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Psalm 139

A study in the Omniscience of God

E. J. Young

Banner of Truth

(Also as The Way Everlasting)



Last month I sought to draw attention to the publication on the iTunes website/service of lectures by E.J. Young. Edward J. Young was the Professor of Old Testament at Westminster Theological Seminary. This seminary post, had previously been occupied by Oswald T. Allis and Robert ‘Dick’ Wilson, the three different writers each stood in exactly the same position respecting the inerrancy of Scripture. It is worrying to note the current holder of that same seminary post has drifted quite a long way from the biblical views held by these men.


It is easy for modern authors to sneer at the scholarship of Young and Wilson. The simple reality is that the scholarship of Wilson and Young stands head and shoulders above anything that we have currently available in our academic community. In an article, published by the Bible League Quarterly entitled ‘Why I believe the Old Testament to be True’, Wilson tells us that that at the end of his undergraduate studies he was able to read about a dozen languages and acted as a theological tutor for one year. He visited Oxford where a Professor Sayce advised him to go to Germany and at that point he formulated a plan. Wilson was 25 years old and he planned the next 45 years of his life. The first 15 years would allow him to learn the languages to read any ancient documents for first hand information on Old Testament history (not only Hebrew but all the cognate languages, all the languages into which the Old Testament was translated upto 600AD, and Egyptian/Persian etc that would illuminate Old Testament study). The second 15 years would be devoted to study of the text of the Bible and the third 15 years were going to be given to the study of Higher Criticism. Wilson and Young were true scholars of the highest degree and they were men who believed the Bible.

This book, unlike even the one of F.F. Bruce that I reviewed recently, contains nothing that I disagree with as the author takes the Bible to be the Word of God. When he faces a text that has one view or another that allow for this or that critical theory, he quickly dismisses the theory and reasserts the transparent Biblical nature of the meaning of the text. When faced by those who wish to chop off the end verses of the Psalm into a different one, he patiently explains why the Psalm is a coherent whole and how the last verse shows the clearly reflects upon the first and the overall unity of the Psalm. He also comments on the nature of this Psalm, as a hymn, which is useful for those defending the obvious Biblical interpretation of Ephesians 5:19 (in the face of rather crazy notions that this can be used as a defence of the human compositions of men, like Watts or Kendrick).

The book is a study in the Omniscience of God. Omniscience is the term that we use to express the ability of the Lord to know everything. The Psalm is a beautiful example of a prayer of David as he exalts the majesty of his Lord. He begins with the LORD who has searched him and knows him. After acknowledging that God knows him, David moves on to the all pervasive nature of that knowledge. This is a God centred prayer, rather than one that draws attention to David himself. David acknowledges the all seeing eye of the Lord who knew him, even when he was in the womb. The more David meditates on the majesty of his Lord, the more he realises that the topic is too great for him and how their extent is beyond his comprehension.

In verse 19, he abruptly changes from his contemplation of God to his consideration of those who are enemies to the Most High. His awe at the majesty of the Lord, shocks him into the realisation that there are those who do not share his reverence. He wants to be searched in the way that only his Lord can search people and he wants to be led in the way everlasting.

This is a delightful book on an delightful Psalm. What Christian is not encouraged when he reflects on the majesty of the Lord and his power to save to the uttermost those that trust on him.