed every bone in your left index finger. He sewed together the tissue in each of your lungs so that they would process oxygen every couple of seconds. Breathe in; breathe out. He can recite every word you will say in that conversation later today (Psalm 139:4).
He’s behind you, and he’s out ahead of you (Psalm 139:5). He knew you before you were born, and he knows every single day of your life as if it had already happened. Every moment you live is a moment he persevered for you with his power. He upholds the universe and everyone in it with the word of his mouth (Hebrews 1:3). You cannot escape him (Psalm 139:7–10).
Oh to Know and Be Known
Most of us are afraid of being known like that. We know enough of ourselves to know we don’t like everything about ourselves. It might be awful news to know that God knows everything we’ve done, every word we’ve said, every thought we’ve entertained. But Psalm 139 is not a psalm of despair or fear, but of praise and hope.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. . . . Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting! (Psalm 139:14, 23–24)
The God who made every inch of us and who knows us through and through, even the wickedness and rebellion of our hearts, loves us enough to be near us and think about us. The psalmist writes with praise because he knows the God who made him cares for him.
We know this even more powerfully today because God has made a way for us to be saved and reconciled to himself. He paved a path that leads to eternal life, purchased it with the precious blood of his own Son, and welcomes us into his arms through faith. The gospel makes God’s knowledge of us wonderfully good news.
Tim Keller describes it well in his book, Meaning of Marriage...
To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us.
You are fearfully and wonderfully made. You are fully and thoroughly known. And, in Jesus Christ, you are infinitely and relentlessly loved.