31 October 2022

Search me, God, and know my heart

Bible study by Lieut-Colonel Eirwen Pallant

Lieut-Colonel Eirwen Pallant examines the vital signs of a healthy relationship with the Creator.

Key text

There are some things that just stick in your memory. Sometimes it is a picture, a saying, perhaps a story or even a sermon.

When I was a medical student on psychiatry placement, I remember the registrar talking about in-depth counselling. When he was a psychiatry trainee, he recounted, before he could engage in such therapy with future patients, he had been made to undergo in-depth counselling. In his opinion, to engage in this practice without such first-hand experience would be dangerous and should come with a health warning. The reason – a person has to take a deep, honest look into themselves, face who they are and may find parts of themselves they really don’t like. For some people, that can overwhelm and destroy them.

In the last section of Psalm 139, the psalmist asks God to go deep into his self and search for anything that is against who God wants him to be: ‘Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me and lead me in the way everlasting’ (vv23 and 24).

Brave man!

Pause and reflect

  • Do you have the courage to look at your innermost being with honesty?
  • What might have given the psalmist such courage?

Perhaps the answer lies in the preceding sections of the psalm.

The psalm can be divided into four. The first section expresses the belief that God already knows the psalmist – he has seen, and still sees, all that he does. Even if he wanted to keep things hidden, he has no secrets from God.

A photo of the Bible open at the book of Psalms

Psalm 139:1

You have searched me, Lord, and you know me.

Read the passage

The second section expresses how the psalmist sees God as surrounding him. He cannot escape. God hems him in all around. Wherever he goes, God is there. He cannot hide, as God can see just as well in the darkness as he can in the daylight.

I fell in love with this psalm when I first read: ‘If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast’ (vv9 and 10).

From my first call to officership, I expected to one day go overseas as a reinforcement officer and those words always held a reassurance for me that wherever I went – wherever I was sent – God was with me. I could rely on him.

However, if one were trying to run away from God, those words could be perceived as threatening. For example, it must have felt that way to Jonah when he ran away from God and got caught in a storm while travelling in the opposite direction to Nineveh.

Pause and reflect

  • Does the presence of God feel comforting or threatening? What makes us feel this way?

In Psalms 121 and 123, we see how, looking back, the psalmist feels that being surrounded by God is comforting.

The third section of Psalm 139 recognises that God created the psalmist. This assures us that each of us is special to him. He is not an angry God trying to destroy his creation but a wise and loving one who seeks only our welfare.

In the fourth section, the psalmist stands before God and asks him to search for anything that is offensive to him. He asks not as a guilty man pleading for other offences to be taken into account so that later they will not be held against him, but as a humble disciple, wanting to be the best they can be for God.

Research tells us that much of our unhappiness in society is because we are always comparing ourselves with other people. We want, it seems, to be admired as someone special.

Pause and reflect

  • Who do we measure ourselves against? The Joneses next door? The ‘saints’ in our corps? The convert who has a vibrant testimony?

God’s opinion is the only one that matters. He is a friend who knows our good and bad bits, yet loves us anyway. He wants to be with us in a relationship where love reigns.

I am convinced that it is this insight that gives the psalmist the courage and strength to ask God to search him and teach him to walk in his ways: ‘Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me and lead me in the way everlasting.’

Go on! Be brave and make the same request of God!

Bible study by

A photo of Eirwen Pallant

Lieut-Colonel Eirwen Pallant

Assistant Secretary for Personnel (Health and Development)

Let's pray

Heavenly Father, we live in a world that encourages us to indulge in every whim to satisfy our selfish needs, but you search our hearts and know our thoughts. Please help us to live pure and holy lives.


Discover more

Captain Andrew Manley reminds us that we only will be satisfied when we discover, believe and follow Jesus.

Principal Lieut-Colonel Judith Payne continues her series sharing updates about William Booth College.

As corps celebrate Harvest, Hannah Kingston reminds Salvationists that they can give their offering online.

Ideas for your time with God.