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This Bible study on Psalm 139 contains Bible study discussion questions, commentary, and practical applications.  Visit our inductive Bible studies for more studies on this and other books of the Bible. 

Psalm 139 Inductive Bible Study – God’s Omniscience and Omnipresence


I. He is omniscient (1-6)
II. He is omnipresent (7-18)
III. David’s zeal for God’s reputation (19-22)
IV. David requests God’s evaluation (23-24)

I. He is omniscient (1-6)

Discussion Questions

• What is the main point of verses 1-6?
• What exactly does God know about us?
• What does this teach us about Him?
• How does God’s omniscience affect you?
• Does verse 4 support the theory of fate (that everything is set and we don’t have choices)?
• What verses can you think of that show we have real choices?
• What does David mean that God hems him in (5)?
• In light of the fact that God is omniscient, what should you do?


Hebrews 4:13 – And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

Proverbs 15:3 – The eyes of the Lord are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good.

Matthew 10:30 – But even the hairs of your head are all numbered.

Psalms 147:4 – He determines the number of the stars; he gives to all of them their names.

Verse by Verse Commentary

1. David spent time meditating on God’s character – The Psalms make it clear that David often meditated on the Lord. He thought about God’s character, personality, and deeds. When he considered these things, his love for and awe of God grew.

David was very intentional about doing this.

Psalms 63:6 – When I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night.

That is not easy to do. And it is probably more difficult in the busy world we live in. Distractions continuously draw our focus away from the Lord. And these distractions are delivered to us in many formats. Some of these, such as smartphones, follow us wherever we go.

If you do not intentionally meditate on the Lord, you will probably find that your mind easily fills with other things. This can even happen during our devotional times when our focus is supposed to be on Him.

Application – Be intentional about meditating on God’s character and deeds.

2. God knows everything about us – David is talking about God’s omniscience. That quality means that God knows everything. There is not a single fact, opinion, emotion, thought, electron, or molecule that God is not aware of.

David applies that omniscience to God’s knowledge of him personally. Here are a few of the things David mentions God knows about him.

• He knows all of David’s movements.
• He knows all of David’s thoughts. Those thoughts include emotions and opinions that are unspoken. Many of those would never be known by another human.
• He knows what David does and where he goes.
• He knows everything David would ever say before he even says it.
• He is present with him. That could manifest either in a comforting hand of guidance or perhaps a firm grip of correction.

Application – In theory, most believers understand that God is omniscient. But we have likely not meditated on that character quality or understood its full implications for us.

The simple application for us is to think about that, and not just once a year when we hear it taught in church. Active consideration of God’s omniscience and how that impacts us will give us a new outlook on life. Worry and stress will be diminished. Obstacles that seem overwhelming will fade. Temptations will be less alluring. Even our thought life may be refined.

Many applications involve going and doing something. Control your words. Say “no” to temptation, etc. This passage is not primarily about doing something (although we should meditate on Him) but rather about the “why.” It is about developing that closeness with God. When our view of God is exalted, it will help give us the right view of everything else.

3. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me – David was blown away by the implications of God’s omniscience. He couldn’t think about that and walk away being the same person as before.

Reflect – What knowledge about God amazes you?

II. He is omnipresent (7-18)

Discussion Questions

• What is the answer to David’s questions in verse 7?
• Do people try to do that? Why?
• What quality of God does David meditate on in this passage?
• How is it helpful for us to meditate on God’s character (either this or other qualities)?
• Does God’s omnipresence encourage or frighten you? Why?
• What do verses 13-16 show us of God’s creation of individuals?
• What aspect of you was designed by God?
• How does meditating on God’s design of you personally influence your perspective?
• How does knowing you were designed by God affect your response to challenges? Limitations? Trials? Successes?
• What does David mean by “how precious to me are your thoughts?”
• Had David fallen asleep (verse 18)?


Jeremiah 23:24 Can a man hide himself in secret places so that I cannot see him? declares the Lord. Do I not fill heaven and earth? declares the Lord.

Isaiah 43:2 – When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.

Colossians 1:16-17 – For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

Verse by Verse Commentary

1. David meditates on God’s omnipresence – David continues meditating on God’s character, this time focusing on God’s omnipresence. Specifically, David considered how God’s omnipresence affected him.

2. It is impossible to flee from God’s presence – David asks a couple of rhetorical questions to highlight the fact that God is everywhere. There is nowhere one can go where God is not. That is incredible to think about. From the most desolate places on earth, the deepest underwater trenches, to the farthest galaxy, God is equally and completely present.

Many have tried to convince themselves this isn’t true. Even believers like Jonah have tried to run away from God.

The fool tries to deny this fact.

Psalms 53:1 – The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.”

The wise remind themselves of it and that wisdom guides their lives.

3. God’s omnipresence encourages believers and terrifies the wicked –

Is God’s omnipresence a good or bad thing for people?

The answer is, “it depends.” If a person rebels against God and willingly lives in sin, God knows. No one who desires to sin will be able to keep that sin secret.

This is why people hated Jesus when He came. He was the light and they hated Him because their deeds were evil. They hated the fact that He knew what they really were (John 3:20).

But for those who desire to follow the Lord, His omnipresence is a good thing.

2 Chronicles 16:9 – For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him.

He is not an evil tyrant watching and waiting for a chance to pounce on us. Rather, He wants to help. He is looking for willing hearts who turn to Him for that help. Here are some of encouraging truths about God’s omniscience and omnipresence.

• He knows when you are sad and need comfort.
• He knows when you are weak and need strength.
• He knows when you are repentant and is ready to forgive.
• He knows the obstacles, disappointments, and trials you face.
• And during all of these, He is with you.
• His presence can guide, encourage, comfort, and strengthen you to live a life for Him.

Share – Share about a situation you recently faced where remembering God’s omnipresence would have helped you.

4. In the most “God-forsaken” places, He is there (9) – The term “God-forsaken” is used by many to describe a place that seems totally devoid of God’s presence. However, it is encouraging for us to be reminded of the fact that no such places exist.

Even when we are in a place in our lives where it might feel as if God has forsaken us, we can take comfort in the fact that He is there. Perhaps it is our emotions that are clouding the picture and we need to hang on to the rock-solid truth of His presence with us. Or it might be that our own actions have created a spiritual distance between Him and us and we need to return to Him (Isaiah 55:6-7).

5. God is not only observing but leading His people (10) – God is not an impersonal force. Neither does He keep aloof and, from a distance, just watch His people struggle or fail.

David realized that even in times that he felt most desolate, God did lead him. More than that, God supported him, holding him up to keep him from stumbling.

Jude 1:24 – Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy.

6. God designed David from the womb (13-16) – God was not only present with David in the here and now. But David acknowledges that He was with him from the very beginning while he was still in the womb. Time itself could not separate him from the Lord’s presence.

Paul made a similar statement.

Romans 8:38-39 – For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Nothing in all of human history can separate believers from the love of God.

David also realized that God personally designed him. David came out of the womb according to exact divine specs.

Reflect – How would that fact encourage David?

Sometimes people incorrectly believe that they are not equipped to do the mission God has called them to. Moses thought he could not speak well enough. But God had chosen him from the womb and gave him everything he needed.

Not understanding that we are fashioned by God can give us the wrong perspective and negatively affects our perception of what we can do for Him.

• People might imagine that they are not good enough at speaking to share the gospel.
• A new father might be afraid and lack confidence.
• A musician might get stage fright.

However, believers should remember that God has carefully designed us. As long as we are doing what He has called us to do, we should do it with confidence. That confidence is not to be placed in our own abilities, but we should tell ourselves that “He knows what He is doing.” He has given us all of the resources we need to accomplish His plan for our lives.

Application – God fashioned David and He personally designed us as well. Understanding that truth affects how we take on challenges, face obstacles, or handle success. A successful person should not take personal credit. Everything they have, whether athletic skill or a high IQ, was given to them by God.

Eric Liddell said, “God made me fast and when I run, I run for His pleasure.” And he used his running to bring glory to God.

At the same time, we should not reject God’s calling on our lives out of fear of not being able to do it. Instead, we calmly trust that He fashioned us and that He is with us. Those two facts can motivate us to say as William Carey did, “Expect great things of God and attempt great things for God.”

III. David’s zeal for God’s reputation (19-22)

Discussion Questions

• What request does David make in verse 19?
• What are your thoughts on asking God to punish/destroy the wicked?
• Why was David so emotional about these people?
• What really bothered him about them?
• What do you learn about David from that?
• Jesus commanded us to love our enemies, but should we love God’s enemies?


Matthew 5:43-46 – You have heard that it was said, You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?

Psalms 55:15 – Let death steal over them; let them go down to Sheol alive; for evil is in their dwelling place and in their heart.

Psalms 69:28 – Let them be blotted out of the book of the living;
let them not be enrolled among the righteous.

Verse by Verse Commentary

1. Imprecatory psalms – An imprecatory prayer means to “invoke evil upon or curse one’s enemies.” It is a bit jarring for believers today who have grown up on New Testament passages like “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” to read Psalmists like David praying for God to judge his enemies. There are a few psalms where David makes similar prayers (7, 35, 55, 58, 59, 69, and 109).

It is useful for us to see David’s motivation here in praying this. He is concerned for God’s reputation saying, “do I not hate those who hate you?” He counts God’s enemies (20) as his own enemies (22). Certainly that is better than considering these people his friends and hanging out with them while being influenced by them.

David seems so close to God that God’s own righteous anger is affecting him. He cannot see the evil and remain calm. Their wicked deeds bother him, poking at his conscience. Rather than apathetically turn a blind eye, David follows the command in Ephesians 4:26-27 to “be angry, yet do not sin.”

Jesus (John 15:25) and Paul (Romans 11:9-10) quote imprecatory psalms. Martyrs in Revelation 6:10 ask God to avenge their blood. God also never calls David out for it.

Therefore we can conclude that these are not sinful cries for revenge but are inspired Scripture. At its root, an imprecatory prayer is an appeal for God to uphold His good law. And it is a reminder to God’s people of the consequences in store for those who reject it.

We should also take note that David lived in a very different time and era than we do. He was a warrior and fought many battles against people like Goliath, whose aim was to malign God.

Perhaps we would understand these prayers better if we lived in the time of Revelation when the antichrist will lead armies of Satanists dedicated to the destruction of everything good against the church.

2. Can we pray like that?

If we are honest with ourselves, we would probably be far more likely to pray like this out of pride, bitterness, or envy than out of a righteous desire to see God glorified and His enemies humbled.

Even David asks God to evaluate his heart and remove and reveal any wrong thinking.

We should do the same. David’s psalms were inspired and many were prophetic. These imprecatory psalms will be finally fulfilled in the end times when all of Jesus’ enemies will be judged and bow the knee.

Application – We should seek the Holy Spirit’s leading when praying for our enemies, make sure that we are motivated by God’s glory, and remember to love them and share the gospel with them.

IV. David requests God’s evaluation (23-24)

Discussion Questions

• Why do you think David asked for God to “search” and “try” him and to “know” his heart and mind?
• What do you think David would do if the Spirit found something and prompted him about it?
• Do you pray like this?
• How do prayers of this nature help you grow spiritually?
• What should we do when the Lord brings something to mind?


2 Corinthians 13:5 – Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!

Verse by Verse Commentary

1. Instead of hiding from God, we should ask Him to bring to mind any sinful way in us –

It is almost as if David knew praying for the destruction of his enemies was a fine line and could lead to wrong attitudes. Right after this prayer, he asks God to “search” and “try” him.

David was wise. Our hearts are wicked and very deceitful, just as Jeremiah said (Jeremiah 17:9). We not only deceive others. But we also often deceive ourselves. We may be so ingrained in a sinful habit or wrong way of thinking that we don’t even realize it is wrong.

Application – We should regularly ask the Holy Spirit to bring to mind any wrong thinking or behavior in us. As we humble ourselves before Him, He will honor that prayer and convict us of sins we need to deal with. Part of the process of growth is being open to correction. When we are sensitive to sin, open to the Lord, and willing to change, He will transform us.

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